The Malignancy of Writer’s Block and How I Overcame It

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

I stare at the blank screen before me as if the white space will offer me a rare way out of the anxiety that seizes me.

The more I try to reach for a new thought, the more the words recede from me.

So begins this article on writer’s block, the very malignancy with which I’m currently contending. The ideas of writing about my anxiety are forthcoming and stir in my mind, but the words stop cold in their tracks.

I don’t think I ask too much, just a word here or maybe a sentence there, anything to unravel the tangled clutter of thoughts inside my mind.

Such a gift was not the case as I sat down to write this article.

I am not unique in how tough writing can be. Who has not been stricken with the disease of writer’s block? Whether it’s the daunting blank page, the perfectionistic voices, or the ever-playing mantra, “I am not good enough,” at some point we’ve all faced the same emptiness that occupies our mind and our screen.

Identifying writing worries

My writer’s block feeds on my anxieties. I worry whether my thoughts and words will show up when I sit down to write. Will the words stay stuck in my mind, or will they dislodge and allow me to place them on-screen?

What about future writings? Will my words be too stubborn to lock down then, too?

And what if I am a slow writer? I have ideas and thoughts burgeoning inside me. How will I be able to set them free?

It is not an option for my words to shrivel, crawl away, and die from writer’s block. I must experience the freedom of writing. So my writer’s block, my anxiety, and my words must learn to get along. They must learn to play nicely because I refuse to quit.

Eight fail-proof strategies to conquer writer’s block

Here are eight suggestions, tried and true, for when your words have gone dormant and writer’s block is all that survives.

  1. Write through the block anyway. Sounds easy and cliché, but the only way out is through. Writer’s block is not going to feel sorry for you and go away on its own. Push through the block and the anxiety, and remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be foolproof, it just has to be done.
  2. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Human tendency is to find a reason to discount the good in ourselves. Be careful what you tell yourself because your mind is always listening. Stop thinking and telling yourself you are not as good as others. Act like you have a right to success, even if you feel you do not.
  3. Redefine your definition of achievement. Create simple tasks and short-term goals. When you meet them, reward yourself more than you feel is necessary. You will begin to establish trust again in the writing process and in you as a writer.
  4. Don’t compare. No matter who you are, how much you have written, or how well you execute the craft, there will always be somebody better than you and somebody worse than you. Comparisons never play fair and will always set you up for failure.
  5. Strive to reach just one person with your writing. Pretend it’s just you and another individual, and you are trying to explain a thought or concept with him or her. Believe this person is on your side, and they agree with everything you are saying. Envisioning this conversation as you write will help you gain back your confidence.
  6. Focus on the journey and the process, not the outcome. You have no control of how readers respond to your writing, so make sure you are writing for you and not for the end result. Focus on the task in front of you, what it requires of you, and commit to doing it for the sake of doing it, not for the sake of the outcome.
  7. Good writers take in as much as they produce. You cannot give out what you do not have. Consume anything that inspires you: books, articles, concerts, podcasts, blogs, art shows, ect. You must take in if you expect to give out.
  8. Write down your worries. The only way I was able to finish this article was to journal about my writer’s block. I named all my writing anxieties, asked questions of them, and listened to their answers. While it did not make my anxiety go away completely, identifying my worries took some of the sting out of them and helped provide clarity to my writing process.

Even though all eight strategies helped me to wage all-out war on my writer’s block, I now sit down to finish this article with some nervousness and fear left fluttering in my chest, worried it is worthless and trite.

But I am okay with that. Writing is hard, and, at the same time, I am still doing it.

The only way not to make it happen is to give up on it, and I am not willing to go down that way.

What I realized the world needs from me

Despite all my worries and anxiety, I am confident that someone in this world needs to read my words. When I consider the writing of others, I am moved by their beauty, meaning, and effectiveness. They inspire me, touch me, and elevate me.

If someone can stir my thoughts and actions with his or her words, why should I deprive someone else from being moved also by what I have to write? I owe it to others to share my words.

The future of my writer’s block

Finally, I’ve reached my concluding paragraph. The end is before me, and the finishing of my article is near. It has taken me over two weeks and multiple meltdowns to find the place where I can write again.

Even so, I know there is no guarantee that writer’s block will not punch me in the gut again. But if it makes an appearance in my writing, which it probably will, I will not be discouraged. With eight new strategies at my side, I am defying my anxieties and teaching myself that my writer’s block has more reason to worry than I do.

I write because I breathe. I breathe because I write. I’m sometimes funny but always real.

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