You’ve got some free time and you want to write… but nothing comes.
What’s the deal with writer’s block?
Writer’s block is a broad term that many writers and authors use for a variety of different symptoms from not knowing what to write about, not being able to focus or concentrate when you’re writing, not being able to come up with new ideas, or getting stuck in perfectionism and not being able to finish a book or essay.
Since writer’s block is different for everyone, I’m going to break it down for you into the major problems then give you the solution to overcome each problem.
Not Knowing What to Write
So, you want to write a novel, or a nonfiction book, or a killer blog post, but you’re not sure what to write?
Here’s the deal: Unless you’re meditating and are a spiritual master, you’ve probably already got thoughts floating around in your head. When a writer says, “my mind went blank,” usually what they mean is that their mind was filled up with random thoughts and they couldn’t focus on writing something good.
Instead of trying to write something good, great, or useful, just write. Let it flow. Whatever thoughts enter your mind, write it down on paper, write it in a word processor, or go old school and bring out a mechanical typewriter.
The key here is to let your mind flow. As a creative person, when you stop letting your mind flow and stop creating, it’s easy to get mental constipation (aka writer’s block.)
The best cure for constipation is a huge, unfiltered mind dump.
Many writers say, “writing is therapy.” And it is! If you’re unable to perform at your job (writing), that means there’s something emotional or mental, or sometimes physical, stopping you. Often, the best solution is to just write. Even if it’s crap. Just get it out there. After a few minutes, the crap will be out of your system and you can start writing something meaningful, inspiring or awesome. Or you can just keep writing. The choice is up to you.
It’s better to write crap than to write nothing! Just because you write it doesn’t mean anyone else has to see it or that you have to publish it. Look at it as practice, or as therapy, or whatever you want. Just don’t let not knowing what to write about stop you from being productive and solving your own problems.
The writing process is far more powerful and transformational than even most of us writers give it credit for. Just let the writing process work for you.
Not Being Able to Write Something Good
Okay, so maybe you tried my “write that crap on your mind” method, or maybe you’ve been writing for a while now and just can’t seem to write anything good, let alone great.
Most of us struggle to write good stuff. Unless you’re a savant, you’re probably going to write a lot of crap, whether it’s intentional or not.
Heck, 50 Shades of Grey sold over 70 million copies. Don’t get caught up with being a perfectionist. If E. L. James had waited until her book was “perfect,” she’d be broke and no one would know who she is.
You can’ write a perfect book, or a perfect anything. Sometimes you can find the perfect word, and rarely you may be able to write a perfect sentence. But a perfect book? No way! So just write the best you can right now.
Don’t worry about what other people will think or what your parents would think. Just write. Writers write. The more you write, the better writer you will become.
There’s a great story in the Bible where Jesus finds a fig tree and checks it for fruit. After not finding any fruit, he curses it and the tree dies.
That’s how life works. A fig tree with no figs serves no purpose. Likewise, a writer who doesn’t write serves no purpose (in that one particular area of life).
So be fruitful, my writer friend, and multiply your words upon the page.
Being a Perfectionist
Being a perfectionist may have some benefits, but it has some huge drawbacks as well. Like not getting anything done. Like never finishing a project. And never selling any books. And never getting published. And… you get the point.
There are two main ways to learn in life: learn from your own mistakes and learn from the mistakes of others. You should do both daily. If not, you’re doing it wrong.
So next time you feel stuck or like you can’t write, write anyway. It’s just a choice. Either you’re going to allow yourself to write, or you’re going to tell yourself you can’t.
As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”
Now go write!
(By the way, I felt like I had writer’s block when I started writing this post. And now I have a mediocre blog post. It may not be pretty, but it’s something. Every little bit of practice counts. So don’t let not knowing what to write stop you from practicing.)
Latest posts by Tom Corson-Knowles (see all)
- Weasel Words: Get Rid of These Words to Improve Your Writing - January 18, 2019
- Et Al. and Etc.—Whose Is Which? - January 17, 2019
- Word Count for Fiction and Nonfiction: How Many Is Too Much? - January 16, 2019