Since I learned how to write, trying to figure out what to write about has been the bane of my existence. So, I asked myself, what can be done to avoid the dread of having writer’s block? Well, the schools of thought on this subject tend to differ. Some researchers believe that scheduling daily writing, or using writing prompts are the best way to get rid of writer’s block, others speculate that writers should not write and instead should take a break for temporary distractions. Great— contradictory claims about solving writer’s block. However, these claims look at writer’s block as a whole, when in fact there are four different types of writer’s block. The different types of blocks are categorized as the fears of failure, rejection, success and the lack of motivation.
The fear of failure block is best described by author Margaret Atwood, who said, “if I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” This distinction of writer’s block is caused by the need for perfection and self-criticism. This crippling sense of unproductivity and unworthiness goes against the wobbly mess that is the writing process. This block is driven by anxiety and benefits from taking time away from writing.
While the fear of failure deals mainly with self-criticism, the fear of rejection block is driven by the opinions and thoughts of others. The recommended way of solving this type of block stems from a John Steinbeck quote, “pretend that you’re writing not to your editor or to an audience or to a readership, but to someone close.” Thinking about what others will say about your writing is important until it becomes maladaptive.
The lack of motivation block is quite straightforward. Simply put, you are out of ideas. Maybe try changing the subject or genre of your writing. If you are writing fiction, try killing off a character, show the grieving process. If you write nonfiction, find a new source, get a new perspective.
According to Dr. Melissa Burkley, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in her article “Got Writer’s Block? Here’s Your Cure”,writers should look at writer’s block as a physical pain. “Your body uses pain to warn you that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. It is a necessary and beneficial system because it helps identify exactly where the problem resides. Writer’s block is the same way; a little bit can be good for you. It can force you to take your work in new and exciting directions. It can tell you when you are writing for the wrong reasons. When you have writer’s block, your mind is trying to warn you that something is off, so listen to it. What is it telling you? Then treat the block and get back to doing what you love”. So, learn to listen to yourself. If the ideas do not flow, just wait and try something new. Your inspiration will eventually come to you, how else do you think I wrote this article.