A phrase with many definitions, most of them centered around the inability to write. It also brings with it myriad questions, most of which are “How do I get rid of it?”
Google that and you’ll get pages and pages and pages of results, each with their own spin or take. Anecdotes about how Author A did away with it, how Author B did it, and so forth. Maybe you’ve been hit with it before and struggled and agonized and then, one day, it just sort of went away after trying something. Maybe not. Or maybe you’re still in the throes of anguish even now, searching for answers.
So what makes my hot take any different? Nothing, really.
I’ve been hit with it before. Several times. In my opinion, there isn’t any one solution. Google the causes, and like answers, you’ll get so many. However, one trend is emerging in the reams of results: Stress. Stress and anxiety. Supposedly (And I really should cite some references here, but I’m too lazy. Excellent journalism here, I know) when the mind and body are under stress the creative centers and faculties in the brain take a back seat to just about everything else. Along with decision-making centers that require planning and foresight. As anyone with anxiety knows, shit can be crippling.
This stress can be from shit going on in life. Someone died. You got fired from your day job. Relationship trouble. Shit goes on. Maybe this is why the joke that writers are alcoholics exists. Nothing like a little liquor to unwind that stress some and let the creative juices out. Or a lot of liquor. You know what, just pass me the bottle, thanks.
Maybe the stress can be from writing itself. I’m sure I’m not the only one that, upon confronted with a blank page, be it for a new manuscript or new chapter, has a period of time where they’re frozen. “What do I write?” The more we try to force a solution to the problem, the worse it gets. Stress. In many respects this phenomenon can be found elsewhere if you look for it. When confronted by a problem or challenge that requires a creative solution we can roadblock ourselves hard. Then, after grappling with it for a while, a day, whatever, we give up and trundle away, defeated.
We take a shower. We have an idea.
Is there merit to this idea that writer’s block is essentially a stress response? I think so. My own anecdotes seem to support this. Do yours? Something to think about.
So, let’s say we decide the answer is stress. What can we do about it? Certainly, saying “lol don’t be stressed” isn’t helping anyone. Often, the source of the stress isn’t going away anytime soon, be it external or internal. Yet, at some point we were able to write despite it (ostensibly), or maybe it was less severe. Or any number of other factors.
What do we do?
This is where, I think, it’s up to the individual’s ability to self-reflect and self-analyze comes into play. Look into yourself, point out what you’re feeling. Why you’re feeling it. Be calm, don’t leap into your own mind on a witch-hunt. Sit down with yourself. “What would make me feel better?” “What would help me unwind?” “Is X stressing me out? Is Y?”
Try to remove any sources of stress, if possible. If not, then accept it and mitigate it. Easier said than done, I know. If the source is that infernal blank sheet, tuck it away. Do something else. Write random shit. Jot ideas without any specific focus or purpose. Take a long bath and scribble dialogue on the tile. Change your environment, change your mindset.
Suddenly, an idea might pop up you can use. One you can even build around with enough certainty it blows away the doubt. You can write again.
Or maybe not.
You’ve tried all that and yet you’re still fucked. Everyone is different, everyone needs different solutions and answers, many of which can’t be given by someone else.
Lot of fucking good this article was, right?
I’ll let you in on a secret: While writing this blithering, incoherent mess that serves to aid no one, I got an idea for something I’m writing and know what I want to do now—at least for one scene. Sometimes just… Banging away on something completely unrelated can be an aid–so long as it’s tapping into those creative centers, jamming open their toothy maws long enough for something useful to sneak out.