Do you write a lot, or wish you wrote more? I write a lot on a daily basis. But, I’ll admit it’s always difficult to punch those keys when I’m on deadline or have to work on a boring project. If you’re a blogger, a novelist, or simply someone who likes stringing words together, then you’ll know the struggle. Sometimes, or maybe all the time, words get stuck.
In this article, I share with you my experience with writing things, anything really. I also highlight 7 tips for overcoming the fear of writing, also known as writer’s block.
If you want to write more (and better), read on!
Why is Writing Hard?
The #1 reasons for why writing is hard is fear. Fear manifests itself in many ways, but is more insidious when it comes to putting words on a page.
You learned fear. Indeed, we grew up in school where teachers gave us all these rules for writing. Things like spelling and grammar became the divine standard for all our assignments. Break any of the golden rules of writing and you suffered. Bad grades, punishment, and even shame followed us when we sinned against the golden rules of wordsmithing.
As adults, this haunting sense of dread when we write follows us. And, there’s very little any of us can do about it now. Those hard-wired neurons have locked these “rules” in place along with all the bad feelings that go along with them.
Writer’s Block is Fear
Of course, fear is the driving force that says your writing sucks. It’s the foundation for anxiety for getting started, putting those first few words on the page.
When you’re writing, fear places the self-editor front and center. The creative side of you takes the back seat. You’re constantly saying to yourself that your word choices are sub-par.
Perhaps, you are always re-writing the same sentence over and over. You’re never able to move on to the next idea. Fear stumbles progress.
READ MORE: HOW FOUNTAIN PENS CAN SAVE THE WORLD
Did you know that negative feelings suppress the brighter creative side of you? Certainly, your psyche only has so much space to process information. If you fill it with the looming dread of a doomed writing task, then how will you even find the spark to drive the creative engine forward?
Writer’s block is merely a symptom of fear. We can call this other things, too, and you may be familiar with it. Procrastination, the thought abyss, or simply a lack of motivation, are all concepts who feed off a stream of fear from your inner…somewhere.
How do you overcome a fear of writing?
Here are 7 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block
- Change the context
- Avoid using a computer
- Get proper sleep
- Write from the middle
- Read a lot
- Write a lot
- Find a routine
1. Change the context
Fear follows you best when you’re in a place Fear lives. That is, the context of what is around you can influence the fear that lives with you. If you’re always getting stuck when you’re writing at your computer desk, there may be something about this context that amplified your anxiety.
Get away and write somewhere else. What works for me is to take a pen and paper and totally remove the digital from the writing process. Draft your notes and outlines on paper. Even write the entire first draft with a pen.
I use a fountain pen, which is a fun way to put words on paper. The novelty of using a fountain pen with different colored inks also puts a bit of whimsy into the writing process. This all helps push out the anxiety that tends to haunt wordsmithing.
2. Avoid using a computer
Distraction comes in many forms. Usually, it’s from our smartphones or dinging email notifications on our computer. The digital tools we need on a daily basis are fantastic for productivity.
But, oddly, when it comes to writing, our computers are a double edged sword. They literally remind us of other things we need to do. Responsibilities that must be accomplished, otherwise we fail as human beings.
Yes, I’m being melodramatic to make a point. Avoid using any tool that distracts you from writing. Writing takes a level of continuous focus that a a few touches of a button steals away.
As mentioned above, I tend to get more writing done with pen and paper as a startling point. Only after I get the main ideas and words on a page do I transfer them to a computer. There’s even some science to suggest that you can absorb and process information better when you’re writing with analog tools, instead of a computer word processor.
3. Get proper sleep
Overcoming writer’s block requires energy. In fact, any writing you want to do well requires a disproportionate amount of energy compared to most creative tasks. Remember those rules I mentioned?
To abide by good writing rules without draining you of energy, your mind needs to be clear. A foggy head from sleep deprivation is a recipe for even further bottlenecks to effective writing.
Obviously, this may be difficult for some in this day and age. But, when I purposefully tried to improve my sleep, it became easier to write, anything. Of course, don’t over-sleep as that could be counter-productive too.
4. Write from the middle
Sometimes writing from scratch is a problem. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something scary about the blinking cursor on a blank page.
Maybe we want that first sentence to be perfect, as it feels like the foundation for everything that follows. Although, this may be true for the final draft, this is simply irrational for getting the first few ideas on a page.
Our brains usually don’t work in this linear fashion. We can’t simply go from idea A to idea B. We need to take circles with the ideas to find out what matters. That’s how our brains work. We aren’t linear thinkers.
We go in circles when we mull over ideas. Maybe our writing should, too. When you write and find yourself stuck on a sentence, I suggest going to the middle of your thought and writing that out instead.
Don’t worry about forcing your writing to go in a straight line. Maybe, you’re not built that way. For a first pass, getting words on a page is more important. Lay track, as they way, and fix it later.
5. Read a lot
I read somewhere that reading feeds your ability to write. There’s an odd relationship with writing and reading where doing one helps the other. Something in our minds says words that you absorb and spit out, e.g., write, are the same.
Taking in words through reading helps guide those inner pathways toward a more fluent writing experience. Shaping the way your mind thinks through reading is a way to push your ability to write forward.
Reading material that is similar to what I want to write helps inspire or motivate me to write more. And, deep down, I think reading more also improves my ability to cope with the self-doubt that undergirds writer’s block.
Reading more helps you overcome the fear of writing.
6. Write a lot
The same guy(s) who said that reading a lot can help you write, also said that writing more can help, too. Great words of wisdom?
I think it goes without saying too much that practice helps improve anything. Perfect practice makes perfect. Keep writing whatever you like or have to write and you’ll get better.
The more words you put on a page, the better your output and ability to get those words out of your head. Writing regularly helps drive out those scary demons that keep you back.
A side benefit of writing more is also the positive reinforcement that comes with accomplishment. By increasing the volume of written material, the greater self-sense of reward you feel when you write.
That inner reward system will come to great usefulness when you feel stuck. All you need to do is recall that “you’ve done it once, so you can do it again”. It’s a beautiful thing when you can look back and see all those milestones you’ve crossed.
7. Find a routine
You’ve heard the phrase, “use it or lose it”. The same proverb goes for writing prowess. You’ve built up a good foundation for effective writing and progress, but now is not the time to get lazy
Find a routine where you can write regularly. In doing so, you’ll not only grow, but you’ll keep what skills and abilities you’ve already notched on your belt. Whether by chance or design, our bodies and minds don’t like wasting energy on things it doesn’t use.
Writing is an extension, like an appendage, that withers with neglect. If you want to make writing easier, find a routine where you write a bit each day. It doesn’t matter what time of day you write, or even how much write. The important thing is is that you write on a frequent and regular basis.
I carry a notebook with me wherever I go. I jot notes and ideas in it to keep things fresh for this blog and other projects I’m tasked with. It’s a great way to free up your mind for other things, too, when you can empty it of random, irrelevant things (though they may come into play later).
I love and hate writing. Punching the keys, or putting ink on paper, is a constant battle that I’m compelled to fight. Maybe writing is a career you or a hobby. In either case, you know its worth the battle. You read this far didn’t you?
Keep it up! Read more, write a lot, and don’t let the bogeyman chase you down. Keep up the good fight!