Writer’s block is what they call it. You know, that stuck place where words dry up, where thoughts and ideas vanish into thin air. Every writer is faced with it from time to time, even you.
There are unlimited ways to free yourself from the sticky grasp of this dreaded plague. And most all of them are effective. You’ve probably seen the lists of remedies. They range from taking a walk to getting a glass of water, and many other options to break your writing free again.
But what if–just what if–none of them work for you this time? What if you are so tired of your writing and disappointed by your lack of progress or ideas or whatever, that you hear burnout calling your name? Ever been there? Let’s talk.
Writer’s Block: A Fresh Look
Now, I have to be honest with you. If you read me much, you know that I don’t give the idea of writer’s block much value. I chose a long time ago to take away its power over me. My proactive stand has served me well for many years.
Does that mean that writer’s block never tries to move in and stop my creative flow? Not at all. It shows up as regularly for me as it does for any other writer. The difference is that I go on the offense rather than play defense against it.
The Offensive Play
Writers write, sometimes a lot. Sometimes you write for a long time with barely a look up from your work. There are times when the creative flow of ideas runs like a river and you furiously follow the current until you feel spent, drained completely.
Think of writer’s block as a trusty and helpful signal to let you know you need a break. Rather than seeing it as a negative thing, let it become your friend. It’s shown up to say, Hey, you’ve done enough for now.
Actually, the simple act of giving it a different tag–friend instead of foe–takes away the feelings of dread and stress that it used to bring. Writer’s block is no longer the enemy of your writing. It is no longer an enemy that must be fought and conquered, only to be faced again and again.
Instead, it is the same as a warning light that flashes on the dashboard of your car. It’s simply alerting you that something is going on that is affecting your performance, and it needs to be checked out.
The Defensive Play
Therefore, the alternative to the offensive play is to go on defense. This is the most well-known method of dealing with writer’s block. The slowdown of creativity comes. Words dry up. Ideas are gone. What happens?
Those little pressing thoughts start running through your head. They dig at you about all kinds of things. Their goal is to upset you and stop you from completing your project.
- This is stupid.
- You can’t write.
- Real writers don’t stop like this.
- You’ll never finish.
- Why did you think you could do this?
- Ticktock–you’re wasting time.
- Don’t think you can make that deadline.
- What’s wrong with you?
Those little pressing thoughts, before you know it, ramp up into desperation and panic. Writer’s block makes you start to question your own creative skills and abilities. This is such a waste of time and energy–and it is not the truth. The ultimate end of this trail, if left unchecked, is writer burnout.
The Paradigm Shift
So, I say it’s time to take a fresh look at how you perceive writer’s block. This is just a simple decision on your part. Decide that when it shows up next time, it is merely signaling that it’s time for a change-up somewhere. Pay attention to the message.
Listen to it. Accept the fact that it probably knows something about you that you are not consciously aware of yet. After all, the source of the signal is within you. Does writer’s block call you on the phone? Nope.
I want to demystify this a bit more. Here’s a question for you. When you experience writer’s block coming on, and all those negative messages and feelings begin, where do those come from? This is not a trick question! The answer is, They come from you yourself!
What I think actually takes place is two-fold.
- Your mind and/or body get tired, over-stimulated, overwhelmed and send a signal to you for help.
- Your inner critic misinterprets the signal and reacts to it as a threat to your creative skills and abilities.
Therefore, what is meant as a simple cue that you need a break of some kind to relieve a mental, emotional, or physical stress, becomes a total negative judgment about you, your talents, and your project. (There is more to be shared about that at a later time.)
Taking the offensive approach moves writer’s block out of the negative column over into the positives.
But I’m really stuck!
Unfortunately, you can let writer’s block take such a strong hold on you that you feel like you’ll never write again. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience here.
You do all the things that everyone suggests to break yourself free. Some ideas work a little bit, but nothing really gets you back on track. Instead of looking forward to writing sessions, you dodge them. It’s so easy to put other things ahead of that creative time. Soon, you’ve basically stopped in your tracks with your project gathering dust.
I am happy to report there is hope and there is help for you in that place. Think of it in terms of rebooting your writing just like you reboot a computer from time to time. That’s right. We’re going to shut you off and bring you back up again.
5 Ways to Beat Writer Burnout
When all else fails, the fastest way to start writing again with freedom and flow is to shut it all down. Turn off the project for awhile. Doing so “resets” you as a writer. When you “power up” again, all the creative skills come back on line just like the block never happened.
