If you’ve ever had to write anything serious, from an essay in school to more creative projects like a novel, chances are you have experienced the mind crippling phenomenon that is writer’s block. You keep writing the beginning of the same sentence over and over again or even worse, you keep staring at your blank screen, hating yourself while waiting for the magic to happen and get you going.
This experience is far more common than you might realize, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to tackle. On the contrary, you can turn things around fairly quickly if you can find the root of the problem.
Shut Off the Critic in Your Head (Temporarily)
Some professional writers believe that writer’s block doesn’t exist; it’s merely a sign of lack of confidence in our ability to write something good enough and it’s akin to the fear of rejection. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with this sentiment, you can’t deny the fact that at least it’s some part of it. And it’s not exclusive to writing either, all creatives experience it in some shape or form.
The lack of confidence usually manifests itself as the critical voice in our head. It’s not useless. It’s a quality control center that has our best interest at heart. It is what gives us authenticity and makes every one of us unique. But, it also gets in the way and makes our creative flow falter. The key is to control it instead of being controlled by it.
Writing is thinking on paper. We cannot control our thought patterns, nor we are aware of all the thinking that happens in our minds. The vast majority of our thinking processes happen subconsciously and of those that we are conscious of, we only control a tiny fraction of it. This is why many novelists believe that stories write themselves and authors are only vessels in the process.
What we do is that we set up checkpoints on the way to evaluate what’s being written which often breaks the train of thought and brings everything to a halt. The more frequent these checkpoints appear, the less productive and the more crippling the writing process will become.
By keeping this cerebral critic dormant while are writing, we make progress. This is partly the reason why brainstorming can be so effective as a technique. Brainstorming allows the participants to think freely because the premise is that in order to eventually generate innovative ideas, judgments and biases must be set aside.
But what about the quality you may ask? This is when editing comes into play. We can still benefit from that judgmental part of our mind to satisfy our need to produce high-quality material. In fact, it’s necessary to do so as sloppy and unedited writing brings with it negative feedback which further feeds the critical voice’s desire to be cynical and disruptive.
Gain Clarity Before Making a Judgement
Another reason why we should postpone quality control to the editing phase is that what’s in our minds is drastically different from what we set down. Writing is a process and putting words and sentences down on paper is just a tiny part of it.
While in our heads, thoughts are formless and abstract. By saying them out loud or writing them down, we shape them into tangible entities that can be assessed. We gain clarity through writing because when the ideas are out there in the open, we can better see their faults and imperfections. We can trade shoes with the reader to see things from their perspective. Judging ideas that haven’t been materialized yet is just not as accurate or helpful.
Ideas, Pressure, and Anxiety
Writer’s block can happen for any type of writing and it’s not all about perfectionism or the fear of rejection. Sometimes we get stagnant simply because we don’t have an idea or lack enough knowledge to talk about a specific subject. Other times, we might be suffering from deadline-induced anxiety because we just have too much on our plates.
There are solutions to all of these issues. First, we should bear in mind that creativity does not occur in isolation. It’s the clash between different ideas that fosters creative and imaginative thinking. Exposure to other people’s work and creative projects often bestows us with new and interesting ideas to work with.
Additionally, while writing is mostly a solitary activity, it doesn’t have to be. Involving others in your process or getting help from peers and professionals can help to conquer mental constipation and get things going. If you don’t have anyone around you that can lend you a hand, look up online communities like the best essay writing service Reddit and you’ll find people that are eager to help.
And in cases where we lack in-depth knowledge about a subject, setting a separate research session can be quite useful. The idea is to temporarily forget about writing, and research the topic from various sources to genuinely understand it. When you get rid of the pressure to write, you often find yourself engaged in the concepts, and by comparing different sources and a little bit of analysis, you can develop a fresh angle to work on.