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Sep 20, 2021

Writing

How to overcome writer's block

Wondering how to overcome writer's block? Get tips to get over the blockage and see how AI can be a potential cure to get rid of it once and for all.

Blog writer

Samuli Pehkonen

Marketing

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Blog image

Ever found yourself staring at a blank page or screen, trying to write but unable to find the right words? This is writer's block, and almost everyone struggles with it at some point in their lives.

The silver lining is that you're not alone. As the problem is so common, there are lots of knowledge on it available and proven ways to get over it. 

Figuring out how you overcome writer's block is a delicate process that is often highly subjective and depends on each individual. However, it's most often about conquering any self-doubt and knowing that you're able to push through with hard work.

So, what to do when you have writer's block? This blog post will go through what writer's block means, its various causes and symptoms, and share tips, strategies and cures to overcome the hurdle.

What is writer's block?

Writer's block is a condition in which a person is completely unable to produce text, the amount they can write decreases, or they feel that writing is much harder than it used to be. It's not solely measured by time passing without writing, but rather as time passing without productivity in the task at hand. By definition, this stall isn't considered due to commitment problems or lacking writing skills. Instead, it can be caused by various internal and external factors, which we'll cover in the next chapter. 

Writer's block is most typically associated with creative writing. Another word for it is blank page syndrome which perhaps more accurately describes a failure to put any kind of writing to the paper. However, these synonyms are used interchangeably.

Most people who have to complete written work as part of their job experience it at some point in their careers. It's perfectly natural for students, professional writers, and business executives to combat writer's block. It's nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, the world has been aware of it ever since 1947, and the growing reputation of psychiatry has made the term gain more recognition all the way today. If you are one of the people struggling to turn your ideas into text, know it's said that even some of the greatest writers of all time have had to push through writer's block.

Writer's block affects everyone differently. The common symptoms it might cause include anxiety or worry, depression, troubles at the workplace or school, muscle tension, headaches, and digestive troubles related to stress. Despite this creative stall not being a diagnosable mental health condition, it is as real as any challenge taking a toll on your mentality and should be taken seriously.

The good news is that this mental blockage is a well-documented problem, with much research done about its causes.

What causes writer's block?

Writer's block may have several causes, and it can come up in all different kinds of situations.

Some blocks originate within a person's work. You may run out of inspiration or be distracted by other tasks and events related to your work. In contrast, others may be caused by unfavorable circumstances in your personal life or career. Examples of such adversaries are physical or mental illness, relationship problems, financial pressures, or a sense of failure.

The high pressure to produce text in itself may contribute to writer's block, especially if you need to work in ways that are against your natural tendencies. Some of us express ourselves more naturally through speech than writing. For some, producing text has been challenging since learning to write.

Research by Mike Rose states that writer's block can be caused by a person's history in writing, such as rules and restrictions from the past. You can feel hesitant about what you write based on how others perceive it in such a situation. Some other causes of writer's block have been due to writer's anxiety. In his book, Conceptual Blockbusting, James Adams notes that various reasons for blank screen syndrome. These include fear of taking a risk, "chaos" before the actual writing begins, and an inability to incubate ideas or judging them, as well as a lack of motivation. 

However, Rosanne Bane – a creativity coach and writing teacher for more than 20 years – suggests that getting stuck with writing is more than just a turn of mind. A human brain shifts control from the cerebral cortex to the limbic system associated with instinctual processes, such as a "fight or flight" response under stress which hinders the creative process. The person is typically unaware of this change, leading them to believe they are creatively "blocked".

Also, physical damage can produce writer's block.  For example, brain injuries can cause an extreme form of writer's block known as agraphia, which turns off the brain's process of translating thinking into writing. Other brain-related and neurological disorders such as epilepsy are known to cause the inability to produce text.

Next, let's leave the research aside and take an everyday approach to examine the causes of writer's block. The following reasons are often cited as the common causes for challenges with getting the ideas and thoughts from one's head to writing.

1. Having too few ideas

At times you can even feel like you'll never have another good idea again. This can cause you to go in circles, trying to figure out what to write and how to write it. 

2. Having too many ideas

Sometimes you have so many ideas in your head that you don't know where to begin. Anyone who has felt this way can probably testify that it easily leads to writing nothing. 

3. Having a hard time expressing yourself 

Even though you'd know what you want or need to write, sometimes it's simply hard to put your thoughts in writing.

4. Putting off dreadful writing 

It's not that uncommon to fear writing. Especially when the thing you need to write is important. The feeling is only escalated if your penmanship is subject to an assessment of others.

5. Having many competing responsibilities

There is so much to do and so little time. We all have limited resources both at work and in our free time that can cause challenges with prioritizing.

6. Being a perfectionist

It's often hard to shut up our inner editor to the extent that you get stuck in revision hell. When you start to second guess every word choice, it's hard never to finish.

