As a writer, there’s nothing worse than getting stuck, or dealing with writer’s block. Yes, rejection and the like is awful, but at least at that point on the writing timeline, you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.
There probably isn’t a writer that hasn’t suffered the unpleasant ailment of writer’s block—whether it is as small as figuring out the POV for your story, or as big as hitting the middle-of-the-novel slump. And getting unstuck can be incredibly difficult.
Imagine that you can’t even get to the finish line…that someone has glued your feet to the ground just before you reach your goal. You can see it—the end—you know it’s there, but you are unable to move, paralyzed by some unseen force (often it’s your own self-doubt). You’re stuck and you don’t know how to go about getting unstuck.
The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. – Sylvia Plath
I admit I have gotten stuck more than I would care to admit, and for years, I would dig my heels in and ride that slump like a creative martyr receiving her lashings. We grow as writers believing it’s the price way pay, don’t we? Death, taxes, and writer’s block—all absolutes in our world.
Despite the millions of tips and tricks for overcoming writer’s block and getting unstuck, I find there are two very real things that inspire me and motivate me to find words again.
Wisdom from other writers
Sometimes it’s through words of encouragement from someone who isn’t stuck, and sometimes it’s just witnessing the struggle of other writers. Or seeing their triumphs against the same odds you’re up against. It’s knowing you aren’t alone. That there isn’t some secret everyone else knows but you (I promise you, there isn’t). Writing is hard and the only way you can get through it is to write. That’s it. And getting visual proof of that in someone else’s writing life can inspire you to push forward in your own. Or at the very least, having someone else give you some tough love and a swift kick in the pants can get you going.
The great wide open
Nature, the elements, creation, atmosphere, the cosmos, outdoors—whatever you call it, stepping outside away from your writing is one of the best ways to find your way back to it. As Jill Jepson states in her book Writing as a Sacred Path, the most essential qualities valued by writers and monks alike are that of silence and solitude. One of the best ways, Jepson says, to nurture those qualities is to create space for them—reducing noise, finding time away from others, and creating a state where our inner voices are still and we stand in unison with the Mystery.
The closer you get to real matter—rock, air, fire, and wood—boy, the more spiritual the world is. –Jack Kerouac
Sometimes, writer’s block is carried on the back of our own self-doubt. But sometimes it’s something else. Maybe we’re burnt out and our body is telling us we need a break. Maybe the story itself knows it’s heading in the wrong direction. Your Muse may be ready to put her foot down until you do her bidding. Or maybe you’re just the type who’s creative juices need recharging. Whatever the case, don’t see writer’s block as blockage—see it as a blessing. You can use writer’s block to your advantage.
Do as Jepson said—make room for the silence and solitude. Meditate on your story. Have conversations with your characters. Recharge your mental and emotional batteries (because your story may carry baggage you aren’t even aware of). Just allow yourself the break without breaking yourself down. Take a walk and indulge your senses. Seek that wisdom from a writing buddy. And when you feel the gentle tug of writing pulling you back, go gently but steadily.
How do you overcome writer’s block?