Recently I have taken a break from writing books, so much so that I can seem to get back into it and feared that I may be blighted with the dreaded writer’s block.
How can this be? I asked myself. I write, I am a writer and I write every day. And indeed, I have been writing, but the stuff that’s getting done is course content, not a book.
The gremlin, who likes to taunt me, declared that I have too many projects on the go and I need to choose one to finish… This gremlin has been tormenting me for some time. It doesn’t intimate that I can’t do this or that I have writer’s block, more he screams at me, ‘to write the book the right book for right now?’
Before I tell you how I overcame this annoyance, let’s explore the heady world of being stuck.
What is writer’s block?
Writer’s block is an odd term which is, of course, associated with writing, where an author seems to lose the capacity, ability and motivation to write. This ‘condition’ can strike the best of people and can range from coming up with ideas to being unable to produce any writing for years.
In my research, I discovered that there are many writers who have struggled with writer’s block, and the term appears was first described in 1947 by psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler.
Edmund was a prolific writer with around 25 books published, but he had what he called dry moments. It’s certainly something I’ve had, but I wouldn’t say I’ve suffered from it, more that I didn’t feel inspired or motivated at that point.
He went on to study writers so that he could work out why the writers failed to produce any writing and therefore decided they had writer’s block.
He concluded that if you could solve the personal psychological problem, you could remove the blockage.
What do we mean by the psychological problem?
Bergler and later psychologists discovered that, typically, there was other stuff going on in the writer’s life that was causing writer’s block. But because they wanted to write and couldn’t, it was attributed to writing. Blocks to writing vary from person to person, but basically, life gets in the way. Stuff like:-
- Fear or anxiety (who will want to read this?)
- Uncertainty (am I good enough to write this?)
- Ability to prioritise, plan or organise (outlines are key to getting a book completed)
- Reactions to the way that writing or not being able to write makes us feel (failure)
- Feeling unworthy and not valued (low self-worth)
- Habits that have been established which are unhelpful
- Avoidance and not facing problems (I can’t write, so I won’t and not even trying)
- Not understanding how you do things – when you know how you do stuff, everything (almost) falls into place.
How do you know if you have writer’s block?
This is a great question. How do you know? Here are some of the things that might come up:-
- Fill your writing time with other activities
- Allow other people’s priorities to become yours
- Little or no preparation so that you do not know what to write when you meet the paper
- Deadlines are never met because this is not a priority, you don’t have a plan, and you don’t know how to prepare for a writing session
Then there are other aspects such as:-
- Fear that your writing is/will not be good enough
- You have internalised your fear and anxiety, so that is holding you back
- The more you focus on your fear or feelings, the bigger they grow and the less likely you will write
- There are other much deeper emotional issues at play
- It’s not the right book (enrol on this mini-course and see what you discover)
Overcoming your perceived block is best tackled in small steps. Try writing in small chunks, possibly in a journal, so that it starts with short private pieces and there is no pressure.
Write a question that your reader may ask and answer it.
As write and explore, you will find the reasons you are being held back. Perhaps you are just not inspired by this book. It could need a better outline.
I often find that when I explore in my journal and reflect on what comes up, I can usually find the answer.
However, first, what I have discovered is that I need to know how I like to do things. Knowing what my modus operandi means that I can learn to write to suit my typical way of working.
Understand how you write and start to understand writer’s block
When I set out to research writer’s block, I, as you can imagine, discovered lots of great advice. Indeed, for every excuse, there is a set of this is how you overcome it ideas.
Like all ideas and solutions, you must find first the root cause of why you think you cannot do something and then work out how you will overcome these ‘limiting’ beliefs.
The first thing that I will ask you to do is to understand how you like to do things.
How you do anything is how you do everything – getting stuff done
How you do anything is how you do everything.
Read that again.
How you do anything is how you do everything. Or at least that’s what we are told…
What I discovered was that I like things to be
- Fresh, new and exciting
- Short challenges with a concrete outcome – in other words, projects
- Chunked down into bite-sized pieces
- Reflect often
There is more to it than that, but basically, it boils down to these steps as a big picture.
What this means is that this is how I do everything. If I write a book or create an online course, I need to see the big picture and do a bit at a time so that it is always fresh and new (new eyes). I have to take time out to reflect, and when I come back – hey, hey, it’s with fresh eyes. Stuff gets done when I chunk it down. If I don’t, it feels too much, and I want to run away.
Basically, I am a project kind of girl. I like to tackle something as a project, complete it and feel a sense of satisfaction for doing it.
Next, look at your writing process
How do you write? How do you approach your writing? Do you write with pen and paper, or do you go straight to the computer? Where do you write? When do you write? Why do you write? Do you write in short bursts, or can you do a few hours at a time?
Instead of looking at the questions and simply answering them, I’d like you to consider how you make a cup of tea.
- I get a feeling that I want a cuppa.
- Mulling it over in my mind, I decide which flavour
- I walk to the kitchen and, more precisely, to the cupboard with a cup in it.
- I reach down to open the door, and then with my other hand, I reach in to get a cup.
Ok, I’m not going to take you step by step through my tea-making routine, but here’s the point, we forget how we do things, and they become unconscious competencies.
Explore how you write, and you may find other clues as to why you think you have writer’s block and get back to what works for you.
You could find that it is as simple as where and when you are currently compared with what usually works for you.
When do you experience writer’s block?
Now I want you to look beyond writer’s block and look at your life. What is going on? How is this impacting your ability to find time, motivation, inspiration and creativity?
It’s curious. I find that when my clients can’t write, it is because of a deeper psychological reason and something that is going on for them. It also may be that writing has brought something up for them, and they need to stop while dealing with it.
Take a moment to consider all of the recent times that you have been stuck and ask, ‘what else is going on?’
Hopefully, this has thrown some light onto why you don’t have writer’s block, and you are perhaps stuck with something else that needs sorting out first.
Back to me. I have several book projects on the go. Remember, I love fresh, new and exciting, and I love projects. And this usually works for me. What I have deduced is that only one of these books is the right book for right now, and what is holding me back is that I transcribed some courses to get the content. And I hate editing transcriptions – so I have writer’s block…
I do, however, have a solution, and that is to listen to the module and rewrite the content and ignore the transcription. Simple when you know how.
Ready to write your book? Hop onto this mini-course and ebook and find your book inspiration. You will only write your book if it is the right book.