Writer's block is that helpless, hopeless, slow-death feeling of not knowing what to create when you're in the setting and mode to create. It's when the divine flow of creative energy just shuts off, like a kink in a hose, and the ideas just won't flow. You're blocked. There's something obstructing the way, and the creator cannot create.
I have experienced writer's block SO many times, and through my experiences, I've learned (and it may be different for others) that it's triggered by:
- Lack of focus: is there something else going on that is distracting you from what you're trying to accomplish, whether that's writing a song, a story, figuring out what to paint or draw, etc.? Are you AWARE that there's something distracting you? Are you living your life for a boyfriend or girlfriend and forgetting about yourself? Are you partying too much? Substance abuse? Stop and think, and call it out. Then, decide if you want to fix it or not.
- Emotions: Emotions can be both useful and detrimental. As a creative, you want to learn how to control them and use them to your advantage, whether they're good or bad. I used to only be able to write my songs when something made me angry or depressed. That led me down a road of self-sabotage and even dangerous situations just to find the inspiration to write a single song. Bad idea. That needed to change, so I took the necessary steps for me (they can be different for everyone) and opened myself up to writing regardless of my emotional state. Plus, I didn't just want to have angry songs anymore. It takes a toll, and sometimes it's hard to realize it until you're pretty far on down that road.
You have to be happy, fellow creatives, and you have to have control. Sure, you'll have those times when you're just pissed and want to make something reflecting your anger, or you'll have times of euphoria you channel into a bright, happy piece...but you also need a slight degree of control over all of your feelings so you can 1) stay safe and 2) not rely on your emotions, especially bad ones, in order to create art. You may end up in a negative, dark space where you don't want to be, but find that it is the only place you're able to create. If it works the other way, with happiness, then good. Stay that way. Just remember, there's a yin and a yang to everything. Find what balance works for you.
- Fear: This can be interpreted in the eye of the beholder. Are you afraid of creating because of what other people might think? - that seems to be the main thing. Is there something in your life - a major decision, maybe - that ties in with "lack of focus" that you're nervous about? What are you afraid of? Call it out, accept it, and make a plan.
These three things are general categories wherein I feel lie all of the sub-issues that trigger a block.
Writer's block is scary. For me, it causes anxiety. Will I ever write a song again? Is this it? Then, I may try to write something, and it's just crap. Let's compare this to the time I came down with a fierce case of pneumonia several years ago... Writer's block is pneumonia. I lost my voice for SIX. ENTIRE. MONTHS. I had to cancel so many shows, but I couldn't sing a note. My range was gone, even once my cough had left, and my exhaled air would catch in my throat and trigger an atrocious coughing fit that lasted so long I almost vomited on multiple occasions. I couldn't sing. I thought, Am I ever going to get better? Is this cough ever going to go away? Have I permanently damaged and lost my voice? I was so hopeless and scared. I realized then not to EVER, EVER take my voice for granted and to care for it as if it was my own child. I cried sometimes when I got in the downward spiral of thinking I'd never be able to sing again. Half a year, no voice and all cancelled shows... I realized how much my music meant to me. So instead of singing, I saved my voice, downed cough syrup and cough drops, and I focused on my guitar playing and songwriting - the things that I COULD still do.
When you're in this place, feeling helplessly blocked and sick with the pneumonia of writer's block, but all you want to do is make your creation...do it anyway. Even if it totally sucks. Here are my tips for dealing with writer's block, from personal experience:
- Accept it: It's real. It happens. Whatever. Know that every creative person encounters writer's block, probably a lot more than they'll admit publicly.
-Work through it: Find a process for you that makes you feel like you're still doing something in your craft rather than just sitting there, being upset about having writer's block and wondering what to do. If you're a writer, journal something. Write about what you ate for breakfast. Write about simple things, anything. Just get some words on paper. Artist? Doodle. Draw shapes. Draw fugly stick people. Draw a cat. Painter? Paint me like one of your French girls. Find something that makes you feel like you're moving forward through the writer's block and making progress defeating it.
- Be aware that it WILL happen again: Happens all the time, guys. I have never met another creative individual who hasn't experienced writer's block, and if you haven't, you are probably an alien from a far-more-superior planet and I would really like to meet you sometime.
- Talk to your friends: Preferably other creatives, because they'll understand what you're talking about. You may find one of them is going through the same thing, and maybe they have (or you have) ideas or suggestions to help you get through it and not worry. Relationships are really important in life overall, and relationships amongst creative people are no exception and can be inspiring and even healing when they are there for one another. Maybe talking with somebody or arranging a collaboration with share the creative energy needed to break through to the other side of a writer's block and get back on track.
- Do what you can: Have a piece of an idea but not necessarily the entire concept? Do what I did when I had pneumonia and couldn't sing - do what you can. Start working on whatever tiny hint of an idea you have in your mind. Don't just sit there and throw a pity party. This goes hand-in-hand with my point to "work through it."
- Live your life: Seek inspiration (preferably the good kind). Don't shut down, because there's no need. Don't get depressed or anxious that you'll never find your inspiration to create again. You will. You just have to be okay with it and accept that writer's block comes and goes. Find peace and follow the tips, and everything is gonna be fine. Plus, if you take my advice and communicate with other like-minded friends, you're not alone. Knowing that you're not alone is imperative in any kind of "recovery."
That's pretty much all I have to say about writer's block! It's natural. Accept it, be okay with it, and move on. Surround yourself with good people, communicate, and do what you can. It'll pass, and it'll probably reignite the flame of creation within you. Let it.
Any questions on writer's block? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org