Writer's block
"The writer by nature considers that there are ‘real writers’ out there telling ‘real stories.’ There’s nothing wrong with thinking or feeling this way because it’ll pass, eventually, like everything else."

Writer’s block : An Introduction.

 

If you’re anything like me, then you rely heavily on the idea that ‘it comes when it comes,’ which is all good and well until you decide to make a career out of your work.

In trying to overcome writer’s block, I’ve been met with an array of cure-alls; mental and physical exercises, free-flowing verse, meditation, etc. I’d like us however to begin with the ‘why’ in this article.

Why can’t I write?

Depression, like a tree, branches out into quite a few categories. Its most common branch being sadness, but one can be depressed without being sad—a state I’ve found to be more constant in my own life. This is best described as a perpetual state of disinterest.

Imagine being unable to summon the will to care about anything for days on end, not about birds or traffic or God. Limbo, you are alive but acknowledge this as little more than a fact. Sometimes you’re triggered into this place by an unexpected change in your life. A chunk you thought was part of who you are. And if you were wrong about this thing that has changed, you could potentially be wrong about everything else. Just like that, you find yourself in another existential crisis seeing as there will be many.

The different faces of writer’s block:

  1. Not having an idea

Here you are staring at a blank page, and the words refuse to come. Or they do come but just don’t feel right. Fear may be a significant factor, you’re self-conscious about what you write or intend to share it in a community where criticism is rife.

The  writer by nature considers that there are ‘real writers’ out there telling ‘real stories.’ There’s nothing wrong with thinking or feeling this way because it’ll pass, eventually, like everything else.

I mean the truth is you’re probably right. There are much better writers, but

 the second this information is used not to appreciate, but measure your competition, is the second you miss the plot at this whole life thing (not , of course that I’ve figured it out). In the words of Epic fantasy writer Shanice Ndlovu, there is room for all of us.

Consider the following options;

  • Taking in other people’s work.

Try and control the kind of stories you consume because one way or another, a boatload of data gets through to you. If you’re watching reels upon reels of circular videos, it gets harder to create beginnings and ends in your own head. The stories you read, the movies you watch, the songs you listen to, whatever stays with you is bound to sprout into other ideas. Use these and write.

  • Revisit old work.

That pile of unfinished poems, plays, stories scattered on your laptop or in your room is an unfortunate fact of the writer’s existence. All these narratives waiting for you to tell them what and who they are should be your personal gold mine. Look at these things you’ve started and grab on to whatever sparks when reading them.

  • You are stuck in the middle of an idea

Some work hits you in a wave of inspiration so clear cut it requires little to no editing. Most writers fight with the idea that not all of their best work is created this way, this easy.

Let’s say you have all this momentum while writing and hit a wall. Shaelin Bishop says, “sometimes you’re stuck with a project, but it doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with writing.” Move on. Trying hard to edit as you write can slow down your creative process or, worse, stunt the narrative. As taboo as this might feel, separating the part of you that creates from the part that fixes gives both personalities of the writer room to do the good work.

 If you’re having trouble phrasing something to your satisfaction, just write it in its dullest and simplest form. If need be, you will return to it later. Going back a few verses or scenes to find the decision or idea that led you astray also serves as a good point of reference.

Finally

  • No motivation,

You have the idea, the story, whatever, but you just can’t get up and do it.

When asked about dealing with procrastination, award-winning writer Phillippa Yaa De Villiers offers, “First, I must admit that this is what is happening.  Then I think, why is it happening? What am I avoiding? After that, I weigh the pros and cons and think on whether the consequences are worth it.”

When unable to pick up the pen, a common occurrence for me is watching an idea come and go. At first, this was pure agony, knowing I could do something but being unable to will myself to do it. I’ve made peace by deciding that not everything needs to be told. If it is meant to be read, then it will be. 

Some writers suggest setting a daily limit, something easy to commit to like 30 words a day’. I think pacing yourself is crucial.  Reflect on where you are in your life at current and then, and this is a wild but necessary notion, try doing work you actually enjoy. It makes each project a growing process and not something you dread even thinking about. So no matter what you write, try and keep the content as true to who you are as a writer as possible.

Design a system that suits your emotional and mental health. As a creator, your tools should not work against you. Be honest about what you can’t do regardless of the reason and make room for change. My advice? Try waiting it out.  Sit with whatever you’re feeling because rest is necessary, and if you’re not going to seek it out, then your body will force it on you.

Nothing in this article can help if you can’t find the will to do it. Consider how far you’ve come already and the stories waiting to be let out. Lastly, here’s a list of 52 poetry prompts to jump-start your creativity and help you overcome writer’s block.

About The Author

Belita is a writer, author and performance artist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has facilitated several workshops independently and in collaboration with Pick Me Up Poetry as well. Her aim is to empower the youth to be present and to own their voices.

About Us

Established in 2013, Pick Me Up Poetry is now a leading platform for spoken word, live music and literature, reshaping the African narrative one story at a time. We believe in Social Learning and Honest Expression. Join our Facebook group, Youtube or Instagram for more engaging poetry conversation.

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