There comes a time in every writer’s career where you start to feel . . . well, stuck. Either you can’t think of anything new to write, or sitting down to write suddenly feels like having your teeth pulled with a rusty wrench. Or maybe you do write, but everything you come up with seems like stale garbage. Whatever the issue, you can chalk it all up to the same phenomenon: Writer’s Block.
Writer’s Block can happen when you’ve been pushing yourself too hard for too long, or when you’ve gotten so far out of practice that the keyboard feels more like a foreign device rather than a natural extension of your hands. It can even happen when you’ve just finished a successful project–suddenly the prospect of repeating the process can seem so daunting you don’t really believe you can ever do it again.
Whatever the issue, know this: it is fixable, and it doesn’t have to be this way forever. In fact, so many successful writers have been there themselves that there are entire books written about how to recognize–and blast through–the block. Here is a list of my faves:
Julia Cameron is the Golden Standard when it comes to books about connecting to your inner artist and unleashing your natural creativity–but those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading her seminal work may not know that The Artist’s Way was initially created as a system to help frustrated artists beat the block. Writers looking to tap back into their creative wells would be well served by picking up this classic–but be warned: it isn’t for the faint of heart. The Artist’s Way is a 12-week system that will put you in tune with your inner artist and break through the barriers that prevent you from doing your best work.
by Rosanne Bane
Possibly my favorite book on the subject, Around the Writer’s Block differs from so many other titles in that it explores the reason beneath the block–i.e. What’s going on in your brain. Starting from the premise that writer’s block is a form of anxiety that could be rooted in a number of causes, Bane offers a three-part plan to help you identify the issue or issues beneath your particular block, rewire your brain in response, and form new habits to help you kick block’s booty to the curb.
Victoria Nelson provides this gentle guide for besting the block beginning with the assertion that, rather than being a neutral state, writer’s block is an “aggressive reaction, a loud shout from the unconscious calling attention to the fact that something is out of adjustment.” According to Nelson, “the block itself is not the problem–it is a signal to adjust the way we approach our work.” It is then our job to accept and interpret the signal, and respond in whatever manner will bring us back into alignment. Nelson’s compassionate approach is a refreshing break from the “power-through” mantra that may have led some of us to encounter the block in the first place.
For those who like a more structured approach, Jane Anne Straw’s Unstuck offers a “supportive and practical guide” for addressing writer’s block. Drawing from her own experience as a many-years-blocked writer, Straw has created a systemic approach to uncovering the reason behind the block, dealing with anxiety and fears, clearing out old beliefs and doubts, and setting yourself up for success by cultivating supportive habits that will help you establish time and space to write, relax, and rejuvenate your creative spirit. Her techniques can help you get your confidence–and your creative mojo–back on track.
Another title that bucks the trends when it comes to writing about writer’s block, On Being Stuck explores block from a more holistic perspective. Blending her long years of yoga practice with the psychological concept of deep inquiry, Herring encourages you to start “working with your blocks and finding the friend within the beast…using deep inquiry, writing prompts, body and breath exercises, and a range of interdisciplinary approaches.”
Have you ever encountered “the beast” of Writer’s Block? Share your experiences and coping strategies with us below in the comments!