Writer’s block. It’s the feeling when you’re staring at a page trying hard to will words into existence that refuse to come. Beads of blood form on your forehead as you discover that your creative tank is empty and the words…just…won’t…come.
Sound familiar? Well, we’ve all been there at some point. It can happen when you’re trying to write a blog post, a new chapter for your sci-fi extravaganza, or maybe that irresistible sales copy you’re sure is going to compel people to buy your stuff.
If you usually give up and just hope for the words to return, it’s time for you to understand writer’s block for what it is. It’s a simple mental obstacle and can be overcome.
Let me walk you through the 5 basic principles of Zen and the Art of Overcoming Writer’s Block.
1: Address Your Fear
The main cause of writers block is simply FEAR and it can come in many forms.
It can be Fear of failure. Fear of missing a deadline. Fear of writing rubbish. Fear of being criticized. Fear of wasting your time. Fear of getting started. Wow. So much fear!
To address your Fear, you first must understand which Fear is holding you back.
Your task is to confront your Fear.
So, which Fear is yours?
The first Zen law of overcoming writer’s block is knowing the name of your fear and exactly what it is that’s preventing you from writing. So, identify your fear, shine a light and watch it shrivel up and be banished.
Even better, write your Fear on some paper. Take it outside and burn it. Watch your fear dissolve into the sky in smoke and ash.
2: Seize Your Sword
The pen is mightier than the sword, so grab your pen and just start writing. You see, writer’s block is all in your mind and the Zen masters know that mind over matter really does matter.
It’s time for some free writing. Ditch your computer. Grab yourself a nice yellow legal pad, your favourite pen and write baby, write.
Set a timer for 10 minutes and just go go go.
You must write like your life depended on it.
Write as if the actual act of writing is what is keeping you alive moment to moment.
Don’t listen to that demon whispering in your ear as you go. He’ll be saying; “Whoah! It’s not good enough” or “What kind of rubbish is that?’ or even, “GOD, don’t you know how to spell, your grammar is appalling!”
The Zen approach is to ignore your inner voice. Remember, no-one but you is going to see this draft.
The aim of free writing is to let your ideas run free like cats released from a sack. Don’t stop to re-read what you are writing, just go with the flow. Don’t self edit. Save that for later.
3: Earth your creativity
We all live on the same planet (most of the time!), and you need to align your creativity with the natural trajectory of the Earth
As our planet spins around the Sun through day and night we have evolved our own rhythms as the day begins and ebbs finally into night.
What are your natural rhythms telling you? Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Some people are naturally energised in the morning. If that’s you, get up early, dedicate your writing time to the start of the day. Make it part of your morning ritual.
If you’re a night owl that works best in the late hours, make that your time.
The Zen of writer’s block is knowing how to align your rhythms to the natural rhythms of the Earth.
Your writer’s block may be as simple as this; You’re choosing the wrong time to write.
4: Drink From a Clear Stream
To understand the Zen of writer’s block you must know your body and mind.
Sometimes writer’s block occurs because we’re just worn out and not giving our creativity time to recover.
You can cause writer’s block by making the wrong diet choices, from drinking too much alcohol and not enough water. From spending too much time on your bum in front of the computer.
You have to nurture your creative intuition like a gardner shapes Bonsai.
When you’re up against the wall and can’t string 3 sensible words together, take a break. Walk. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water during the day. Meditate once a day. Practice mindfulness.
To practice the Zen of writer’s block you must make your mind the clear stream.
Then the ideas will flow again.
5: In Defeat, be Graceful
The fear of criticism can be like an evil apparition, squatting on your shoulder, whispering in your ear, snatching your pen away every time you attempt to write.
Be Zen. Be graceful. Accept that to be a writer means being read.
A swimmer doesn’t fear the sea but she does respect it.
You can’t write perfect words for everyone. Accept that some readers will never like your words.
Understanding this is liberating. So be graceful, accept the criticism when it comes.
Zen and the Art of Overcoming Writer’s Block.
Taking a Zen approach will calm your mind, and also smash the writer’s block that has formed like a mountain in your imagination.
That’s because, there really is no such thing as writer’s block once you understand what is creating the mental barriers that prevent you writing.
Be Zen in your approach to your writing and the words will begin to flow again.
How do you overcome writer’s block? I’d love to hear your strategies. Please leave a comment below.