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Writers' Block: The Answer Within

Being CreativeWriters’ block is a lot like ‘tennis elbow’, you don’t have to play tennis, or even be a writer to get it. Simply put, we can not always be at our creative best – or can we?

Writers’ block is an interesting phenomenon. Essentially, you have a writer who knows how to write and in some cases is a professional with a track record for writing, but in a particular moment of time, no longer can.

Consider, the writer stills know how to spell, still remembers the rules of grammar, still has knowledge about their subject and still knows how to use their computer, but simply can’t put the words together in a way that satisfies them.

The Traditional Solution

The traditional solution offered to overcome writers’ block is to write!

This is nonsensical – if the writer could write, they wouldn’t have writers’ block in the first place! This is like asking a bald man to grow hair. If only he knew how then surely he would.

Despite the apparent lack of rationale to this approach it is guaranteed to work. If you simply sit at your computer and tap away at the keys you will string a few words together and overcome your block.

It’s all just a matter of how determined you are and how long it takes. You might overcome your block in minutes, hours, days, weeks or months. It is assured that eventually the block will be overcome but there is absolutely no guarantee when this will occur.

This strategy is perfect if you have a lifetime to wait but not if you have a pressing deadline.


An even bigger disadvantage to this traditional solution is that it doesn’t give you any clues as how Writers’ block happened in the first place and therefore how to prevent it from happening again.

If only we knew that the full moon caused it, then we could schedule around it and therefore avoid it.

Without access to the source, we live in the shadow of it happening again and as Murphy’s Law suggests, it will happen at the worst possible moment. For someone whose livelihood depends upon creativity this is not a comforting thought.

An Alternative Solution

The clue for an alternative solution to writers’ block comes from the immortal words of Albert Einstein: ‘Any problem cannot be solved at the same level at which it was created’.

We cannot solve the problem of ‘doing writing’ by doing more of it - we need to shift the issue to another level. The block for writers’ is not in the ‘doing’ of writing but in the writers’ way of being.

The fundamental question to ask to overcome writers’ block is: "What is going on for the writer?"

Three Ways to Overcome Writers’ Block

Instead of charging ahead like a bull at a closed gate, take the time to stop and reflect what is going on in your thoughts, your emotions and in your body. Here’s some key questions to ask yourself to avoid and overcome writers’ block.

The key here is to get your answers out of your head by either discussing them with another person or writing them down on paper. (Just because you have writers’ block about your writing project is not an excuse for not responding to these questions.)

What are you concerned about?

Your block is likely to be influenced by the thoughts you are having. These can roughly be grouped into four areas.

1 What thoughts are you having about the task in front of you?

For example, is your deadline too short? Do you really think you can do this? Are you wishing you were somewhere else? Or, are you a perfectionist who is never satisfied?

2 What thoughts are you having about your life right now?

If you are worried about money, relationships or a health issue, these will all cloud your ability to be at your creative best. Do a quick check on the issues in your life and notice how they may be impacting your performance.

3 What thoughts are you having about you?

If things aren’t going to plan there is a strong chance you are starting to question your own capabilities. For example, am I insane in taking on this project? Am I really good enough to be a writer? Is there something wrong with me because I can’t put two words together right now?

4 What thoughts are you having about what other people think of you?

All creative activity involves some degree of risk and this risk is related to how other people will perceive what we have created. The risk in writing is ‘What will the readers or the editor think about what I have written?’ Will it be up to the required standard? What will happen if it is? What will happen if it isn’t? Whilst these thought are about your work we tend to listen to them as if they describe us.

What emotion or mood are you experiencing?

If you were to label your current mood or emotion, what would it be? Are you happy, sad, anxious, nervous, excited, relaxed or distracted? Then ask yourself, ‘What is the source of this?’ What am I distracted by?

What do you notice about your body?

One of my favourite Peanuts cartoons has Charlie Brown standing with his head down looking at the ground. He says ‘This is my depressed stance. If you’re going to get any joy out of being depressed, you’ve got to stand like this. The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you’ll start to feel better."

As Charlie Brown suggests, your body posture has a big impact on how you feel. Observe your body for a few moments. Are you tired, energetic, lethargic, heavy or light?

Action or no Action

By simply asking these questions you may discover what is preventing you from being at your creative best.

Alternatively, in answering these questions you may realise you need to take care of some things to clear your mind before you can write well. For example, if you had an argument with your partner, you might like to address this first rather than trying to write over the top of it.

Another option is to schedule the action for a later time to free you to write immediately. For example, ‘I am going to put everything aside for one hour and at the end of that time I am going make the phone calls and organize the weekend.’

If you feel sluggish in the body, it may be time to go for a walk, do some stretches, have a fresh juice, take a deep breath or have a sleep. Consider, getting your body moving may be the quickest way to getting your ideas moving.

The Answer Within

The fundamental solution for overcoming writers’ block in your life is to look at what is going on inside you. When you can distinguish what is stopping you, you can choose to take action to overcome it and be at your creative best.

In the Being Creative workshop you develop a personal action plan for overcoming writers’ block in all areas of your life. We focus on your thoughts, your emotional space and your body posture based upon the questions in this article. When you can articulate your usual pattern for being stopped and your usual pattern for being truly creative, you can use this blueprint to be at your creative best whenever you choose.

Next: Innovative Spaces


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