Have you ever tried all of the tricks on getting inspired and generating ideas, but nothing seems to work? This means you suffer from creative constipation AKA Writer’s Block.
The last few weeks have been nothing but gruelling for me.
I never thought I’d have this much trouble writing articles, but alas, Writer’s Block hits everybody sooner or later, it seems. I know many are more comfortable writing only when they get truly inspired, but at the moment, that’s not what works for me.
This is probably the worst part of the whole writing experience. This shitty writer’s block. That feeling when I am sitting down, finally wishing to write something but ending up staring at a blank sheet of paper or in front of that blinking cursor on that perfectly empty Notepad app. “I have nothing to say,” is the only thing that comes to mind. “I am 19 years old and I have done nothing, discovered nothing, been nothing, and there are absolutely no thoughts in my head that anyone would ever want to read about.” There is this Censor in my brain, my Self-Critic.
Who knows what causes the ugly Censor to be there — a bad experience in sixth grade? Something Mom said once? — I dont know. And you know what, it doesn’t matter. ‘Cuz this Censor is there for all of us, building and rebuilding this thing called Writer’s Block, one of the Censor’s many self-limiting toys. It is some comfort to know that even professional writers suffer from Writer’s Block from time to time. Some of the greatest writers in literature — Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway — were tormented by momentary lapses in their ability to produce text — although you wouldn’t think it possible if you’ve ever tried to pick up War and Peace with one hand.
This period of writer’s hell hasn’t been in vain, because I can now share with you how I am able to write in spite of all this.
American poet William Stafford offers this advice to poets who suffer from Writer’s Block: “There is no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.” This sounded like such horrible advice at first. “What??? Am I supposed to write junk then? Nah man, I need that high of a well written article.” Then I thought on it and finally came to the conclusion that…..actually no, Stafford is not encouraging writers to produce garbage. He is suggesting, however, that it’s easy to take yourself too seriously, to think you’re going to write a poem or an essay that is going to be the greatest poem or essay ever written, that you’re going to formulate the greatest, loveliest, most intelligent statement ever made.
So I sit there, thinking how unworthy I am, cursing the day I was born, wondering why I ever went to school if I cant get the words, hating the very act of writing that has me so stymied. That’s the core of all problems. A writer has to let that go, forget about judgement. I want everything to be perfect, which is why allowing myself to write an absolutely horrendous article often releases my imagination. That feeling inside my heart of utter wordlessness is horrible and just writing something down is an accomplishment. Go ahead and write drivel at first, as long as you write. Out of your nonsense and ramblings, however, believe that something good will come, some idea will catch fire right there on the page, there will be sparks, patterns will emerge. Be willing to throw stuff out. It’s all right. Do you think Shakespeare didn’t litter his kitchen floor with balled-up pieces of paper? One nice thing about the word-processor is that you’re not wasting paper and trees; you’re just exercising the backspace key. But this is no time to worry about the environment. Fill that wastebasket with paper and trust that something will come of all this scribbling. It will.
Carry with you a pocket-sized notebook in which you can scribble ideas for writing as they come to you. I often get these awesome ideas in the middle of class while procrastinating. It’s so wonderful that you know you’ll remember it when you get home, but when you sit down at the table, pen in hand, all you remember is the fact that you had a good idea in Electronics class. Part of the writing experience is learning that good ideas do not always come to us when we need them. We must learn to catch ideas as they come to us, fortuitously, even as we’re about to fall asleep at night.
When you suffer from writer’s block, what’s on your mind? Are you focused on you? Are you worrying that people won’t like your articles? The best way to overcome this is to remember who are you writing for? A common way to get stuck is to write for a crowd of people. Just pick one person to write to. Let your mind go crazy with all the doubts and fears, but you focus on one person. Imagine sitting down with them for a cup of tea, and have a conversation. That really helps me a lot.
Also, people who tell you that physical exercise is important for mental activity have to have some truth in them. It wont be so emphasised upon otherwise, would it? If nothing’s happening on the computer screen or paper, take a walk around the block. Hit the treadmill or tennis courts or drive to the gym. But take your notebook with you.
Do or do not, there is no try. Wise words from Master Yoda. I’ve noticed that when I try too hard, I can’t get anything done. Sometimes I have to remind myself to relax and have fun. There’s no competition. There is no one I have to please but myself. Let go. Breathe and…..write.
Or you can go ahead and write a blog-post on Writer’s Block to cure Writer’s Block, like I have. Kill the disease with itself. The best way, if you ask me.