Thursday, April 11, 2024

When Writer's Block Hits

Whether you are a new writer or a seasoned expert, it’s likely that you have experienced or will soon endure the dreaded writer’s block. Writer’s block is, according to Author Anne Lamott, not a block at all. If you are having trouble writing, she believes it’s because you are empty, not blocked. 

Maybe it can be both? 

The thing is, writing is hard. It’s not math, where 1+1=2 and there aren’t any other answers. Writing can be debated, unlike a simple math problem. And when you write something, someone somewhere is going to love it. And someone, somewhere is going to…not love it. 

That’s a lot of pressure. And that pressure can really add up and make it hard to create. I wish we would all give ourselves a break from that. If you put your writing into the world with gratitude and trust that it will reach whoever needs it, you will feel a lot of weight slowly melt off your shoulders. 

Easier written than done. I am still a basket case when it comes to my writing. But I’m working on it. Will you join me?

In the meantime, if you are having a hard time putting words on the page, here are some things that have worked for me in the past. Whether you are blocked or empty or feeling any kind of way that is making it hard for you to write, here are five suggestions.

1. Expose yourself to another form of art. Paint, sculpt clay (or dough or Play-doh, you know, whatever is around), draw, play or listen to music…do something creative that makes you feel joyful. And it’s important that you are doing this activity just for fun! The point is to clear your mind and open your heart.  

My stick figures are barely recognizable, but doodling and drawing makes me feel free. It allows me to step away from writing, but still exercise my creative muscles.  

2. Nature. Spending some time with nature is so powerful. Take a walk. Sit by a body of water. Hike a mountain trail and create endorphins. Stand barefoot in your backyard. Take mindful breaths while you are doing these things and feel your heartbeat. 

3. Ice bath. Eek! I know, I can’t believe I am suggesting this. I only recently tried jumping into a freezing cold tub, but I was impressed by how well it worked. It was a real reset for me and I felt rejuvenated after. Sure, it was horrible during. But the end result was worth the plunge.

4. Read. For me, reading always leads to more writing. I read picture books, craft books, parenting books, blog posts, newsletters, magazines, and so much more. It’s inspiration at its finest. 

5. BIC. When I was studying writing in graduate school and feeling blocked, my professors would always say, “Get your butt in the chair.” They may have used another word for butt. But it worked! It’s a great way to get yourself writing again. Just write. It doesn’t have to be good, but the act of writing may break whatever cycle you’re in.  

If none of these tips work for you, and you are still feeling blocked or empty, please consider these moving words from Author Lee Wind:

"We drive ourselves to produce (write every day!), ignoring the wisdom of the seasons: you cannot only harvest. You need to let crops lay dormant (winter), germinate (spring), grow (summer), and only then can you harvest (fall.) Plants and trees don't skip the resting time of winter, and we skip rest at our peril. That's also called 'burnout.'"

As Lee goes on to say, allow yourself the grace of seasons for your creativity. And while you are doing that, I challenge you to be kind to yourself. Fill yourself up, unblock all the things, enjoy the sunshine, and you’ll get back to your writing when it’s time. 

Hugs and happy writing to you!

Ashley's debut picture book The Balloonimals will be published in 2025. She is a former journalist and marketing executive with an MFA in Writing. Ashley has written for various magazines and newspapers, along with a top 10 market television station. She lives in the Boston area with her husband, daughter, and fur baby.

1 comment:

Jim Bauer said...

It happens from time to time. You just get stuck. Great ways here to get unstuck and get the pen moving again.