‘Writer’s block’ is something nearly every blogger, journalist, academic, novelist, columnist of any worth has experienced at some point in their writing career – that irritating and frustrating period where you know you should be writing or want to write but fail to put pen to paper.
The reasons for experiencing writer’s block varies from balancing work (besides writing), prioritising tasks, lack of motivation, loss of confidence, lack of conviction in your opinion, or mere procrastination.
There was a time – for nearly two years – where I would personally aim to get at least four articles a month published on various platforms, including the Huffington Post. However, whilst writing this very piece, I can admit that I regularly ran out of steam as other tasks were prioritised over writing.
That said, this didn’t mean that I didn’t have moments where I was itching to write on breaking news and latest developments on current affairs. But of late, that “itch” usually manifests into elaborated Facebook posts because the time to articulate a well-researched and structured piece was simply too time consuming…or was it?
As the deputy editor of the largest Muslim news site in Britain, proofing, editing and commissioning news articles, features and opinion pieces is my bread and butter. Similarly, as a contributor for a number of publications I am also subject to delivering articles to tight deadlines, word limits and writing styles – and yes, I have been chased, on occasion, by editors when I have missed deadlines due to experiencing ‘writer’s block’.
Writing is a legacy
As mentioned above, reasons for why people experience writer’s block vary – for me; it is a mixture of time management, prioritising work and laziness. On a more positive note, very rarely do writers – of all stripes and colours – remain in the pitfall of writer’s block. In fact, some of the greatest novelists, academics and columnists usually produce their best work after this period of inaction. The reason for this is because writing unlike many other professions and skills is more than just a passion or a job. It is a skill – a responsibility even – which has a wider benefit to society.
Many will dismiss the sense of self-importance many writers have about their own work but the reality is, even ardent critics anticipate reading your twopence on man, life and universe.
Furthermore, writing – be it an article, blog, column, feature, review, book, essay or thesis is essentially a legacy. A big claim I know, but it is a legacy. Once you have dedicated the time to convert your thoughts into writing and have it published or posted somewhere, it is a footprint in the books of history – your humble contribution on a subject matter which you regarded to be of importance to humanity.
Overcoming writer’s block
If my words of perceived wisdom was not enough for you to pick up your pen or open your laptop, then perhaps the following five tips which have worked for me will assist fellow writers to get out of this annoying situation of failing to do what many of us are best at doing.
1. Make the intention – Intention is everything. It is very much like how a substance or vice addict acknowledges they have an addiction. Making or having the intention to write means you actually want to write, which is better than not wanting to write at all!
2. Write and record thoughts – As soon as an idea or an angle comes to mind, write it down on your phone or laptop, or record a voice note. Even better, bullet point your thoughts on any device of your choice and continue doing that as your perspective or story develops, and the same applies to structuring arguments. Some call it ‘written vomit’ – literally writing whatever is going on in your head – bullet points, keywords, short paragraphs – just get it down irrelevant of typos and grammatical errors – this will usually be the foundation of what you will go onto write, which can be tidied and polished up as you go along. Now, this may not be that easy for bloggers and columnists who tend to write in response to breaking news or developing stories, but the principles still apply, you just have less time than a novelist or academic who’s not bound by tight deadlines or time-sensitive topics.
3. Find and make time – This is perhaps the most important of the five tips. Intention and preparation must be followed by allocating time to actually write. The duration of the time is subjective to an array of other factors depending on the context of what you’re intending to write. Novelists and academics require far more time than a blogger or a columnist but both need time nonetheless. Personally, I am a night writer – and I’m in my element under the clear night skies and twinkling stars…not really, the reclined leather sofa in my front room with a dimmed light is usually where all the magic happens.
4. Take advantage of distractions – Sometimes distractions are incidental and out of your sphere of control, whilst on many occasions we actively seek distractions not to write. Be it social media, TV, family and friends, why not utilise these ‘distractions’ to your advantage? Ask friends and followers on social media about their thoughts on a subject matter or your angle. Debate family and friends on the topic you’re planning to write about to flesh out alternative perspectives and test the strength of your own argument. Instead of having Eastenders or Game of Thrones playing in the background, switch over to a TV or online channel which is relevant to your topic.
5. Just do it! This is arguably the hardest but most rewarding tip of them all. Just. Write. I know it is easier said than done but trust me when I say this, once you actually start writing on a topic that you are passionate about, as well as having conviction in your argument – everything else usually just flows.
If all else fails, I guess a last resort would be to have your partner, spouse, sibling, or child to write as you commentate or even hire a ghost writer, but I sincerely believe that the most capable and fluent writers are those who believe in their own ability to formulate and articulate their thoughts into coherent writings.