Posted in Blog Posts

Breaking down the writer’s block

What do you do when your usual writing techniques and traditions stop working?

First: get rid of the idea that you need the Muse. The Muse is like that friend who always replies that they’re coming to your event and *maybe* shows up at one of them, late and already a little buzzed. If we waited for the Muse every time we sat down to write, nothing would get done.

Second: remind yourself that your process is invisible to the reader. Your reader will engage with a beautiful, clean, finished piece of work; they will not engage with your blood, sweat, tears, and agony. (Nor will they engage with your Muse, for that matter.)

I don’t say this to stress you out or to make you feel like all of this hard work is pointless. It’s not pointless. Quite the contrary: the hard work is the point. You know the saying, “It costs a lot to look this cheap?” Well, it takes a lot of effort to make your writing appear effortless. You are normal. What you are doing is normal. Every writer goes through this. If they say they don’t: they’re either lying or have repressed the memory of the pain, much like with childbirth.

Third: when you’re suffering from writer’s block, don’t think of it like this: “Woe! The Muse has abandoned me! Here I must lie, listless and resigned, until that sweet wonder doth return!” Instead, look at it like this: “Huh. My brain, which craves novelty and structure, has grown bored with this existing system. How can I get it active again?

The power was within you all along!

So, Fourth and Last: you need to trick your brain by changing up your routine. In its attempt to develop the new routine, your brain will shift to learning mode. Learning mode is good! Learning mode means your brain is looking for ways to connect all this new information to old information and make sense of it all. Learning mode means your brain is thinking creatively, which is exactly what you want!

What are some ways to change up your routine? Here are a few examples of things that have worked well for me in the past:

  • Do you normally write on the computer? Try picking up a pen and notebook.
  • Write at home? Try going to a coffee shop or your local library !
  • Still doesn’t work? Try changing the font on your word processor. Hell, even put the thing into columns and pretend you’re writing for a newspaper.
  • Do you normally set aside two hours in the evening to write? Try write in small chunks instead. Give yourself twenty minutes in the morning or on your lunchbreak. Twenty minutes – no more.
  • Do you typically hunker down on one project at a time? Try shifting between two or three or four. Spend five minutes on one project, then close it. Open the next, and type away for five more minutes. Repeat.

In short, think of what you usually do and do the opposite. Because what you usually do isn’t working anymore. Just keep your brain engaged and guessing. There’s a science behind this art. Get creative with your process so you can get creative with your work.

Because, remember, it is a work of art, after all.

 

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Author:

Ashleigh Rajala is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in numerous journals, both online and in print. She is passionate about using story-telling to build community in Surrey BC, where she lives and works on the unceded traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples.

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