Saturday, March 4, 2017

Writers’ Block—Is It All in Your Head?

All writers face the inevitable—writers’ block—at some point in their careers. For some it’s a passing state of affairs, a sort of down time after working furiously on a big project. But for others, writers’ block can be as deadly as a fear of heights. In fact, it often results from a fear of success.

But writers’ block doesn’t just happen. Usually something triggers it, much like any other psychological condition. And, yes, it is psychological. To keep from falling prey to this condition, you have to keep your mind active.

The most common cause of writer’s block is trying to make your writing perfect the first time. Many beginning writers plod through whatever they’re working on agonizing over every word. You want to make whatever you’re writing your best, so you go back and revise every sentence as you go. Instead of trying to write the final draft, work faster and steadily to complete your first draft. Get everything down on paper and don’t worry about grammar or the words you’re using. You’ll be able to fix both in the revising process. Leave sparkling writing until your second or third draft.

Another thing that seriously affects novice writers, and many veteran ones, is hearing the opinion of others. Don’t allow yourself to be stymied by what your friends, family, or spouse may think of what you’ve written. And worst of all, don’t show your writing to strangers until you have finished the final draft.

If you write fiction, you should be doubly careful about showing your work to others before its time. As a fiction writer, you have only your own experiences to draw from for your stories. If your story centers around characters who are uncomfortably similar to people you know, you could find yourself in trouble.

Whatever people say, it will affect you. Beginning writers have thin skins and aren’t used to criticism, whether it’s constructive or not. Particularly harsh criticism can cripple you mentally, causing you not to be able to write.

To combat writer’s block, there are a few things you can do.  Keep several projects going at the same time. The more involved you are in different types of writing, the less likely you’ll be to be stymied by writer’s block.

Another trick is to re-read what you’ve written most recently. You’ll be amazed at how you’ll react to your own words, especially if you haven’t seen them in a while. Besides reading your own work, try reading books, stories, and articles written by others.         
Create an idea file. A stockpile of ideas will give you plenty to write about, should you get stuck on your current project.

You might also try to set a word quota—writing so many words a day. This will force you to move forward and not get mired in your current work. And reward yourself for achieving your daily word goal. This could be a walk around the block or a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop.

Finally, be positive. Negativity about your writing will definitely lead to a block.

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