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Avoiding and Dealing with Writer’s Block

Please enjoy this guest post by Marie Miguel.

A freelance writer who can’t put out words simply doesn’t earn. Another reality is that editors and clients typically rely on you to meet deadlines, and a writer who doesn’t meet due dates can delay the progress of an entire project. Yet some days, as Neil Gaiman says, the blank piece of paper wins, and there’s little you can do about it. What’s worse is that you might think things are progressing even if at a painfully grinding pace, only to realize the next day that you’ve produced nothing but insipid drivel. While every writer has their own approach and flow, the good news is that certain things do help most people overcome writer’s block, most of the time.

Organize your Working Life

Even if working from home, it’s essential to have your own office or space where you can keep distractions to a minimum while surrounding yourself with everything you need. Having a defined starting time each day and some kind of timetable can be immensely useful in the long run. This primes you to work when you have to instead of procrastinating. Many writers find it useful to work an hour or two as soon as they wake up. At this point in the day, your conscious and unconscious mind will work together most effectively, often allowing you to circumvent sticking points with less effort.

Locate any Emotional Blocks

Particularly when writing fiction, a writer often comes up against a truth they’d prefer not to face, or a character trait they’d prefer not to recognize. This is normal. The tricky part can be that our minds shy away from these points to the extent that we often don’t know what’s bothering us.

Stepping back and practicing mindfulness may help in identifying what’s holding us back and in learning how to confront it. After all, writing is often an exercise of self-discovery, which is why many people find it useful to keep a journal. If you can’t surmount this hurdle on your own, getting an outside perspective is sometimes the quickest way to get back in the saddle. Sometimes, we’re afraid, perhaps of receiving bad feedback or not putting out something quite as perfect as we imagined. At other times, our mental picture of what we want is still too inchoate to do much with. These are all examples of our feelings getting in the way of our work.

Take a Break, Do Something Unusual

“A change is as good as a holiday.” Well, whoever said that either has fantastic changes or lousy holidays, but the principle is sound. If you’re unable to produce any output, taking the day off might be just what you need. Visiting friends, going for a nature walk or doing anything that might inspire you is good. Breaking your routine is like rebooting a computer and can help you get out of a rut.

Alternatively, admin and marketing are rarely exciting, but need to be done anyway. If you can’t be productive in the way you’d like, you might as well be productive in the ways you can.

Keep at It Anyway

This may seem like the most pointless suggestion possible while you’re staring at a blank screen and an immobile cursor stubbornly blinking at you. Still, you can’t edit anything. Tapping out random stream-of-consciousness sentences, making notes or spending some time planning isn’t actually wasted effort. It’s a warm-up exercise. Even if you just spend some time sitting in front of the keyboard without resorting to Facebook or cat videos to cure your boredom, the random thoughts passing through your head will often coalesce into an avenue you can follow to get unstuck.

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