A shared fear in our world is the inability to do our jobs. A lot of jobs require skilled employees always to be efficient, leaving no room for error. Air traffic controllers, firefighters, and truck drivers hold the lives of others in their hands each minute they are on the clock. However, I am here to tell you about something a lot less heroic and a lot more familiar with many students and authors, writer’s block. The fact that no one has ever died from writer’s block, though I’ve heard some have come close, makes it even more humiliating to discuss. How could someone come up with a measly idea or story to write about? Well, I believe on some level we all experience this feeling. Nothing sounds right, nothing looks right, and it leads to not being able to write. Regardless of how prolific a writer is, there is usually a point in time where the well appears to be dry. Some students have to narrow down their research topic ideas, and some are racing through a book in a panic to find anything worth exploring. Both of these types of writers will experience a block at some point. Some are small; it may just be a section of paper that won’t come to them. Others are large, and the mind becomes as barren as the video store in the age of streaming. The same rules do apply to snapping out of this particular malady. Writer’s block can strike at any time, and here are some things I try to do when experiencing the idea crippling disease.
Read, Read, Read
Sometimes when the words don’t come, it’s best to read someone who was able to find them. Regardless of what you are writing, seeing a sentence or premise could be enough to jump the gears of a mind like a vocabulary defibrillator. Reading a news article or a funny interview online or a sprawling epic novel may contain just enough to get the ideas going. Maybe a word that was used springs to mind something completely unrelated and fantastic to start with. Often this process may take reading one word, or it could be a lot of searching before the right trigger gets pulled. Either way, you’ll learn a lot with this approach, and it will take your mind off the lack of input from the keyboard.
Take a Break
Take a break from doing nothing. Seriously, it’s fun. The pressure of putting together something meaningful can often lead to a massive overload, and you will forever be overheating at the computer chair just like the machine in front of you. Sometimes changing your daily routine can spark something interesting that your brain wouldn’t discover while running through the usual daily grind. Try taking a different route to work, eating a different diet plan, or even trying a different hobby can unlock the doors of your creativity. Doing this will take pressure off of the writer by giving them other things to think about. The best ways to use this mental break is to keep your mind as occupied as possible. After doing these things and reflecting on them, you will find a lot of material to polish off and expose to the world.
Write Now, Edit Later
We can be our worst enemy. Most people have a critical eye for the things they do to a much higher degree than they would for someone else. That’s why I am frequently screaming about the quality of my work while I’m being reassured by others who read it that it’s “really good” or “it’s fine really.” As comforting as that is, writers often like to find these flaws before someone else can gleefully point them out after publication. Sometimes this happens so often that meaningful writing is never getting done. I’m here to say that editing is necessary, but put it on the backburner until the work is finished. Get all of the ideas out on the page and worry about that stuff later. Worrying about a semicolon before the main idea is even presented can be self-destructive.
Remember why you are doing this particular project in the first place. If you are passionate about writing, you should remember why you love to do it. If you are writing because it’s a requirement and wishes you never had to do it, think about how to make it your own. Research papers that are mandatory can be a good example, but have fun with the topic. If it’s a topic you couldn’t choose and hate it, tear it apart. Tell everybody why it should be dismissed and ignored. Let the fun of creativity flow and worry about how it will all fit later. If you find a way to make the process enjoyable, you will almost never be at a loss for words.