How to Cure Writer’s Block
By Annie Hay
Many of us who have experienced Writer’s Block will recognise the feeling of frustration coupled with self-recrimination. The internal nagging voice which says, “Do I have anything of worth to say?” or “Will it be good enough?” stops us in our tracks. The accompanying feeling of anxiety, agitation and self-doubt can be debilitating.
A Personal Journey
Writers block can be agonizing for people who experience it, students, researchers professional and amateur writers alike. However it is has other widespread negative consequences.
Speaking from a first hand perspective, there are many things I would like to have expressed but hit a wall instead. I hate to think now of the ideas and projects that have remained stuck, wasted. Instead, I have cleaned the fridge, weeded the garden, rearranged the furniture and all manner of “crucial” tasks which suddenly become much more important. Frustratingly, my procrastinations have been costly. A recent idea for a business development was scuppered by someone with a similar idea, who had not been bogged down by wanting to get the text “just right”.
From a Psychotherapy Perspective
It is unfortunate that so many people live with these life-limiting problems when they can be quite easily and effectively worked through. From a psychotherapy perspective, different factors may be at play. One such factor is grandiosity where we purposefully exaggerate some aspect of reality, and thought processes where the details required to define the problem are ignored.
Another factor is driver behaviour where the “Be Perfect” driver raises internal demands “to get it right” before risking committing to paper. Failure to be perfect can lead to extreme anxiety.
Procrastination, where we protect against the fear of “not knowing enough yet” by endlessly drawing out the planning process, taking copious notes, and allowing the project to become so out of hand that it never happens, is also often present
Revealing our ideas can be exposing, leading to feelings of shame and a need to hide or escape.
Psychotherapy addresses the feelings of threat and the underlying conflict which have been stirred up at an unconscious level.
How Writer’s Block can be Tackled
For those of us affected by writer’s block or other forms of creative block, there are several ways we can help ourselves.
- We can give ourselves permission to be imperfect. Perfection is the enemy of creativity.
- We can learn to enjoy the ebb and flow of our activity, enjoying the process, rather than focussing entirely on the end product.
- We can release the tension in our minds by changing focus, exercise, play an instrument, listen to music, make a jigsaw.
- Explore your strengths and your vulnerabilities. Our inner voices are often at the root of creativity. By listening to the creative force of our inner Child, we can experiment with playfulness and pleasure, allowing for mess and chaos. It is important to not always get it all right or to be perfect.
- Start to write again. You will find new energy. Ideas which previously were held back as if in a mist will start to come to the fore. Experiment. Just put something down on paper. While the underlying conflict may be heightened by the prospect of putting ideas on paper, the very act of writing can be cathartic. Writing is really a healing process.
As a psychotherapist and counsellor, I have met many people who get stuck in the process of putting thoughts and ideas onto paper or canvas. Meaningful and relevant work get blocked in their heads, held back by psychological issues. With help this can become unblocked.
Writer’s Block is responsible for the loss of many new ideas and potential developments. The loss of their creative energy is our loss.