How do you get Writer’s Block? It’s almost always a correctable problem, but to correct Writer’s Block, you need to know what’s causing it first.
Are you doing one of these 8 things to bring on your Writer’s Block?
01. Let other “stuff” invade your writing time.
One of the best ways to make your writing life harder is to set your day up so that you never feel like you can write. Let your inbox, social media, laundry, all creep into the hours you plan to use for writing.
Don’t bother trying to find ways to systematize those necessary evils. Don’t bother trying to keep your mind clear for creativity.
Keep doing things half-assed. Keep working harder than you need to on things that aren’t even important to you. Waste your time on things that don’t matter so that you don’t have any left to put words on paper.
02. Make a mess trying to clean up a mess.
My dad’s a big fan of this one.
Once, he decided to “deep clean” the living room. His method was to take everything out of drawers and set it on top to sort through later, move all the furniture to the other room to mop better, sweep all the soot from the fireplace onto the hearth to vacuum up, take all the VHS tapes (1990s) out of their stand to sort through, and on and on. What was once a reasonably tidy room became a disaster for weeks because he made such a mess trying to clean the living room that he couldn’t get the living room clean again.
For all his talents, I’m afraid I had to learn housekeeping from other sources.
A good way to get Writer’s Block and make your writing life harder is to work on your novel like my dad cleans houses.
Got a plot hole? You try to fix it by tearing your manuscript apart, focusing on tiny details. Meanwhile, you get swallowed up by all the work you have ahead of you to get it back into some semblance of a story that you can’t seem to make any progress at all.
03. Keep doing things that you know don’t work.
Say you tend to go to bed at 1:00am, snooze three or four times beginning at 6:30am, drag yourself out of bed at 7:15am, and slog through your day at work with so little brainpower that by the time you get home, you couldn’t work on your novel if your life depended on it.
It happens to all of us every now and then, but if you make it a habit? Bad news. It’s a good way to get Writer’s Block.
This routine isn’t for you, but changing takes too much effort. Or maybe you just don’t have the energy to think about it because you’re doing things that don’t work. Whatever the cause, the result is the same. And that’s okay with you.
04. Daydream instead of write.
I get it. We all have dreams of making it big. It’s nice to think about the future, about what it’ll be like when you’ve got your masterpiece novel in hand and everyone loves it.
But that’s the problem: It’s so nice to think about you put off doing the work you need to get there.
Do visualize your success if it helps you, but don’t get so wrapped up in the what-ifs and could-bes you forget to actually write.
05. Ask for constructive criticism from no one… or everyone.
Have you heard ‘The author is dead’?
Unless you never plan to publish, you must get feedback from people who read your genre and, if possibly, other writers of your genre.
It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you are, how long you’ve been writing, or how many thousands of books you’ve sold. We are all blind to some aspects of ourselves, and that includes our writing. A (qualified) second opinion is a good thing. You don’t have to take their advice 100% of the time, but they can at least point out things that may have slipped your notice.
BUT! There is a thing as too much of it. If you’re constantly asking people to validate your writing, you could be stifling your creative flow. Develop a thick skin for receiving constructive criticism from the right people, but don’t overdo it—don’t let the lack of feedback keep you from writing.
You are a writer, and you can do this on your own.
06. Be afraid of…
Writing a book—reaching for something you dearly want—is terrifying.
What if you screw it up? What if you never finish? What if you write that beautiful, perfect manuscript, but it’s not what you expected? What if readers hate it?
Fear is easy. Let me share another secret with you, courtesy my absolute favorite book in the world, Dune:
Fear is the mind-killer.
Don’t let it control you. Don’t let it affect you at all. Acknowledge your fears and then choose to ignore them. Write them down if you want, and then burn the paper. Then, sit down and write so you don’t get Writer’s Block.
Be like a Bene Gesserit from Dune and make this your mantra:
I will not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
— “The Litany Against Fear,” Dune, by Frank Herbert
07. Say “yes” to unnecessary things that take up your mental space.
You hate the book your book club is reading right now, and everyone there is a jerk anyway, but you keep going. Maybe you hope the next book will be better. Maybe you hope that jerk who always takes over the conversation will finally get a clue. Maybe you just don’t know how to say no. Whatever the reason, you hate that book club, and yet you’re still going.
When you get home from your book club, you look at your own unfinished novel, and you feel exhausted. You love the idea for your book, but whenever you think about actually writing, you just don’t have it in you. Your [INSERT UNNECESSARY THING HERE] is sucking the life out of you.
What annoying or exhausting commitments do you have right now that you don’t really need to do?
What can you do to get one (or more) off your plate? Sometimes it’s as easy (or as hard) as telling someone you like ‘No’.
And saying No is okay. Because your writing is important, and you can’t do it when you’re so mentally exhausted you have Writer’s Block.
08. Make excuses.
The previous 7 examples are nothing without this one.
If you truly want to develop incurable Writer’s Block, the most important thing you can do for yourself is make excuses for why you can’t, aren’t, and won’t finish your novel. Life is a long, hard, slog, and it’s perfectly understandable if you decide publishing a book isn’t worth it.
But if you really want to do it properly, keep telling yourself you’re writing as much as you can while not getting any words down during the week. And then tell everyone else all the reasons you just haven’t been able to actually write. It makes a good story, right? And as writers, we love stories. 😉
Sometimes, the hardest person to convince is yourself. And that’s why you are who you should start with.
Pay attention to the thoughts you have when you’re choosing not to work on your novel. Listen to the words your mind uses to rationalize it. What do you tell yourself when you’re trying to convince your brain that it’s okay not to write today? Are you tired, overwhelmed, bored?
All of these are valid excuses, but more importantly, they point you towards the true problem.
Why are you making excuses?
Only you can answer that question. Once you’ve acknowledge it in yourself, then you can fix the real problem and ditch the Writer’s Block for good.
Have you got Writer’s Block all the time?
You could keep it going with one or more of these 8 habits. Just think about it: Day after day of frustration with your writing and yourself… endless unfinished manuscripts… lost opportunities for publishing. All of that could be yours.
But you don’t really want to do that, do you?
This is your chance to take the leaden weight of your Writer’s Block and transmute it into a golden writing life. Don’t let yourself fall into any of the 8 traps above. You can make the change.