Invisible Obstacles: Getting Over Writer’s Block

Ananya Das

It comes without a warning. You are sitting comfortably planning to work on a paper on a Saturday evening, and you want to get it right. You want to get a better grasp before the fun activities planned for the night. However, it appears that another force is in action, paralyzing the link between your line of thought and your ability of expression. You suddenly feel that you cannot write coherently anymore. You are the latest victim of the writer’s block!

Wikipedia defines writer’s block as “a phenomenon involving temporary loss of ability to begin or continue writing, usually due to lack of inspiration or creativity.” Google brought up 4,070,000 search results when I searched with writer’s block. The obvious question that comes to mind — how serious is it? Is it a psychological illness or just a normal phase of a creative process — getting rid of the stumbling blocks? What might be the factors behind it and how do you find a solution to it?

It is not easy to decide whether or not writer’s block can be classified as a serious problem. It might just be that you are setting overly high standards to your writing that you feel compelled to satisfy whenever composing a piece. It is safer to assume that there are various levels, starting from the mere temporary loss of creativity to a serious problem when you consistently fail to produce, occasionally in the case of writers. In the movie Secret Window, adapted from a Stephen King novel, Johnny Depp’s character becomes so severely affected by the disease that he cannot write for months, which leads to multiple personality disorder, the other identity being that of a paranoid killer. His only means of escape comes from killing his ex-wife and her husband. After that incident, his creative capacity returns to the normal level. The eminent novelist Joseph Conrad once wrote an article about his writer’s block to his friend. ”Sometimes it takes all my resolution and power of self-control to refrain from butting my head against the wall,” Conrad wrote. ”I want to howl and foam at the mouth but I daren’t.”

These examples seem to be at the extreme end of a situation. The writer’s block did not stop Conrad from writing novels like Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim. That is perhaps a great example that even at its worst case, writer’s block can be overcome.

The obvious factors behind writers block could be anxiety, perfectionism, stress or even the dullness of the assignment. Most often it is the cumulative effect of two or more factors, raising doubts about your own ability to write. It has also been identified as a result of too much writing, to an extent that the person cannot progress with new ideas. Therefore, a multitude of remedies might be required to deal with the various kinds of problem.

The best way to get rid of it, even if it may sound stupid, is to keep writing. Just keep writing regardless of the quality of the content as there could be a lot of time for editing later. If you do feel you have been writing too much, just do something interesting and get rid of the frustration. Online games and YouTube works well for me. If there is an absolute need to finish the work, the reward method could work. Promise yourself of all the fun you could do once you get the work done, and the work at hand becomes easier.

In most cases, writer’s block might not be a disease at all. It is just a phase that comes and goes and which needs to be dealt with like every other thing. Not giving it more attention than it deserves and rather channeling the nervousness about writing to creative energy is perhaps the way to deal with it.

I could go on, but I am suddenly feeling out of words.