How to overcome writer’s block is a million dollar question for writer’s everywhere.
For most of 2019, I struggled to write.
I had plans to write and publish my fourth book, but I just couldn’t get the words to flow.
I pushed myself and managed to string around 40k words together on a document.
But I realised I just wasn’t happy with the result. It didn’t flow. It felt forced. So I scrapped the book, and turned the draft into a bunch of articles instead.
It’s now a year later as I write this, and I feel like I’m only just getting my flow back. And I tried everything.
I tried switching up my writing environment, and making more time to play. I tried moving the stuck energy through my body with yoga. And I made myself sit at my laptop and write, even when I really didn’t want to.
But it didn’t feel like anything was making a difference. Writing was still a struggle.
I read all the articles I could find on how to overcome writer’s block.
No matter what I did, it continued to linger like an unpleasant smell.
It took me a long time to figure out what was really going on. But one day, it finally dawned on me.
The most common cause of writer’s block
You might have convinced yourself you’re procrastinating. And procrastination is laziness, right?
What you need is to give yourself a Tony Robbins’ style motivational pep talk, and JFDI.
Because procrastination is fear in disguise.
Fear of not being good enough. And the self-doubt that plagues you.
Fear of putting yourself out there only to be ridiculed.
The fear of not having anything worth saying.
I thought I was being lazy when I’d sit at my laptop and stare at a blank screen for an hour.
I managed to write & publish three books and hundreds of articles in one year. So why did I now find myself unable to write a damn thing?
It was fear.
‘Procrastination is not laziness,’ I tell him. ‘It is fear. Call it by its right name, and forgive yourself.’
– Julia Cameron
Fear of not being a good enough writer, to write anything that had the power to move people.
So if you’re struggling with writer’s block right now, I invite you to forgive yourself.
Forgive yourself for not being perfect, and allowing fear to control you.
Because none of us are perfect.
Here’s how not to overcome writer’s block
- Tell yourself you’re an idiot (insert curse word of choice here)
- Give up and never write again
- Cry yourself a river, and drown in it
- Wait for inspiration to find you
- Watch re-runs of The Hills until your mind is numb
I’ve tried and tested every one of these at some point in my writing career.
So trust me when I say they won’t help you overcome writer’s block.
How to overcome writer’s block whenever it strikes
Even when you really don’t want to, and you feel like you have nothing to say. Especially then.
Write that you don’t know what to write. Or write about how frustrated you are with your writer’s block.
Show up at your computer every day, and write.
At first, what comes might be mediocre. That’s okay. You have to get that stuff out before you can get to the gold.
So keep showing up consistently and writing. Leave your judgement out of it.
You don’t need to publish any of it if you don’t want to. The most important thing is that you continue to strengthen your writing muscle.
Allow your ideas to marinate a little longer
If the words just aren’t flowing the way they used to, it may be that your ideas aren’t ready.
When I was writing my fourth book, I think I was rushing it. As a result, the finished product didn’t feel finished. It wasn’t ready. And I wasn’t ready. Yet.
But there is a fine line between giving your ideas more time to develop, and putting off writing out of fear. Be really honest with yourself when figuring out which one it is.
If your ideas do need some more time to work their magic, then here are a few things you can do in the meantime:
- Get outside and be in nature
- Move your body
- Play. Like you did when you were a child
- Listen to some music
- Read loads of books
- Change things up: your routine, what you’re eating, what you’re wearing, where you’re going, and who you’re with.
- Bake something
- Listen to an inspirational podcast or speech
But if it’s the latter – and you’re putting off writing out of fear – this next point was written for you.
Face your fears
Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
– Marianne Williamson
Writing is a scary thing. Even when you don’t publish it.
Because it encourages you to face and meet yourself.
You’re making art, and reinforcing the idea that you are creative.
And if you want to become great at it, it requires you to open your heart and be vulnerable.
The funny thing about fear is it tells us where to go. It shows us our self-imposed limitations, and dares us to move beyond them.
And when you lean in to your fears – whether that’s your fear of not being a talented enough writer or anything else – you’ll discover power within, and deep wisdom.
Every time I choose to lean in to something that scares me, instead of run away from it, I grow. I become stronger. My confidence soars. And I empower myself to continue leaning in to more of my fears.
Confronting and facing your fears will not only help you overcome writer’s block. It will help you become a great writer.
So if you truly desire to be a great writer, start by facing your fears today.