Town Line Tuesday: Writer’s Block

Every writer has been subject to the plague known as Writer’s Block at one point or another and every writer has their own way of dealing with it, methods that are, ultimately, just treatments for the symptoms and not a cure for the disease itself–no matter what you do, Writer’s Block always rears its ugly head again. Writer’s Block can manifest in many forms and can persist for varying degrees of time, sometimes it comes as a loss of inspiration, sometimes as a loss of motivation or the ability to express oneself, it can last a few hours or a week or even years in truly severe cases. My own personal struggle with Writer’s Block is a near constant wrestling match between the story I want to tell and a brain that refuses to cooperate. Rarely is it an issue of ideas but instead a sort of invisible wall in my brain that makes it near impossible to get my ideas from my head to the page. It’s a sort of anxiety I think, a feeling like what I have to say needs to be said perfectly and if it’s not perfect, it might as well not even be on the page. Even now, writing each sentence feels like trying to squeeze that last little bit of ketchup out of the bottle without it exploding everywhere in a bloody red mess. Dad told me today that I need to just relax and just write, stop worrying so much about it being perfect that nothing gets done, which is good advice, advice I’ve heard before from several college writing professors, but saying it and getting my brain to actually comply are two very different things.

So how do you get that annoying invisible wall to go away long enough to actually be productive? Well, you’ve got your basic Google search of options. There’s the obvious putting it down and coming back to it later which is good for stressed out minds but not so good for productivity or lack of inspiration. Exercise such as yoga or anything that gets your blood flowing is always good–when I do have inspiration problems I like to go on nice long walks to clear my head. Some people say you need to minimize distractions but while I’m sure this works for some people, staring at a blank Word doc is the opposite of helpful to me. Listening to music is supposed to help but I always listen to music when I write (I don’t know about you but I can’t work in complete silence, I need background noise) so it’s less of a cure for Writer’s Block and more of a necessity. And then there’s the seemingly paradoxical tactic of free-writing. I mean, if you’re having problems writing it seems like you wouldn’t be able to sit down and, well, write, though I suppose it probably helps with specific problems with inspiration. You can’t figure out how to write the current project you’re working on, go write something else until you’ve loosened up enough to write what you need to write. Personally? When it comes to this particular kind of Writer’s Block, I prefer what I call the ninja method. When I’ve been staring at a blank Word doc, kind of knowing what I need to say but not quite able to say it, I need to shut my brain up so I can just relax and write. And in order to do that I need to sneak up on the problem; like a ninja. So I read. Sometimes a book, sometimes fan fiction, sometimes I just scroll on Tumblr, anything to distract my anxious foggy mind, to lull the anxiety into quieting for a bit, to clear my head and inspire me. Like the “walk away from this for a bit” option there is a very thin line between clearing up the Writer’s Block and your everyday procrastination. But, at least for me, it works better than staring at a blank Word doc getting increasingly anxious and frustrated.

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