That Dread Barrier: Writer’s Block

Envision a Scene… 

You want to write, but you just can’t do it. You stare at a blank page or the blinking cursor on a word processor screen for hours. Your muse played hooky today and you can’t get started. Or, you’ve been writing at a pretty nice clip and it’s all smooth sailing—until you hit a snag. You’re stuck. Words fail you. Frustration builds at your lack of production. You finally give up and walk away from your desk or laptop. After all, you have other things you need to accomplish today. 

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Sound familiar? If so, then keep reading. If not, then I salute you. Read on anyway, because you never know when this dread barrier may halt you in your tracks.

The first step is to diagnose the problem. Okay, you’ve done that much so far. You have writer’s block. Merriam Webster defines writer’s block as “a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.” This condition can be fleeting—gone by tomorrow—or it can last for weeks, months, even years.

The second step is deciding you truly want to solve it instead of whining about the stars not being aligned or other circumstances beyond your control. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you desperately want to write something and have chosen to move forward.

The third step is identifying the root cause of the problem. Fortunately, I’ve already done that for you. The root cause is fear.

Wait…what? 

Fear is the Mind-killer

Yes, Frank Herbert knew what he was talking about. Have you ever been in a frightening or stressful situation and your mind just shut down? You couldn’t think of what to do, how to escape, or a way to overcome a problem. Writer’s block is a great example. The vast majority of the reasons behind writer’s block boils down to fear, pure and simple. 

I once heard fear described using an acronym: False Evidence that Appears Real. Don’t get me wrong; there are certainly instances where it’s a good idea to be afraid, but I’m not discussing truly dangerous, concrete jungle type situations. Most of the time, for the majority of people, fear is only the mind playing tricks.

When you allow fear control, you’ll spend your life either paralyzed, lashing out, or running away from meaningful experiences. Don’t succumb to the gom jabbar. Fear can be overcome in a variety of ways. If you need to recite the Litany Against Fear* in order to function, then go right ahead. Meditate. Pray. Whatever works best for you.

Remember what the dictionary said about writer’s block being a “psychological” thing? I believe nearly all writer’s block stems from us—the writers—getting in our own way. And there are probably as many reasons for this as there are writers, and then some. However, being the analytical, left-brain dominant nerd-type person I am, I’ve taken a bunch of these concepts, smooshed them together, teased them apart, organized them, and then categorized them under three specific headings. Why three? Because the number three has great significance for me, I couldn’t think of a fourth heading name, and I have a creeping abhorrence of lists containing only two items.

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So…what are you afraid of? 

After discovering the root cause(s) of your brand of writer’s block, you’ll need to take the next step: smashing that wall to smithereens. In the next three blog posts, I’ll tackle each of these major groupings, defining each subcategory and offering good advice on how to overcome them.

Here they are:

  • External – Adverse Conditions
  • Internal – Perception and Attitude
  • Creative Issues

In my opinion, I cover most of the obstacles and objection bricks that form the massive wall of writer’s block. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Two resources I found beneficial in compiling the information were Reedsy and the Author Learning Center and they have great advice on all things writing. Or you can roll the dice and run a Google search. Many others have written blogs on this topic, after all. Maybe you’ll find one that resonates with your experience.

*The Litany Against Fear
Herbert, Frank. Dune. Berkley Books, 1965.
final notes

Everything I write is influenced by a Christian world-view and some advice I’ll be offering will be with Christians specifically in mind or can be adapted for those of other faiths and spiritual paths. Much of the advice can be viewed in a secular light, as well, but I’d felt I should provide fair warning. 

If there is anything in particular regarding writer’s block you would like me to address in the next few posts, feel free to drop it in the comments.

Until next time, friends!

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