7. Talking to yourself negatively 

Negative self-talk is a corrosive force we have to combat to be able to express ourselves. If you're not encouraging yourself, can positive reinforcement from others even help?

8. Comparing yourself to others

We are all different. So, comparing your writing to others is an enormous waste of your time and can keep you from achieving your own goals for no reason. 

9. Fearing rejection

It never feels good to be rejected, whether it's an important email for work or submission for a feature in a prestigious publication. However, not having our way is part of life, and it happens to everyone at times.

10. Having distractions

Studies have shown that it takes 20 minutes to return to our task with total concentration after being distracted. About the time to banish social media addiction?

If learning about the causes of writer's block made you feel uncomfortable, let me assure you the help is near. By the time you've read this entire blog post, you'll have everything you need to get past the blank page syndrome.

What to do when you have writer's block – 15 tips to overcome it

Wondering what to do when you have writer's block? Fear not. Studies have concluded that it is a treatable condition. You just need to find a cure that removes the mental barriers and builds your confidence up. Often a fix can be found by speaking to others, but there are also ways to deal with writer's block on your own. If you're having trouble figuring out where to start, consider these common tips for writer's block and try the strategies that feel the most natural to you. 

1. Take a break

Let's get the most self-evident tip out of the way. When you get stuck, forcing the words doesn't work; it's time to take a break. Taking time to recharge can be essential to finding your flow again, so step back and then go back and do it again.

2. Freewriting

This tip is quite literal. Go ahead and just write off the top of your head. Ignore punctuation, grammar, and all the usual restrictions and see what comes out of it. It can be a totally random yet revolutionary experience. 

3. Physical exercise

Physical activity and exercising keep your mind alert and energetic. It can rewire your brain into becoming more focused and help you to become more productive. Closing the laptop and getting out of the house is also a great way to break the routine. 

4. Writer's block apps

Technology obviously isn't the answer to everything. Still, there are writer's block apps worth trying that take different approaches to help you when you feel stuck.

5. Journaling

Journaling means writing down your thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly. If you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, it can be a helpful method to make words flow again.

6. Brainstorming

Brainstorming encourages you to come up with thoughts and ideas that can, at first, seem a bit crazy. Some can be crafted into original, creative solutions to a problem, while others can spark even more ideas. This helps you to get unstuck by breaking you out of your typical ways of thinking.

7. List making

Good old list making is a powerful thing. It's a straightforward and effective way to reduce overwhelm, get organized, and gain control of your inner life.

8. Questioning

Research on students shows that asking questions that uncover your writing process can fix blank page syndrome. Suppose you have someone available to help you; go for it.

9. Alter the time of the day you write

There's no simpler cure than this one. If you struggle with writing tasks in the morning, try to block time for them in the afternoon or vice versa. If your routine allows, you can see if early morning or nighttime would feed your creativity.

10. Set deadlines

Let's face it – deadlines are scary. Especially when you put yourself under pressure to do something even if you feel that you can't do it. That's why it's essential to be realistic when you put yourself on the clock when experiencing a blockage.

11. Lower your expectations

If self-consciousness is the cause for you to seize up and shut down, you need to realize that your worst enemy is staring you back from the mirror. There's no way to reach expectations if they are unrealistic – at least, without taking all the small steps needed to get there. 

12. Mindfulness meditation

Meditation is a mental training practice that helps you learn to slow down your thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm your mind and body. It's considered an effective way to get out of writer's block.  Tons of meditation apps offer an easy way to try if mindfulness is for you.

13. Break your work into pieces

A study of 2,500 writers found that breaking one's writing task into pieces is highly effective rather than doing all of the writing in one sitting. The approach was shown to help produce good quality work.

14. Evaluate the environment you work in

It's important to evaluate the environment in which you write to determine if it is the best possible place to work.

15. Mindmapping 

Mindmapping involves writing a stream of consciousness on a paper and connecting any similar or linked thoughts. By freely associating thoughts around an idea, the writer can receive an unfiltered map of potential ideas. There are also online mindmap tools if you are not into the old-school way.

How to get over writer's block with AI

Not yet familiar with AI writing? It's about time. Flowrite turns short bullet points into full-fledged emails and messages in seconds. And it can also help you to get rid of writer's block! When you are completely stuck with an email or message, it will instantly give you an idea of what the final text should look like without you even typing the bullet points. See it how it worked for reaching out to a favourite podcast host of mine.

This is possible thanks to our templates. When we talk about templates, we don't mean anything prewritten. Instead, they guide the AI to generate the type of text you wish. If you already have know what you want to say, but struggle with putting into writing, here's what to do. Just jot down a couple of sentences as instructions, select a template for the type of email or message you are about to send, and watch our AI writer do its magic.

We hope that this blog post was able to help you to find out how to solve writer's block. If it feels like it's impossible to get around it, just remember that you are not alone. People throughout the time have managed to get over the block and found their words again.

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