Are rediscovering healthy boundaries with your passion and nourishing where you are the keys to smashing writers block, forever?
Writing, the one thing us authors know we will always return to, over and over again, despite what occurs in our external circumstances to push us off track. It’s what keeps the blood circulating our pressure-choked veins, keeps us on the move; hungry eyed and seeking our next inspiration, or more simply - but not in any way mundane, as it would be a crime to entangle the word as an adjective for the world of authorship - elevates us towards living our best lives.
But it's not always like that, is it?
It’s OK to feel like your writing journey is on hold, or never-ending…
Burnout, writer's block, health struggles, full time jobs, grievances, family drama, and just about anything else that could be thrown at you, life is full of roadblocks that hold the power to put writing on the back burner, especially in such a fast paced world where if you aren’t already doing it, it’s safe to assume you probably never will.
Keeping up with the expectations of those around you, whether it be your agent, publisher, spouse or perhaps an overly-concerned parent, can be innocuously overwhelming to say the least, yet, nothing can compare to the expectations we place upon ourselves. Far more gruelling than the opinion of another, as we see inside our own heads and know everything we should or shouldn’t be doing, it’s not uncommon to get caught in an impenetrable, morphic field of disillusioned dissatisfaction.
Understanding the block
Writer’s block is an experience unique to the individual, see it as a puzzle we have to conquer in order to pass through the gates of our working-brains.
Every cell in your biological vessel is urging you to get out of your head and into the world of the written, yet, be it for practical or psychological reasonings, you can’t. And you hate it. You want to write, everybody knows it, including your neighbour's dog that won’t shut up yapping as you stare idly out the window.
Countless times you’ve set aside time to get it done, with the biggest achievement you can manage being to frolic around the house, wrapped in a cape of week-old laundry whilst screaming noughties pop-bangers down the phone to your old high-school bestie that you haven’t thought about, let alone spoken to, since the dawn of time.
There are as many reasons one might encounter our sultry little friend as there are words in an adult-fantasy trilogy, and whether it can be pinned to an immediately evident stressor, or is buried beneath the surface, we must consider the interconnected web of our personal lives and how ‘unrelated’ issues can play a major part in our creative disconnection.
That comment the old-boot Sue at the office barked about your recent reports not being ‘thorough’ enough?
“Thorough? How’s this for thorough? Try me now, I dare ya!”
Oooops, and now you can’t get it off your mind.
Or perhaps it’s a more pressing matter….
Do you have the bravery to wear those cream sandals at the couple from over the road’s wedding, or will you stick to the boots in fear of someone spotting that dodgy ankle tattoo etched on by a drunken friend when you were a teenager?
“Who cares, I’m only going for the free cake anyway.”
But there’s a chance your crush you only cross paths with once a year might be there.
You get it, I get it, we all get it. It’s on us to get to the bottom of whatever our minds are doing to cripple our writing skills, and unless you’re an alien - and in that case, welcome, I hope the overstimulation of a 21st century earth life doesn’t put you off -, you’re not going to be able to cure a lifetime of overthinking overnight, with only the willpower of having a story to tell by your side.
Before we continue, let us consider the opposite end of the spectrum.
Ever heard of "writer's can't stop"?
I mean, you haven’t, I just made it up, however “writer’s can’t stop” is when you’re so enthralled in what you’re doing that you’ve worked your way up the exit point and written a solid barrier over the top of it. Nothing else piques your interest like it used to and the elements of life that you once cared dearly about have been discarded to the sidelines.
Hobbies? Social life? Side hustle? Family time? Self care bubble-baths? Forget it, all of it. You’ve got your eyes on the finish line and you’re going to type at it like you never have before, until you realise you’ve already smashed the goal and are a kilometre ahead, yet you don’t stop, not for lack of trying, you just can’t. You’re fixated, and what used to be a productive obsession, has taken over your life.
Either way, neither of the above approaches are doing anyone any favours and there must be a more strategic way forward, right?
Well, my friend, you have to let the monster in.
It’s the same as problems arising in any other area of one's life - acknowledgement is the key to resolution.
The predator teething away at your relationship with writing could be big or small, life or death, boring or ridiculous, but the one thing to remember is that as ugly, or insatiable, as it’s appearance may be, all that little creature wants is to be heard and to be welcomed into your practice without judgement.
