As most writers can tell you, inspiration is fleeting. Many of us go through intervals where our creative inspirations weave in and out – which can leave you feeling like you aren’t a true artist all because you can’t create on demand – which is total bullshit. In my opinion, there isn’t really a measure of what makes someone a true artist. It’s more simply about passion, and your ability to continuously push yourself to be better. If you love your craft and practice at it, then to me, you’re an artist. And when you’re an artist you’re bound to have come across a time or two (or a dozen if you’re me) where you find yourself trapped in a writer’s block.
Every now and again you’ll find writers like Jerry Jenkins who say that writer’s block is a myth – and that it’s actually fear and perfectionism that holds us back. This is absolutely true *sometimes* but that doesn’t mean we should deny the fact that there are times when we desperately want to write but truly can’t find our inner vision. If you’re writing brand content or copywriting, then sure, maybe you can push through simply using facts and information with a small handful of leftover lines you can pass off as clever – but for someone writing more creative based work, the ability to find innovative ways to compose a piece can feel like an all-encompassing defeat that can last anywhere from a couple of days to months on end.
No matter what kind of writing you do, you’re still going to encounter times when words escape you. When you can’t find an inventive way to say what it is you want to say. Let me reassure you…THAT IS OKAY!! Writers block is common and truth be told you don’t have much control over when it pops up. That being said, there are still steps we can all take to try and push through so we can find little pieces of inspiration within the silence of our creative soul.
Stop pressuring yourself. Stress induces anxiety and the onset of anxiety can make it harder for a person to give the proper attention to any given task. Think of it like your boss telling you don’t bring your problems to work.As much as we all hate hearing that (because we are only human after all), the point is still valid. When we bring our problems to work, we become distracted from our responsibilities, therefore decreasing productivity and negatively impacting the bottom line. Your art is a similar sentiment. Art is your bottom line. Forcing yourself to sit down and do something when your heart isn’t completely in it isn’t going to help the creative juices flow. Your screaming internal monologue isn’t going to respond positively to your desperation. If you keep putting pressure on yourself to perform, you’ll inevitably feel even more overwhelmed which will deter you from pursuing your craft, and altering how you view your commitment to it.
I will say that there are many people out there who believe creativity and anxiety go hand in hand, and that the emotional aspect of anxiety, like fear and panic, can actually lead to some great work. It’s not that these views are wrong, but I believe there is a difference between understanding and accepting the reality of your feelings and allowing them to guide your art, and being overcome with anxiety and panic. Stay mindful of your feelings, accept them without judgement of yourself, and allow yourself the space to have peace of mind. There is no need to force yourself to do anything that you should love and enjoy because when you turn it into an obligation, you risk losing the love and passion. Inspiration can’t find its way in if your brain is already overflowing, and quality work won’t be able to find its way out if you have no focus.
Revisit your muse. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a muse, but I like to think that most writers have at least one source of pure inspiration. Something or someone that is the soul of your work. This is the time to revisit whatever it is that stimulates your imagination, even if it’s something you’ve written about before. Sometimes this means reevaluating old memories and getting lost in the dirty liar that nostalgia is. There is innocence in there, strength unwielded, and stories not yet told. And that is what writing is…you’re telling a story. Don’t be afraid to write about a topic you’ve already written about. Getting over writer’s block isn’t about jumping into the next great novel – it’s about getting the creativity flowing because usually once those gates are open there is no stopping the flood. Whether you’re writing a poem or a novel, you are telling a story – or a fragment of a story – and your muse is the source of that story. Which leads me to my next tip…
Know your story. Before you can even begin writing, you have to know what you want to say or what story you want to share. You have to figure out what your point of view is and what perception of reality your shared experience is coming from.
A few good questions to ask yourself to understand your story:
- Whose truth is it?
- What perspective are you writing it from?
- Are you trying to expose a truth or share an experience?
- What message are your trying to communicate?
- What makes this experience worth sharing?
Knowing the answer to at least a couple of those questions can help give you clarity, that way you are able to sit down and write with some semblance of an idea.
Start anywhere. This tip does lean more towards people working on novels and scripts. I learned time and time again that you don’t have to start at the beginning. If you are only able to find inspiration for a particular scene, START THERE! Write whatever you can, whenever you can, and keep going until you’ve run out of things to say about it. There is nothing wrong with starting on Chapter 10 instead of Chapter 1.
This is something that I personally struggle with. I always feel the need to start at the very beginning and go in proper order, otherwise I’ll just have to edit more and change things later. It feels like more work to me. But in reality it’s really not. You’re going to have to go back and edit anyways. You will have to go back and edit.Don’t for a second think you are above editing. It shouldn’t matter if you write 20 pages in the middle of the book and then go back to the beginning later, only to realize that as you are writing the beginning you are going to have to change details of what you originally wrote further on in the book. It’s inevitable that details will change as the characters develop.
Try something new. You might think writer’s block would be a terrible time to try out a new style of writing, but actually it’s a great time because there are no personal standards to hold you back. You can’t compare whatever you write to anything else you’ve written if you are writing something you’ve never written. If you only write novels, try writing a piece of prose instead. If you’re a poet, practice your technical skills with sonnets or a villanelle. There is alwayssomething new to try. Not only will it help push you out of your box which will ultimately improve your skills, but there is a real good chance that it can help animate your creative mind.
I’m not going to tell you to always keep a notepad or virtual notebook app, because it would be redundant and as a writer you should always have one and know to utilize it to record tiny tidbits of inspiration whenever they hit you. Yes, getting over writer’s block can be a burden, and you’ll probably feel like giving up at some point and just waiting it out…which is the alternative to my list! I’m guilty of it myself, but the older I get and the more my goals become clear, the more I want to push myself out of complacency. I can’t guarantee all of these will work for all of you, but it’s a great starting point to find your own way back to ingenious productivity.