Pushing Past Writer’s Block

Some may disagree, but I feel that the best writing takes place on the edge of a moment. One word breathes life into the next; pushing the piece along, through each mental blip until the words grow into an organic mess of an idea. This idea may be poorly structured, lacking concision or even incoherent, but at least this idea now exists.

Go with the flow

Whenever I write, whether academic or creative, it helps to avoid the temptation of stopping and criticising my work until I have something substantial written. Many times I have stared at a blank screen after writing a word or two and rejected what was in front of me for not being immediately perfect. Deleting content before allowing it to take shape will leave the writer with nothing to show for hours of frustration. This is not at all productive. What is often referred to as ‘writer’s block’ is a case of the writer trying to produce their final product too quickly. Trying to find the perfect combination of words before they hit the paper will overload the mind, make the writer overthink and become lost in the intangible things darting around their head. In order to combat this, you should pursue each idea that comes to you (regardless of how ridiculous or irrelevant it seems), let it materialise into something that can branch into the words, sentences or paragraphs you need. In order to create, the writer must be open to allowing his or her mind to explore an idea and see where it takes them.  Then it is important to get these ideas down on paper without judgement or hesitation. Not only will this add to the momentum of your writing, it will help clear your mind and allow you to map out your ideas in a coherent order. Do not overcomplicate the creative process. Editing should be carried out on the page, not in the mind. As you continue to create content, your mind should be an uncensored space.

Planning or Procrastination?

In my honest opinion, the planning process can easily transition into procrastination. I am not dispelling the importance of planning your work; I am merely drawing light upon the potential hindrance that over-planning can be for the momentum of writing. The planning stage of any written piece provides the writer with the opportunity to create a skeletal structure to hang the meat of their words from. The writer now knows what the basis of the idea is, they know the structure and direction of the story or argument; the writer is now in a position of complete control over their work. Having their work simplified into brief notes leaves the writer content with their efforts thus far. This feeling of contentment is what makes planning potentially unconstructive. As soon as you begin to feel comfortable with your plan, move on. It is far too easy to dwell in the planning process due to the illusion of control it gives you over your work.

Take the leap

The act of turning notes into sentences and then into paragraphs is a truly daunting step. The writer could become lost in sentences that stretch for miles and completely lose sight of the idea captured in the plan. A way of overcoming this leap from safety is to stop thinking that all your planning needs to occur before you get stuck into your work. Planning can and should occur throughout the writing of a text, not merely act as a preliminary stage.

Expanding upon your notes can be extremely difficult task to gain momentum with, especially if you attempt to tackle each point/idea in a linear fashion. If you are writing an argument, you should not feel compelled to focus on the development of your introduction first. Similarly with a story, the writer should not feel that he or she cannot start expanding upon the ending before the story’s beginning. Choose a part of your plan that you feel most prepared and comfortable writing and get the ball rolling from there. Sometimes it can even be helpful to procrastinate and write something completely unrelated just to get your mind in the mood for creating.

Do not write how you read

It is important to understand that the reading of and the writing of a written piece are two completely separate processes.  Reading is generally a rigid and linear process, whereas writing is not. It is more a process of conception, murder and reincarnation. The creative process is writing and editing, writing and revisiting; and writing and deleting. To progress with a piece of text, the writer needs to travel in loop-de-loops, going forward, around and back again. Even if the writer finishes their text only to revisit the start and try again, the direction is always onward, always towards the finished product. As soon as the writer becomes comfortable at a particular stage of the writing process they should push onwards, leave it behind and change to something fresh.  The change is necessary to keep the onward momentous thrust ever-present within the work. If your mind runs out of ways to refresh your writing, it is time to take a break and return to it after doing something other than writing.

Maintaining movement, change and momentum is essentially the best way to overcome writer’s block. Build up momentum in your writing through regular change and then follow this momentum wherever it leads you. Change is movement and movement is progression. If you keep movement flowing throughout the creative process you allow ideas to grow and you will have more content to choose from when editing your final draft. It is better to produce content that is of poor quality than produce nothing at all.

Article by Matthew Tenwick

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