What is writer’s block?
The stage where you can’t go on. Where your creative nozzles block and you remain stuck in your writing process.
What causes writer’s block?
There are various reasons for a writer’s block, some common ones include:
Fear or lack of confidence may lead to a writer’s block as the writer fears what everyone will say about their work. Fear is arguably the major reason some people never finish writing nor publish.
It may simply not be the right time to write and your ideas will remain stuck in your heart and not come out.
Some writers get confused in the middle of their project and get stuck while trying to unwind that tangle. Moving on from that point then becomes hard.
We also have perfectionist writers who will keep holding on to a chapter, trying to figure out what it is they can add or take out in order to bring out a perfect work. These people will always remain stuck in one place.
How to overcome writer’s block
1. Clean your room
Writers, together with a lot of creatives tend to have disorganised rooms, desks, bookshelves – all cluttered with books on the floors, desks, tables, papers. I remember working in a pool office on my first job where my boss and other colleagues never used to understand why my desk was always a mess yet I would churn out quality work. As an Editor, they expected me to be organised (we will discover this when we talk about the qualities of an Editor) but I had a strong hidden creative side in me. I love story telling – on paper, art, design and books. For people who love books, you’ll always have lots of them in your reach and if you can always keep them neatly stacked, good for you, but most people I know can’t.
Being buried in all that mess and struggling to write can be daunting. To get yourself out of the writer’s block, clean and rearrange your room. As you put order in your work space, you get to rearrange your thoughts and creative gear. You recollect your ideas and find it easier to pick up from where you would have left. The clean atmosphere gives you a fresh feeling and breathing space. The point though is for you to basically do the work yourself, don’t get help. You need the cleaning process to help refocus your thoughts and mind.
I came across a post that had a funny list of benefits for cleaning and one of them says happy thoughts and I agree with it more. A clean room gives you happy thoughts and a fresh perspective.
2. Write in the wee hours
A lot of writers write in solitude. This is the reason family people take vacations to go and write. Some who are privileged to have a second home drive out of the city and write from the farm or somewhere far from the city. Using the same example of my former boss, every time she wanted to write or work on a complex manuscript, she would travel to a home in the Vumba mountains, where cell phone reception is poor; away from the busy lights of Harare.
Have you ever wondered how time seems not to move when you’re in solitude? This is the same feeling that I always get in the early hours of the morning. I can easily complete a task between 3 and 4 am, something that I would never finish during the whole 8 hours day time. One’s creative mind seems to function best around this time. I’ve worked with an artist who would paint during the night. He enjoyed painting from the office because it was spacious. He would actually leave work early to go home, then come back to the office later to paint and we would be shocked to walk into the office the following morning and find a beautiful piece painted and wonder when he would have done that.
There’s something about these late hours that unlocks the creative mind and takes away the writer’s block. There are also less disturbances when everyone else is asleep. Set your alarm for 3 am, write for an hour and go back to sleep. Going back to sleep after that hour’s work ensures that you recharge and get ready for the day.
3. Get help
Ask a friend to write half of the first paragraph of a short story for you to finish.We all have like-minded friends and these always come in handy. A writer should have fellow writing friends, one that you can easily ask to help brainstorm a topic or a paragraph for you. This has greatly helped me as I always call my friend Thandeka to help me go on with my work. A little conversation along my writing project always helps. Sometimes she will do a voice message which I will then transcribe and I’m back to my writing gear.
4. Always carry a notebook
When you are working on a project, always move around with a notebook. Don’t rely on your phone. We are now in a digital world but carry that little pocket notebook. Take a walk into the park and sit on a bench and write. Watch the random cars on the road and write. Enjoy the ducks in the pond and write. Your notebook should always be your back up to jot down those random ideas that come while you’re doing other things. Transcribing these thoughts will open up a well of more ideas and you can easily write and complete your project.
5. Leave sentences half way
Always stop half way through a sentence at the end of each writing session, so that it’s easier to get started next time. You can also leave a few bullet points to start with when you resume. If you’re a non-fiction writer, leave a heading so that you will begin on that specific heading. It’s always hard to resume writing but that shifts the writer’s block.
6. Sleep on it
I always say sleeping has magical soothing powers that revives the body, mind and soul. When you get stuck, take a nap and work on it later. You will always wake up feeling brighter and fresh. Have you ever seen how babies sleep after a long cry and wake up rejuvenated, with all the pain forgotten? That’s how powerful sleep is.
7. Revive an old project
Find the oldest piece of your own writing and rewrite it. We have some people who may have writer’s block between projects. You would have probably completed ne book and can’t go on to the next one. You can start with rewriting an old piece of work that you may have abandoned. This will easily get you back into the writing spirit.
No more excuses about not writing. I’ve given you valuable and practical tips to help in your journey. Looking forward to seeing your work. Best of wishes as you write.
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Let’s make a date next week as we discuss useful proofreading tips.