Suffering from writer’s block is a harrowing experience for any writer. A severe case feels like the creative side of one’s mind has been draped with a thick white sheet, through which no inventive thought is able to penetrate. While the condition is quite common – in fact, even the most well-known authors suffer from this on occasion – it can deal a serious blow to one’s confidence and performance, especially when facing tight deadlines. As with any concern, however, there are nifty ways to break through the frustrating mental roadblock.

One thing that a lot of writers fail to recognise is that writer’s block, or a creative block for that matter, is a symptom like a fever: It is typically caused by a bigger concern. The key to toppling it down is to address its causes, be it fatigue, the loss of motivation, or emotional responses to scenarios that do not have anything to do with writing at all. Overcoming the condition revolves around recognising it for what it truly is and applying the appropriate solutions accordingly.

Take a walk

Hours of pounding out one’s thoughts onto the keyboard lead to mental fatigue, which in turn, can choke the mind out, eventually keeping it from generating creative ideas. Rather than soldiering on in futility, you can step away from your workstation for a bit and stroll around the area outside your office. This way, your mind is granted ample breathing space to recover from fatigue. Listen to a particularly soothing or energy-raising music playlist to further distance your mind from the pressures of work.

You can also ask some of your workmates to join you as a stimulating conversation not only lets your mind recover, it can also widen your perspective on your write-up’s subject matter. This could lead to more pertinent angles with which you can form your article. As a result, upon returning to your workstation, you’ll soon have a better writing output than what you initially had in mind prior to suffering from the dreaded writer’s block.

Work on an interesting writing exercise

Writing is not too different from enjoying a few tunes on your music player – the rhythm gets you through a rough or lethargic stretch. That said, if you are unable to come up with any sort of rhythm with your writing, churning out a story would feel like pulling random incoherent thoughts out of thin air, coupled with countless failed attempts at connecting details that won’t ever fit.

In this scenario, what you can do is write about something that you’re genuinely fond of. It could be your favourite movie, musical artist, a lover who got away, a remarkable observation – anything under the sun.

When you have gained enough momentum from that, go back to your work-related piece. You’ll be surprised at how the article pretty much writes itself in your head.

A much-needed jolt

A writer’s mind works like a car engine. Powerful as it may be in stringing together the right words, it still needs a spark plug for all the moving parts to work in unison. That spark plug can come in the form of coffee, a fizzy energy drink, or tea. Pairing your writing with caffeine can instantly clear your headspace and speed up your thought process. Thus, piecing together a literary montage out of your ideas suddenly isn’t so tough.

If caffeine does not work, you can gamble at drinking alcohol. The first several sips lead one to sweat, possibly causing a build-up of adrenaline which could do your writing good. Alcohol, however, lifts all barriers – including the standards upon which a write-up should adhere to – so you might end up editing much of the text when the effects of your drink wear off!

Besides caffeine, you can also listen to music while or before writing. Once the audio adrenaline kicks in, your mind is granted a much-needed boost in speed and depth. It can also clear off impediments to your thought process should you not find it as a distraction.

Delayed gratification as motivation

A common dilemma among writers is the feeling that their work is not fully appreciated as a lot of companies are generally more concerned about returns. Furthermore, not all editors or supervisors subscribe to the merits of positive reinforcement, potentially leading to the loss of motivation on the writer’s part.

This doesn’t mean, however, that you’re chopped liver when you’re thrust in the aforementioned scenario. Give yourself the proverbial pat on the back by enjoying a slew of personal rewards upon finishing your work. For even better results, deny yourself a few luxuries, say, alcohol or a meal at your favourite restaurant, until you complete an article.

Your little victories will taste sweeter in doing so. The increased spending could also come as a wake-up call for you to find better-paying writing jobs.

Keep your friends close

Writer’s block can occur when you’re facing a dilemma, a grave concern, or a different cyclical pattern, and this doesn’t necessarily have any connection to your writing. Any scenario that calls for deep emotional responses and overbearing thoughts can burst your creative bubble, affording you too little headspace for your write-up. The same goes for non-writing jobs that have you work for long periods as they tend to supersede some of the elements of your writing process.

For your writing rhythm to return, you can turn to your trusted friends, loved ones, and colleagues for advice. Be open to their suggestions, especially if they are people who know you well and are accustomed to your quirks. If you’re with fellow writers, you can expand your conversations to take in creative inputs, their inspirations, and ways to tackle your write-up. Before long, you’ll have the framework of a notable piece in mind.

A method to the madness

Speaking of frameworks, preparing an outline for your write-up can help create order in an ocean of wayward possibilities; sometimes having too many notable ideas can overwhelm a writer and cause writer’s block.

Having a well-prepared outline – which takes into account the angles, subheadings, tone, target audience, and flow of the write-up, among others – reduces your task to simply slotting in information with cadence for the article’s various sections. Furthermore, with your article mapped out, you’ll have an easier time finishing the hardest part for some writers: Supplying a strong title and subtitle.

It’s not you, it’s your environment

The conduciveness of a work environment may be relative to one’s preferences and writing process but some places carry too many distractions for one to write at an optimum level.

The stigma of bad memory or a pressure-filled mental association also bears a lot of weight in regard to a writer’s condition to perform. Sometimes you have to change things up when picking a remote office for your mind to feel fresh.

A bedroom, for instance, affords too many luxuries that can affect your performance, so the obvious decision is to move to a coffee shop or co-working space. On the other hand, if a coffee shop is way too busy for your liking, you can move to a quiet bar or a well-lit park bench. The possibilities are endless, to be honest.

Visit a picturesque location

Writers going to pristine places before coming up with a breakthrough have been the subjects of many films and novels and for good reason.

A postcard-worthy location soothes and then ignites a creative spark to a once-weary mind. Furthermore, the fact that you’re heading out of your usual working spots and into an awe-inspiring place is already a noteworthy story on its own, which can come as a writing exercise to capture your groove in completing formal assignments.

This is a tried and tested strategy by a lot of screenwriters and novelists, and it has worked for them for the most part. Alex Garland, for instance, wouldn’t have come up with his seminal novel "The Beach" had he not gone to the beaches of Palawan in the Philippines.

You might do the same in your next out-of-town adventure. Who knows?

One last thing, do not limit yourself to the tips presented in this article. If you have other viable solutions that might work for you, go for them. The goal here is to treat writer’s block as a symptom, and not the actual cause of your inability to write, to free yourself from its icy clutches.

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