How do you do this? There are many ways to shut down. Here is a list of 5 broad ideas for doing so. It’s up to you to determine the best option for you. My goal is to spur you into coming up with the best plan for your situation.
What do you mean by shut down? I’m talking about completely closing down your project and stepping away from writing along with everything that goes with it. The focus is not on words, deadlines, blocked places, etc. The focus shifts to other things totally. Check out this list of options.
- Take a vacation.
- Incorporate napping and much rest.
- Spend time having fun with family and friends.
- Enjoy lots of time out in nature.
- Turn off all devices and media for a day or so.
#1. Take a vacation.
Now, I hear what some of you saying. I don’t have the time or the money for a vacation. And I hear you. But if at all possible, it is a great way to deal with writer burnout.
There’s something restorative about getting out of your familiar surroundings to take in the fresh and new. Your trip doesn’t have to take you far away from home, nor does it need to break your budget. A weekend get-away to your favorite place is so worth it!
While there, don’t allow the writer’s block or your project to even enter your mind. Cut it off every time a thought surfaces. Breathe. Laugh. Play. Do things you enjoy. Be kind to yourself.
#2. Incorporate napping and much rest.
This one is easy to do in addition to some of the other options. For example, take a short vacation…and rest! Hang in a hammock and nap while the breeze cools you and the birds call in the trees.
If you have been seriously blocked for awhile, it might take you a little while to relax to the point where rest finally comes. Don’t give up, and don’t let yourself stress over trying to rest! Go with the flow. You will find yourself letting go mentally, emotionally, and physically after awhile.
Resting and napping are quite good medicine for over-worked writers. Creativity takes a toll that must be recuperated from along the way.
#3. Spend time having fun with family and friends.
A stay-cation can be as wonderful as traveling. For whatever reason, if you can’t leave home, then enjoy being at home. It’s a time for fun activities with the kids. Do something special with your spouse. Plan some fun adventures with good friends.
One rule has to be followed: no thought or talking about any aspect of your writing or project. You MUST have fun! Do some interesting things you wouldn’t normally do. The possibilities are endless, as varied as your group of family and friends. Take advantage of those possibilities.
The key is to relax and let go. Have fun. Enjoy yourself and others. This is a simple option to carry out and well worth the effort.
#4. Enjoy lots of time out in nature.
This is one of my favorite activities, especially now that I live in the Missouri Ozarks. There is nothing like a walk along the lake shore or through the woods to force all the tensions to drop away.
Even if you’re not a great outdoors person, spending time in nature is still a relaxing and healthy way to drain off the effects of writer’s block or burnout. Take the time to feel the sun and the breeze on your skin. If you have water nearby, sit and listen to its gentle voice as it laps at the shore.
Peace is plentiful in nature. Get outside and let your heart, mind, and body experience the outdoor difference. Writers have a tendency to spend way too much time crunched up at a desk inside with head down typing or writing. The outdoors is an wonderful refresher.
#5. Turn off all devices and media for a day or so.
What? I don’t know if I can do that or not! Yes, you can. You may have to plan for it, but you can do it. I know it sounds crazy, but it is a highly effective way to declutter your mind and refocus yourself.
Chalk it up to the times we live in, but most of us are never far from some electronic device that keeps us connected to our world. It’s the way things are. However, you do have control over that in your life. And you do have the ability to shut it down for a chosen length of time. The truth is, when you do unplug for awhile, you’ll see that everything is still okay when you decide to reconnect.
That constant state of being on call brings its own stress load. If you are trying to recover from serious writer’s block or writer burnout, turning off those connections for a day or so can help immensely. It’s not like you’re not ever reconnecting. But a short season–hours or a few days–can do you a world of good.
This requires some planning on your part, letting folks know what you’re doing. You can even change up the message on your phone for a while. You’ll get back to them, but for now, you’re honoring yourself and taking some much-needed time off.
Writer’s Block: The Decision Is Yours
There you have it, some clear ways to deal with it when writer’s block does get the best of you. You don’t have to stay blocked or in burnout. You have options. What are you going to do?
Change your attitude about writer’s block. Shift from the old defensive play into the proactive offensive side of the game. Pay attention to the messages you receive when that blocked feeling comes.
And if you get into that place of feeling like throwing in the towel and giving up on your writing, make a plan for yourself from the options listed above.
I hope this helps you break loose and write more, write better, write now!
Thank you & God Bless!