Writer’s block

Inspiration tends to come in bursts. There are times when writers are full of ideas, and other times when they have none. This is always frustrating, and for those who earn their living from writing or have publishing deadlines to meet it can be a major problem.

There may be an obvious reason for feeling blocked. I always find myself unable to engage with a new book immediately after finishing the last one, even though I am only really satisfied and happy when I have a writing project underway. I am going through one of these ‘fallow periods’ at present, following the challenge and stimulation of publishing my latest book on Amazon, and am making use of the time to organise and de-clutter the paperwork in my office and the files on my computer.

I have discussed some of the other causes for writer’s block in previous blog posts, for example striving too hard for perfection, being upset by having had your writing criticised or rejected or by adverse experiences in another sphere of life, having too much else to do because of never saying no.

Another possibility is depressed mood. Many writers and other creative people are prone to experience mood swings, due to having the normal variant of personality called ‘cyclothymia’ or less often the serious mental illness of bipolar disorder (formerly ‘manic depression’). During ‘high’ phases, new ideas flow faster than they can be written down; during ‘low’ ones the mind feels sluggish and blank and any thoughts are morbid ones.

Besides dealing with any remediable causes, there are various strategies for overcoming writer’s block. If circumstances permit it can be a good idea to take a complete break from writing and do something else for a day or two or maybe longer. Preferably this will involve activities, people and places which are completely different from those encountered in your usual routine and will provide new ideas. Other forms of creativity, such as painting or dancing, can be particularly helpful.

Or, discipline yourself to keep on writing for a set period each day, but again try doing it with a new approach. Clear the clutter from your desk to encourage a fresh start. Write a short and simple piece instead of attempting the major work on which you are ‘blocked’. Some authorities suggest inducing a relaxed state with deep breathing and slow music and then using your non-dominant hand to write something – anything – which even if it turns out to be nonsense may still stimulate the creative flow. Or try writing late at night or early in the morning, when you are half-asleep and more able to access the reservoir of images and memories in the subconscious  mind.

Getting started again often presents the biggest barrier, and if you can get past that it will usually be much easier to continue.

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