Overcoming Writer’s Block

The two words bloggers are most afraid of.  Writer’s block.  There’s nothing worse than staring blankly into an empty word document.  I’ve gone through several periods of writer’s block, but over the last few months I’ve developed a good process for getting through it.

I’ve found that while there’s several causes of writer’s block, they’re able to be overcome if you’re willing to proactively work through them.

You’re being a perfectionist

I’ve found worrying about making my next post perfect often occurs after writing a really good post.  Most recently, I struggled to write anything after my article on Walnut Grove.

Although I still sometimes fall victim to it, I think trying to live up to the expectation of making every post a masterpiece is a bad idea.

Trying to make all your work perfect prevents you from being creative because you’re afraid to make mistakes. Strive for a nine out of ten in your work. Perfectionism is the reason Dr. Dre hasn’t released a new album in more than a decade while Jay Z has had half a dozen best sellers in the same time.

You edit while you write.

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first began writing was I tried to edit my thoughts for perfect grammar and sentence structure from the beginning.  I’ve found that doing so is completely ineffective.

I consistently write my best posts when I’m writing my first draft as a continual stream of consciousness.  Obviously I go back and edit later so you don’t have to read a mess, but writing this way prevents the logical part of my brain from getting in the way of the creative process.

I can’t cite this as I don’t remember where I read it, but supposedly writing and editing use two different parts of the brain.  I’m no brain scientist so I can’t confirm this, but I can say that trying to multitask and do both simultaneously is ineffective and leads to dry academic writing.

That’s fine if you’re writing essays for english, but in the real world, humans respond much more to emotionally charged writing.

You don’t have anything to say.

This is probably the most common cause of writer’s block.  It’s simply impossible to produce anything worth reading if you’re not passionate about what you’re writing about.  If you don’t care about getting your message to others why would they care to read it?

This is why choosing a niche you’re passionate about is so important.  The stupidest thing you could possibly do is attempt to write a book or maintain a blog on a topic you don’t care about.

If you do, you’ll never feel motivated to research or write.  Even if you’re able to force yourself to produce content, it’s going to lack passion and you’ll ultimately end up being unsuccessful. Even if you’re writing somehow became popular you’d still be unhappy because you know you could have written about something you loved and done better.

You’re stuck in a daily routine

Along the same lines of not having anything to say is being caught in a boring daily routine.  It’s important to switch things up occasionally.  Try something new, hang out with friends, or go on an adventure.

One of the biggest reasons I still get writer’s block on occasion is I’m sometimes tempted to stick to the same schedule day in day out.  Wake up, shower, eat, write, juggle, etc.

If I’m not going out and doing juggling shows or being social I simply can’t be creative.  Going out on adventures benefits you as a writer because doing so helps eliminate work related stress and can provide you with a new perspective on whatever you’re writing about.

You’re in a bad mood

Although my default state is being a happy, optimistic person, I’m still sometimes sucked into being in a bad mood.  It’s happening less and less frequently, but I doubt it’ll ever go away completely.

My friend Mathias actually wrote about why it’s difficult to be creative while you’re sad.  I agree with most of his points, especially that it’s difficult to produce motivational work while you’re feeling down.  Your emotions often come through in the words you write and your audience can tell how you were feeling when you wrote a given post.

When I’m feeling down my thinking is cloudy and irrational and I’d never want to spread those types of feelings to you guys. I want my blog to be a place where you derive positive feelings and leave feeling more ready than ever before to tackle life.

My solution to this predicament is keeping a couple posts up my sleeve.  I’ve trained myself to never be in a bad mood for more than a day, so I’m able to use this strategy to maintain my posting frequency during those times.

If you’re struggling with low level emotions for extended periods of time I’d focus more energy into building a fulfilling lifestyle than writing.  If you need to write to move towards that lifestyle I’d recommend writing about more logical topics rather than motivation pieces or other creative works.

However, it’s also worth noting that some of the world’s greatest art has been created while the artist was feeling down.  Adele had writer’s block for months, but the day after her boyfriend broke up with her she went to the studio and used that pain to begin recording 21, the best selling musical release of 2011 AND 2012.

Overall, I’d say extended writer’s block is almost always an excuse.  If writing’s important to you, you’ll make it happen.  What strategies have you used to cure writer’s block?  Be sure to let me know what I missed in the comments.

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