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The Epic Myth of Writers’ Block

You know what I’m about to say. You might hate me for it but a fact is a fact: writers’ block is a big fat lie. Sure, we all feel the ebb and flow of creativity but what exactly is a “block” and how can you delete this idea from your life and get those juices flowing again? Here’s a few ideas.

1. Stop thinking in terms of blocked/unblocked.

Creative inspiration is just that, you’re inspired. You aren’t unblocked. If you change the terms around this idea, you’ll start retraining your brain. Of course, it’s a process and the next few steps listed can help you get your process off the ground.

2. Free-writing like a champ.

When you “can’t write,” write anyway. Don’t make it an ordeal. Take five minutes and set a timer. Make sure you’re ready even if that means jumping up and down or eating that cheeseburger you’ve been craving first. A key thing to keep in mind when tackling free-writing is that the process isn’t about editing. Don’t go back, don’t cross out, don’t revise. Just type or write (again, this is your choice, whatever works best for you) about whatever you can think of for the allotted time–as much as you can, as fast as you can, and if you don’t know what to write, write your name over and over until something else pops out. Every time you free-write, aim for higher volume. If you’re doing it right, you’ll eventually have this moment: your brain is quiet and the connection from mind to hand is complete, what’s flowing out of your hand isn’t something you’ve “thought” of before writing, it’s something you think and write at the same time like talking to the page.

3. Start keeping a list.

When you don’t feel that inspiration, go back to your to-do list. If you meant to change that one short story from first to second person, do that. If you know you need a connecting scene, draft it. If you want to edit, edit. Do something, anything that can help unburden whatever project/s you’re in the middle of. The flip side of this means, when you’re inspired, just write. Don’t think about goals or plans or what’s on the to-do list. Write whatever moves you and add revising it to your to-do list for later.

4. The Lonely Island.

Sometimes what comes out of a free-write is utter garbage and sometimes it’s gold. But, because the times it’s garbage will outweigh the gold, consider putting this on your to-do list: The Lonely Island Folder. Make a folder on your computer for all the ideas that haven’t gone anywhere yet. Look back through those free-writes and take the good lines, the good words, the solid images, or the punchy ideas and put them in one contiguous doc in the Lonely Island Folder. When you’re feeling uninspired, come to this folder and see if anything new in your life has provided a context in which one of those ideas can work.

Being blocked doesn’t mean you can’t write. It means you haven’t figured out the process that meets your needs. Even reading when you feel uninspired is working towards writing—no worries if it isn’t “actually” writing. Being a writer is a gargantuan act of forgiving yourself everyday. It helps to remember that. How do you battle blocks or reframe them so they can be dismantled? Share in the comments! The more ideas, the merrier.

Need some help pushing through your blocks? Learn more about our writing classes and workshops, and download the Metonymy Media Desk Reference, free!