Writer's block explained
For other uses see Writer's block (disambiguation).
Writer's block is a phenomenon involving temporary loss of ability to begin or continue writing, usually due to lack of inspiration or creativity. Writer's block can also be a hindrance even when the writer feels that they already have a story in mind but can get no further than part of that story.
Origins of writer's block
Writer's block can be closely related to depression and anxiety, According to neurologist Alice Weaver Flaherty, these mood disorders reflect environmentally caused or spontaneous changes in the brain's frontal lobe. This is in contrast to hypergraphia, more closely linked to mania, in which the changes occur primarily in the temporal lobe. These processes, and their implications for treatment, are described in Flaherty's book The Midnight Disease.
However, another interpretation of writer's block, sometimes confused with scant output, is given in the book Silences, by Tillie Olsen, who argues that historically many women and working-class writers have been unable to devote themselves to, or concentrate on, their writing because their social and economic circumstances prevent them from doing so.
It is widely thought that writer's block is part of a natural ebb and flow in the creative process. Author Justina Headley explains in keynote speeches that for her it comes from losing touch with the characters about whom she is writing; and that by discovering who they are again, the block disintegrates.
Writer's block as a chronic problem
There have been cases where writer's block has lasted for years or decades. The most notable example of this in modern literary history was Henry Roth's writer's block which persisted for sixty years and was caused by a combination of depression, political problems, and an unwillingness to confront past problems. This kind of writer's block seems to be quite rare, and most writer's block lasts for shorter periods or simply a particular sitting. Writer's block has caused problems for writers using the serial form, such as Stephen King's The Green Mile.
Strategies for overcoming writer's block
Some authorities have recommended the following to those suffering from writer's block:
- Scheduling time to write and work, regardless of the quality of the output.
- Engaging in brief periods of free writing or "mindwriting," in which people impulsively write whatever comes to mind.
- Join a traditional Writing Group or join a free online writing group.
- Challenging negative thoughts about one's skill or ability to write. (See rational-emotive therapy.)
- Using writers' exercises such as "chunking" or focus words. There are many (for example, 1, 2, 3, 4) websites that contain numerous creative writing exercises. Writers read an exercise, and do it.
- Taking a break, meditating, or doing relaxation exercises to relieve any pressure on oneself and on the writing.
- Doing something out of the ordinary. If writer's block comes from a lack of new ideas, attempts to spark creativity by going somewhere new or doing something different can be useful.
- Returning to the writing after a lapse of a day or two.
- Write a basic plot outline of the story if having problems keeping the story on the rails.
- Brainstorming at the beginning of the writing can help the writer by relating every point to another.
- Reading, watching movies or plays, or similar activities that might bring inspiration.
- Going out to get some fresh air.
- Similarly, diet and exercise are linked to optimal performance of mind and body - thus, keeping oneself in good health is important for creative output. Aerobic exercise oxygenates the brain, and walking in particular is a time honored remedy for creative block.
- Set your writing down, go out and do something (something that will keep you busy) and then come back in a few hours with a fresh mind.
- Try asemic writing.
- Review and if necessary reorganize source material or notes.
- Listen to music.
- Draw the story.
Dramatic depictions of writer's block
- Flaherty, A. (2005). The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain, Mariner Books.
- Peterson, K. E. (2007). Write: 10 Days to overcome writer's block. Period. New York: Adams.
- Silvia, P. J. (2007). How to write a lot: A practical guide to productive academic writing. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Boice, R. (1990). Professors as writers. Stillwater, OK: New Forums.
- Kaufman, C. The Writer's Inner Critic Part II: A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach to Dealing with the Inner Critic (or: How to Stop Awfulizing and Start Writing)
- http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O87-hypolexia.html Hypolexia
http://www.darcypattison.com/revision/psychology-of-revision-hope/ Psychology of Writing & Revising