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Four Methods for Overcoming Writer’s Block

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So you are suffering from the malady of writer’s block. The gods must favor you to inflict you with such an illness, to try to turn you from the path of being a writer.

Why, you ask? Surely, if you’ve made it this far, then you know: Being a writer is a cursed existence. To write, you must soak your soul in your own blood, then wring out every drop onto the page, with no guarantee that your words will do anything other than echo in an endless void.

If you’ve made it this far, you already know that to write requires an unimaginable ability to persist in the face of pain, to suffer in the shadows, to create out of nothing worlds that will go unseen. You are blessed to be inflicted with this writer’s block, for the gods have given you one more chance to turn from this cursed future, to save yourself from this fate.

No? You insist on knowing the cure for this malady?

Very well, but I will warn you – taken to their extremes, any of these cures might very well turn into afflictions of their own. Thus is the cursed path of the writer.

Cure 1: Self-Care

First, recognize that if you are suffering from writer’s block in any degree, this does not mean that you have failed as a writer. It is an affliction of the fates meant to slow you down and re-evaluate both your writing and yourself.

At times, the cause of this writer’s block—the event that sparks the need to slow down—exists outside of yourself. Emotional trauma, being overwhelmed, the cabin-fever energy of having been cooped up in your room too long and needing to get out—whatever your needs are, take stock of them. Then take steps to meet those needs.

This does not make you a bad writer; it merely shows that you are human. Only once you have refreshed your soul can you once again begin wringing it out onto the page.

Cure 2: Allow Yourself to Fail

You may find that rather than in your soul—which is plenty refreshed and ready for wringing—the affliction lies in your hands. No matter how hard you try, they simply will not form letters on the paper or press down the keys.

Assuming you have ruled out the more obvious afflictions of the fine-motor skills, then the cause of this form of writer’s block is no doubt fear of failure, for which there is only one cure.

Fail.

You want your writing to be perfect—or at the very least, not a disgrace to language. This desire to create beauty is admirable. After all, this is the same desire that drove you to write in the first place. But at times, the desire to create beauty can be so strong that it overcomes the desire to create. When this occurs, you end up not creating anything, since whatever you do create fails to meet your standard.

Out of all the types of writer’s block, this is obviously the one that is most a gift from the gods. Since you possess such an innate sense of beauty and perfection, you will surely produce writing that can be considered true works of art. But such art does not simply flow unbidden from the fingers, but rather consists of a toil of creating, and uncreating, and recreating as you continually strive towards your standard. The gods wish to save you that pain so you might live a peaceful life instead.

But if you choose to go down this path, you must be prepared to face the pain.

Cure 3: Rekindle the Joy of Creation

Once you have given yourself permission to fail meeting your own impossibly high standard, then you are prepared to produce anything and everything necessary to get the creative ichor flowing through your veins once more.

The goal here is not to write seriously, but to write what you desire. So much writing is discipline. You must only write on your main project, you must finish the book. But if you are truly suffering from writer’s block and that discipline is proving ineffective, then change strategies you must.

Start a new story, info dump on a worldbuilding detail, write a fanfiction scene, follow an internet writing prompt. It doesn’t have to be good. It merely has to be words on a page. Remind yourself of the joy of creating before you must return once more to the pain of the struggle.

Cure 4: Break Through the Wall With Grit and Stubbornness

You have granted yourself the grace of self-care, allowed yourself to fail, and rekindled the joy of creation—now, you must refocus your creative energies to your primary project. You have dismissed the multiple warnings of the gods, you have hardened your heart for the pain that awaits, you have pulled your chair up to your desk or settled your notebook on your lap—and that one scene stares back at you. The final nemesis. The Cerberus guarding the path to Hades and the pained life of a writer that you have for some reason decided to embrace.

You pull out your weapon of choice, recognizing that the pen is mightier than the sword. Cerberus growls at you.

You don’t know what happens next.

Your pen begins writing. Conflict—the heart of every story. You give your characters a desire, then you place something in the way. You make things worse. Always worse. Plot moves forward.  

Cerberus snaps at you.

Your characters are trapped with no way out.

You reread the first half of the book and look for special skills you can give your characters that would help them out of this problem. You rewrite the scene and make a note to add foreshadowing in later. Or you skip the scene entirely, and move to the next scene where you know what happens until you come up with a solution.

Cerberus lunges, but the words don’t stop. They aren’t pretty, they aren’t perfect, but you have done it—you have broken through the writer’s block. Now run.

The gods will be unhappy that you have ignored their warnings, that you have found a way to cure the ailment that they viewed as a blessing. They will send more beasts after you to stop your journey. After all, the joy of creating—likes the fires Prometheus stole—is something Mt. Olympus wishes to retain for itself. With every word you write, you are trespassing on sacred ground.

If the life of a writer is truly what you want, then be prepared to face these ills again and again.

But the beauty you create will be worth it, and one day, your readers will thank you.

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