I think a lot about writer’s block, probably more than I think about my writing. Something that I don’t see mentioned enough is that there are a few different types of writer’s block. There is the famous “I can’t think of anything to write” as you stare aimlessly at a white sheet of paper. There is also the “I have way too much going on to make a functioning sentence much less a story.” And good ‘ole “I have TOO MANY ideas to pick just one!” The way I am defining writer’s block here is basically this: any obstacle that keeps you from writing is a block.
I have a lot of obstacles that keep me from writing - notice the several-month gaps at the beginning of my 2023 poetry posts. My Instagram is an absolute mess because of these gaps, whoops. The most common one for me is a lack of mental space. I have a full-time job, I am a full-time student, I am a wife, a cat mom, a church-and-all-related-events-goer, and I do my fair share of the housekeeping. There is a lot on my plate, much less a poetry blog shop thing. Nevertheless, this is what I really like to do, so I’ve had to find a few ways to keep myself doing it. And my favorite way? To write through the writer’s block. More specifically, to write ABOUT the writer’s block.
To do this, start with something like “I can’t think. Here is why I can’t think: [insert reasons here].” While it doesn’t always give you any good ideas, it at the very least gets you back in the motion of things which is really important. Most advice about writer’s block is simply “just write”. But you need something to start with, and if all you can think about is the fact that you can’t think, then you have all that you need. If you’re one of those “too many ideas” people, you probably just need a brain-dump session or two. Write down every idea you have as fast as you can. When you’re done writing the ideas down, come up with more ideas. New ideas, ideas based on the ideas you already wrote down, ideas based on the keywords you typed into Google’s search bar hoping to find the perfect program that will ease your brain but sadly, didn’t - just anything. For any type of writer’s block, when you’ve poured your mind out as little or as much as that is, it tends to help.
What I want to provide here is a starting point to get you back into doing what you love. When that frustration is built up in your mind, that’s just where it’s going to stay. It’s not productive. It doesn’t help to run through your thought-library a tenth time when the first nine didn’t get you anywhere. You need a physical action to move to the next step. As an example of what this can do, just as I was writing that last sentence I came up with this:
I can’t write
I can’t think
My head hurts so much
It hurts to blink
And weirdly, I feel like I’ve actually done something for once just by writing out my frustrations in this article and coming up with that mini-poem through it. That is actually the first poem I’ve written in four months (at the time of writing, not publishing), and doing this helped me get there. Which brings me to another note: it doesn’t really matter what format you write in to do this.
Do you usually write articles? Try writing a list this time. Do you usually write poems? Try journaling. What about novels? Try a few short stories or outlining. Whatever you are comfortable with in that moment whether it is what you usually do or not, go for it. For whatever reason, I get worked up about writing my four-five page papers each week for college. When I read the assignment the first time, I don’t have a clue where to start. But once I’ve looked over the material again and made some semblance of an outline, honestly it just flows. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but for me, it works. Once I start writing something out, I can almost always finish it in a thoughtful way. It’s just a matter of getting started.
If you need somewhere to get started, I highly suggest starting right where you’re at. Write about what you’re feeling, why you are unable to move forward, and any ideas that spur from that. You can edit it later. You can throw it away. You can build it into a bigger project later. Just get started. Write about your writer’s block.
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Liberty Jensen • Writer
Liberty is a donations manager, finance student, and full-time drinker of coffee. She enjoys poetry, her cats, and spending time with her husband.