Time to Love Your Writer’s Block (Seriously)
Is it time for you to love your writer’s block?
What? Are you crazy?
Okay, maybe not love it. I mean, writer’s block is a terrible thing. It likes to sit between you and a deadline. Between you and finishing your first manuscript. Or between you and the publisher’s advance upon delivery of the second book in your series. It’s an obstacle you have to overcome to reach your goals.
Having Writer’s Block Can Actually Be Kind of Wonderful
Do you know what writer’s block is? It’s just the stenographer in your head has pulled down the shutters and clocked out for the day. Or for two days. Or two weeks. Whatever.
But wouldn’t you agree that the hard work being done in your head is not the literal transcription of your thoughts into sentences of genius; the hard work happens when you dream up, think through and mull over the concepts you’re going to put to words.
Getting the words into my word processor isn’t such a fight when I’ve got plenty of mulled, thought-through things rolling around in my grey matter.
And writer’s block? It lets the slow accretions of thoughts and ideas build up, and build up, until my writing brain looks not like a mild country creek, but like a roiling river carving a new space through the landscape.
That can only happen in the fallow periods of writer’s block.
Writer’s Block Reminds You that You Need Self-Care (Tweet This)
Too often, writers confuse writing with recreation. Even those of us who do it professionally sometimes say something like, “I don’t need a vacation. Writing makes me feel energized!” Or, “I’ve been sitting on my bum all day. I don’t need to ‘rest.’” Or even, “Writing is how I stay sane!”
This is sweetly endearing and when I say these things, makes me believe I’ve got simply superlative work ethic, but it’s wrong.
Writing is work, hard work, and my brain and my soul really do need that break. I really do need to rest. My sanity depends on things other than writing to survive.
And if I forget, sooner or later writer’s block will remind me.
Turn Writer’s Block from an Obstacle to an Opportunity (Tweet This)
When writer’s block strikes you, there’s no reason to panic. (Okay, panic if you’re on a deadline with lots of money at stake, but in other situations, definitely don’t panic.) Instead:
1) Remind yourself that this is your brain’s way of asking for a time-out. Your stenographer is off the clock. The creek’s run dry. Whichever metaphor you use, you can’t, and shouldn’t, continue. That’s ok.
2) Analyze your body. How’s your back? Have you stretched? Are your eyes dry or itchy? Do your wrists hurt? Get up and away from your writing spot, and tend to yourself. Treat your back to a warm compress, your wrists to a roller ball or some self-massage, your eyes to some eye drops or just a little nap on the couch, mouth open. Snore all you like.
3) Start feeding your brain. It’s hungry. It’s tired and grumpy. Just like you’d take a kid home from the circus if they were tired, take your brain away from the bright lights and constant demands. Seek out nature if you feel like you’re wrung out. Seek some light and some people-watching at the local mall if you feel cooped-up and aggravated.
4) Be deliberate about the fact that you are caring for your writing brain. Wherever it is in your brain that your writing talent comes from, treat it as an instrument, one as valuable as your pen or your laptop.
If you have to give your brain a tune-up, be purposeful about it, and don’t let guilt or excuses come between you and much-needed brain time. Reading a book, getting a night (or three in a row) out with friends, or even just putting your toes in some sand and listening to water lap the edges of a nearby pond is just as important as medicine (and cheaper, so there’s that).
It helps me when I think of writer’s block as my brain deliberately taking me on a vacation, and once I’ve done what I needed to, the writer’s block usually goes away on its own.
What about you? When are you prone to writer’s block? Do you find strategies like these helpful?
Share in the comments!
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About Shanan Haislip
I'm a full-time business writer, an essayist, and webmaster at The Procrastiwriter, a blog about ways to fit writing in around a full-time life (without going insane). I'm also a regular contributor on PositiveWriter.com and contributed to The Audacity to be a Writer. Join me on Twitter at @Write_Tomorrow.