Writer’s block: the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.
We’ve all had it before, we’ve all hated it, we’ve all somehow conquered it. It always comes when we need to write the most, especially when a due date is hanging above our heads or has long surpassed. As I write this I am in the midst of overcoming writer’s block, so what better to write about?
Writer’s block is more complex than just running out of ideas. It can be caused by stress, anxiety, fear of failure, rejection or success, physical illness, or outsides pressures (including deadlines). According to Rosanne Bane of University of St. Thomas in Minnesota;
Neuroscientists have proven that when an individual is stressed or threatened, a part of the brain stem called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) will shift control from the cerebral cortex to the limbic system. When the limbic system is in the ascendant, behavior is instinctual, based on the fight-or-flight response, or the result of deeply engrained training. Without significant input from the cerebral cortex, the individual is temporarily deprived of the ability to perform nuanced analysis and creative thought. Moreover, the individual is rarely aware of this shift and often attributes the resulting inability to perform her or his usual creative thinking as a lack of willpower, character or ability. What is typically thought of as writer’s block or other forms of writing resistance is the result the cerebral cortex being temporarily unavailable. Common forms of writing resistance can be categorized within the three instinctual responses the limbic system relies on: freezing (momentary paralysis), followed by the choice of fighting or fleeing. It is imperative that instructors understand the neurological causes of resistance, recognize resistance in its many guises, and find ways to help students relax in the writing classroom and during out-of-class writing so that their creative cerebral cortex can reengage.
After reading this, I finally realized that my parents were right when they warned me never to procrastinate. Without procrastination, there is less of a stress on the deadline, allowing a writer more access to their creativity. With the anxiety of a close deadline, that creativity is prevented and in the end will create even more anxiety.
So what is my quick suggestion for overcoming writer’s block? First, I would recommend writing about a subject you know or an event you experienced. Once you get on the right track, your thoughts should flow more easily and the creative juices will start working. Next you’ll have more than enough ideas to write a story, blog post, essay, etc.
When I was writing my novel (Running from the Truth), I started writing the beginning and when I hit a moment of writer’s block, I simply started writing another section of the book. I had parts of many different chapters finished but there were still large sections of each chapter missing. When I finished creating the different parts, it was easier to look at the sections I had written and connect them.
According to Lisa Duchene of Penn State University News, even J.K. Rowling experienced writer’s block when working on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Next time you’re stuck, don’t worry because all writer’s face writer’s block, even the famous ones.
More tips on overcoming writer’s block here.
Read more about Rosanne Bane’s study on neuroscience’s effect on creative writing and writer’s block here.
Read all of Lisa Duchene’s article here.