Updated: Jan 9, 2022
Imagine the following situation:
You are sitting in front of your laptop, trying to finish your assignment which is an essay that is due in two days. As you reach the fourth paragraph, suddenly your fingers stop typing. You are stuck. You do not know how to elaborate the main point in that paragraph. No matter how much you push and force, your mind does not seem to figure out what sentence to write next.
Is this something that you have experienced before? You most probably have, at least once. This sudden glitch, which may happen to those who are in the middle of a creative process, is commonly known as writer’s block. In a 2015 study conducted at the Mustafa Kemal University in Turkey, almost 94 percent out of 426 participating students stated that they have encountered this phenomenon.
Keep in mind, writer’s block or WB for short, is not similar to procrastination. While the latter is more related to laziness and lack of enthusiasm, WB involves the inability of a writer to generate ideas regardless of how hard that person tries. Scientifically, the opposite of WB is hypergraphia, a technical term where a person has an overwhelming need or compulsion to write. Despite this, WB is not considered a diagnosable medical condition. Nonetheless, a few researches regarding WB have been conducted in the past, including one by a Canadian Family Physician back in 1998.
Some good examples of the portrayal of WB in popular culture include the 2018 critically-acclaimed film, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (CYEFM) starring Melissa McCarthy as well as the legendary 1980 flick, The Shining directed by Stanley Kubrick. CYEFM was based on the true story of Lee Israel who forged letters from other authors after struggling with WB, while The Shining was based on the novel by Stephen King in which the main character got stuck in the Writer's Block as he was asked to be the caretaker of a remote hotel.
There are many ways for us to understand not just the factors that cause WB, but more importantly how to overcome it. Here are some tips that you can use.
Do physical activities
When your body gets constrained due to work, your mind feels exhausted and eventually that leads you to WB. Hence, it is crucial to keep your body active. Step out of your work space for a moment and engage in activities such as deep breathing, meditation, light aerobic exercise, jog, or even dance. By doing so, you won’t just loosen up your body and brain but also refresh and reactivate them. Once you are done with that, you'll be able to continue your work with a more open, focused, and invigorated mind.
Get some sleep
Sometimes, the most obvious solution to WB is for you to simply get a much-needed rest. Writing involves an extremely high level of mental energy which gets exhasted pretty fast especially if you are working in an intense environment. You would reach a point where you can no longer concentrate on the work due to fatigue. As soon as you feel sleepy, stop typing or writing, and just take a nap because that is your brain giving you signal that it needs to take a break. Without a doubt, you will feel much better and refreshed after you wake up, making it easier to pick up where you left work-wise.
If you are having WB at the moment, try to write anything that comes to your mind, no matter how random or irrelevant it may be. This technique is known as free-writing. While doing so, you can ignore punctuation errors and change the subject as many times as you want. This process helps to clear out some space within your mind so that it can be filled with thoughts related to your work. Not only that, some of those random things you just wrote down could be useful in giving you a perspective or they could even be included as part of your work.
Comfort is one of the most important aspects that affects the way you perform your writing tasks. You certainly would want to work in a convenient space since you would probably end up spending hours there. Make sure the space is free from any external disturbance, such as unwanted noise or scent. Put on earphones if you think listening to music helps you to focus, or light an aromatic candle if you think it helps you feel more relaxed. Adjusting your chair and sitting posture, having the right setting for the laptop or computer, and ensuring smooth internet connection are other things you could do to enhance your writing experience and make your surrounding atmosphere more conducive for you to write better.
The world renowned scientist and astronomy expert Carl Sagan was arguably the first person to come up with the following quote: “There is no such thing as a dumb question.” Surely, most of us have heard those words of wisdom at some point of our lives. When it comes to the writing process, you need to have consistent doses of curiosity. Whenever you get stuck, ask yourself – how should I end this sentence, where should this paragraph head to, or what kind of idea I can use to elaborate this point. Always come up with questions that would naturally require you to think outside of the box. Do not be surprised if the answer you get from these questions turns out to be just what you needed to complete your work.
Creating a well-structured piece of writing is something that can only be done wholeheartedly. To produce such content, even the most creative and hardworking individuals can't help but confront WB throughout the writing process. So, don't get frustrated with yourself if you stumble upon WB while writing. In the end, the most important step that you can take is finding the way out of it, no matter how illogical that route may sound.