Today I want to teach you how to get over writers block. Every creative type has faced this conundrum at some point in their process, and it seems as though it plagues writers more than anybody else.
What I’d like to submit for your consideration is that writer’s block, much like a fictional novel, is a figment of our own imaginations. Or rather, it’s something that doesn’t exist in the capacity that we think it does.
Origin of Writer’s Block
The expression “writer’s block” was originally coined and popularized by American psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler during the 1940s.
“In other ages and cultures,” says Alice Flaherty in The Midnight Disease, “writers were not thought to be blocked but straightforwardly dried up. One literary critic points out that the concept of writer’s block is peculiarly American in its optimism that we all have creativity just waiting to be unlocked.”
To some extent, I agree with Mrs. Flaherty. While I’m a very creative person at my core, my deep well can dry up, leaving me feeling as though there’s nothing left.
Understanding Writer’s Block
But within this definition, “writer’s block” more aptly describes the sensation of emptiness toward the writing rather than a physical phenomenon that prevents you from taking action.
You could call it a creative slump, or feeling listless, or maybe the world is your oyster but the pearl remains trapped within its confines.
What we call “writer’s block” is the feeling that you can’t write anything of value, and can’t tap into a flow state.
5 Steps to get over writer’s block
The real key to getting over writer’s block is to recognize that it’s not really a “block” but more of a “void.” There’s fire in the hole, but nothing there to burn.
This is often why great authors would get up from their work and take a walk to seek out some inspiration.
So my very first tip to get over writer’s block is a very simple one.
- Stop Calling It Writer’s Block
Okay, this may seem a bit unfair, since this post is literally titled “how to get over writer’s block.” However, reframing your perspective around a word or term can be incredibly powerful.
This is a concept that has been popularized by Tony Robbins, called “TV” or “transformational vocabulary.”
By saying that you have writer’s block, your brain immediately loads in the program associated with being “blocked.” In other words, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for your brain to “block your writing.”
Words have real power, and have been studied under a variety of conditions. One particular study stands stark in my mind:
In the study, two plants were exposed to different kinds of words. One received only kind words with a caring intention, and the other not. The one that was exposed to kind words grew a bit faster and taller than the other.
Words can affect your reality down to its core. So consider saying that you have a writer’s “blip” instead of a “block.” Blips are short, and can give your brain a light at the end of the tunnel.
- Watch your favorite movie
Now that you’ve reframed your perspective on writer’s “blip,” let’s help you get your mojo back.
My favorite and probably easiest solution is simply to watch your favorite movie. That’s easy enough to do, right?
Maybe you love the film for its writing, plot, humor, character, emotions… whatever the case may be, when you watch it with a critical eye, you’re likely to pick up something new and be able to apply it to your writing.
You can easily substitute this with reading your favorite book, watching your favorite TV show, or listening to your favorite musical album. No matter what it is, the idea is to throw some raw materials back into your cauldron and get some ideas brewing.
- Know what type of writer you are, then switch it up
Do you know what type of writer you are? If you don’t, then you can take our easy quick here.
If you DO know what type of writer you are, take a walk on the wild side and change things up. Sometimes when we get stuck in a pattern, our brain will stop whatever creative tap we have inside of our brains and just give up for a bit.
Knowing your writing style means knowing how to negotiate with yourself. If you think about your mind like a house that you’re trying to get into, and the front door is locked, consider how you might be able to slide a window open and enter through in that manner.
This can help you unclog your writer’s blip.
One tip on this is the 4 quadrant theory for writer’s, which I recently stumbled upon. It involves reorganizing your time for work and play, and how you spend it. You can check it out here to learn more. And if you like it, I’m happy to do another post on it soon!
- Free yourself from the need for motivation
Drive and motivation will come and go, but disciplines will prevail above all else.
The fact is, you’re not always going to feel “motivated” to write, and to wait for that motivation to arrive will throw off your practice.
Instead, dabble with discipline. Try a morning pages exercise. Start the day with a page or two of unconscious flow of thought writing. Some of it may be nonsense, and that’s GOOD.
The nonsense that you write down may trigger a reward or something you haven’t considered.
Writing every day makes the muscle bigger, just like going to the gym daily yields a rocking body… I’d better get on that.
- KISS It
Grab your laptop or notebook, close your eyes, bring it close… and… no, just kidding.
Keep. It. Simple. Silly.
Don’t get too caught up in the eloquence and nuance of how to make a plot point more epic, or do everything perfectly. This pressure can lead to a “blip” and demotivate you from finishing your work.
Instead, try to move the story forward in a very simple manner.
- Carl went to the butcher
- He purchased some beef
- Had conversation that sparked a new idea
- He went home
- Told his wife
- Wife didn’t like it
- They had a fight
- He left for the evening
- Stepped on a possum’s tail
…sorry I didn’t know where I was going with that. But the point is to keep this super simple and fill in the gaps later.
How to Overcome Writer’s Block (Bonus Step)
These are just a few tips to overcome writer’s “blip.” Whatever you can do to throw some inspiration back into your mind will benefit your writing immensely.
- Keyword research tools
- Blog articles
- Even a writer’s block app!
Or if you like, you can download our PDF here that we created to help you put some of these ideas into immediate practice!
If you leave a comment below, I’m happy to help you address your writer’s “blip” situation!