We've all been there. You have this great idea for a story, or blog, or article. You come up with it in the shower, or at mealtime, or while out on a run. Then you sit at the computer, full of energy and inspiration... and you just stare at the screen. Suddenly, the ideas that seemed so great and clear now seem daunting and murky. You struggle to even put down that first sentence, that first word. You stare at the blank screen until you give up and do dishes or watch TV.
Writer's block is a struggle as old as writing itself, a demon of doubt sitting on the quill of every author. But what is it, and what are some techniques in overcoming writer's block?
Depending on whom you ask, writer's block is fear, or it is laziness. Some authors say that writer's block doesn't even exist. In a way, all these things are true, because writer's block really only exists in the mind. It is a personal obstacle, one that manifests itself differently depending on the writer.
Here are a few tips on dealing with writer's block:
* Work on a different project for a moment. Switch to that short story you have been picking at, or that novel you've been meaning to finish. Write a critique. Give your brain some time to think about something different. This can help you approach your own project from a fresh angle sometimes. It also loosens up the fingers and makes those first words feel less intimidating.
* Exercise. Go for a run, bike ride. Go to the gym. Physical activity increases brain activity. You'll also find yourself more relaxed, making it easier to ease into the writing process.
* Power through it. Sometimes the only way to overcome writer's block is to simply write. Force the words onto the page. Stop caring if they are good or not. The key is to simply get the content onto the page as fast as possible. This serves two purposes as well: not only are you making some sort of progress on the project, but you will also find solutions to the issues that were holding you back in the first place.
* Read. Find a book by your favorite author. Read passages that inspire you, give you new ways of tackling sentences. Well-written prose can help to shake loose the cobwebs and make jumping into your own story that much easier.
* Outline. Outlining isn't for everyone, but it can help in situations where the ideas you want to convey require careful planning. This also gives you a structure to work with and goals to reach. A few minutes outlining what you want to say can sometimes make the task of starting a project easier.
* Chores. Sometimes the best ideas happen when we aren't trying to find them. Remember that great idea you had in the shower? Or while jogging? That idea came so easily in the first place because you were relaxed and not trying so hard. Do dishes. Garden. Vacuum the floors. Do something that is distracting enough to get your mind off the story, but tedious enough that you don't want to do it all day (like video games or TV or browsing the internet).
Ultimately, writer's block is a type of fear. It's a fear of failure, fear of writing something badly, fears of embarrassment. It's that critical part of your thinking overriding your creative mind, the editor stepping on the artist's toes.
In the end, writer's block doesn't exist. It's in your head. But if you know the ways to trick your brain into writing, overcoming writer's block doesn't seem like much of an obstacle at all.