Like it or not, it’s part of you and you can either work against it, which we can clearly see does not work, or come at it with open arms.
And you have to set...
Once you can identify what it is giving you the most hassle, you’ll be able to analyse its role and all of its contributions, the good and the bad. Say you’re a writer-maniac, like myself, and you go at it until you’re entirely burnt out and can’t dare to look at a screen for at least a week:
- How can you bring balance into your routine to break up the time and avoid your practice becoming a burden?
- Why don’t you try rewarding yourself for taking a break?
- How can you change up your flow by introducing a little fun, maybe some writing games, creative prompts, something totally off-genre could help to refresh your mind?
ALSO: When to Take a Break
Identifying & nourishing your spark
Consider this, you can’t pinpoint any particular challenge preventing you from getting to know your work in progress, your routine hasn’t changed, there’s been no major life event that has sent your marbles on a goose chase around piccadilly circus, yet, things are stagnant.
Somewhere along this conveyor belt of repeating chores, sodding aspirations and unforetold wishes, you do have a dedicated time for writing, which you stick to with the utmost determination, but still, it isn’t enough.
You’ve tried jigging your schedule up, taking your self care seriously and all that to no means, you’re getting on with just about everything else just fine but when it comes to writing, you’re running a mile without even moving your legs.
What if you can’t get anything written, because you don’t want to?
You heard me.
Getting to the root cause of your loss of enthusiasm for a current WIP, or perhaps writing in general, is the most vital component to breaking free from your writer’s shackles. The reason you can’t find your inner flow will be personal to you, so there’s no one shoe fits all solution, although the one thing that will help is to rediscover your spark, your passion, your reason for sitting at a desk in the first place.
It’s easy to lose sight of why we do what we do, what exactly it is that makes us relate to our characters and feel in our hearts that it is our mission to bring their stories to life, and no one elses.
If you work with research-heavy genres that require as much planning and preparation as they do chapters, take historical fiction or hard Sci-Fi for example, it’s to be expected that somewhere along the line your motivation is going to dampen if you don’t have in place solid practices for keeping in alignment with your end goal.
Nourishing where you are
It sounds hauntingly obvious, however, the power of self nourishment is not to be underestimated and holds more significance for writers than you might think. I use the term ‘nourishing where you are’ in its multifaceted nature and encourage you to honour it like so.
The body and the mind have a seamless relationship and if one isn’t receiving the basics for its functional needs, the other will pick up the slack. A solid start for anyone looking to improve their connection to the world of creation is to feed the mind, body and soul.
“Oh here we go with the lectures again, yadda, yadda, boring…”
No, seriously, take the steps you need to look after yourself, even if it’s as simple as changing up a few bad dietary habits or making sure you take the time to cosy up with your favourite guilty pleasure, and the good stuff will follow. As immortal as writing can make us feel at times, we are only human, and yes, that cheesy old saying still applies…
“You can’t fill anyone else's cup, if yours is empty.”
Balance is key
Whatever side of the spectrum you’re at, by accepting where you are in comparison to where you want to be, you can start to piece together all the missing parts and work out how to harness their potential, instead of being stuck in a continuing battle of trying to wipe them out entirely.
Attaining true nourishment, the kind that doesn’t come and go based on whether we have the time to attend a weekly yoga class and hit our daily word count or not, is one of the most precious states us authors can find ourselves residing in, and like all things worth having, it doesn’t come with the blink of an eye.
We must take the time to stop, breathe and really listen to what the inner workings of our writing life is calling out for us to do.
No forcing, no rush, no panic, just a smooth, heart-fluttering acceptance as the cogs start to form their own motion.
Written for The Plottery
F. Abika, otherwise known as the hopeful dystopian, is a neurodivergent, all-round creative from Brighton, UK. Born with a head stuck in a realm that doesn’t exist, F has had her head stuck in a screen ever since the moment she was old enough to turn one on. Creative writing has always been an escape from a world that lacked the ability to understand a mind such as hers and after a lifetime of dilly-dallying around future pathways, she has finally settled and is working towards her debut novel Ethereall, the first of a trilogy.