Part 1: What is a roadblock?
We all have had those moments when we wanted to write something, but for some reason, we cannot seem to accomplish anything. It is possible that we write something, and then quickly erase it, because that would be embarrassing. Or we give up and put it all on the back burner and worry about it 24/7.
These are writing roadblocks: issues that stop us from being able to do an otherwise doable writing task. Some people find that they are frustrating. Even if you feel motivated to work, if the words are not flowing, or if you can’t seem to say what you want to say, painfully slow progress can occur.
Maybe the scariest thing about it all is that you never know how long it will last. It is as if you are blocked for your morning. Are there going to be three weeks of this annoyance? One year?!? There’s no time minimum or maximum, unfortunately. So it is very important that you understand how to overcome the roadblocks.
Some of the most common and common writing roadblocks are:
- I’ve experienced writer’s block.
- Is there an imposter syndrome?
In Part 1 of How to overcome common writing roadblocks, I will explain the biggest one of them all: writer’s block. So let’s talk about what it is, how to spot it, and how to move past it in order to make real progress.
So in Part 2 of How to Overcome Common Writing Roadblocks, we’ll talk about two other common writing issues that people often face: procrastination and imposter syndrome.
So, what is the meaning of writer’s block?
Writer’s block is a condition in which you want to write something. And sometimes you feel discouraged from writing it in some way. So it can be a very nebulous feeling, and one of the main issues is that often we struggle, even for hours before we can communicate that we are experiencing writer’s block. By that time, there has been so much time that there has been so little progress made that writer’s block issue morphs into other writing roadblocks. We here at Quillbot call that an unproductive feedback loop(1).
The first and best way to understand writer’s block is to be able to recognize it as quickly as possible. When you find out that you are struggling with that particular issue, you can take action to get yourself out of that issue and refocus. I know this seems like it should be easy, but how many times have you been stuck and spent the whole day worrying about how much you’re not getting done?
What is writer’s block?
Given that writers’ blocks can be extremely debilitating, it is important to catch them quickly, so that you don’t lose a day, week, or more of progress. Let’s examine some common ways to identify the issue and bring it out.
Writer’s Block can appear in any number of small ways or large ones, such as:
- Feeling that I am completely unmotivated.
- Lose all your thoughts and motivation as soon as you sit down to write.
- If you are extremely anxious while you are working on a task or when you are finishing a task.
- You feel as if you don’t know where to start?
- It is possible that you will be afraid that your skills are not up to par.
- Not being able to prioritize all the steps that must be completed to complete the task at hand.
- It is like being stuck in a rabbit hole, or on a tangent, unable to refocus on your main topic.
- Fearing that you will fail.
- Lack of good ideas and/or creativity.
Below are some examples of writers’ block in action. Does any of this sound familiar?
-You get up early with the intention of writing something in your journal, working on an assignment, or even building out some ideas for stories to tell others. Sometimes when you sit down, you suddenly feel completely blank, and you are sober, feeling like all your ideas have been left out.
-That’s what happens when you sit at a desk that is cluttered with a list of notes that you must translate into a writing project. You are proud of the things that you are planning to do, but when you try to integrate those ideas into your work, nothing seems to fit together the way that you thought it would. Sometimes you wonder if your ideas are actually any good.
-You have an important task. You tried to work several days during the week, but never made any progress. Now you pick it up again because the deadline is approaching. You become more frustrated because you cannot think clearly enough to get any work done. Do you fear that you might not be able to do your work well because of what you are afraid of? Because of that, you may have to work harder to complete this work, and you may work longer.
-You decide that you are going to start writing at a specific time to work on building your habit. You sit at your computer, but you aren’t really feeling “in the zone” and want to write something. You sit there for the entire hour that you have allotted for writing, and not practicing. Sometimes you start to think that maybe you are not cut out to write these, because if you were, writing should be easier.
The next time you experience being blocked like this, call it out: it’s writer’s block!
You will become faster and faster at expressing it, with the goal of catching it as soon as possible so that you can fix it as soon as possible. So if you do that, you may be spinning on the problem all day. You may be concerned that very little progress is being made, and you may wish you were more motivated. You may doubt your ideas and your writing skills, and you may participate in other unhelpful thinking patterns.
How can I get over my writers’ block?
When you’ve confessed that you’re suffering from writer’s block, it’s now time to break out of it. Do not beat yourself up over it. So, commit to moving forward. Do not wait! So, don’t sit back!
In order to avoid writer’s block, there are remedies for you, and they may take some time to refine. The good thing about doing these things is that they are rooted in self-care. So, they will be enjoyable, and you will feel good that you are working towards a solution and taking care of yourself in the process.
6 Here are some steps to get over writer’s block.
- Describe what the issue is. I am feeling stuck and I have not made any progress in the last hour. It is time for a change.’
- You should not feel guilt, frustration, or negative about yourself or your progress. You will be hindered when you try to move forward.
- Select a timeout option from the list below, and specify a timeframe that will last for that time. Do note if you feel more focused, distracted, motivated, etc.
- Try to get back to work after the action break ends. If so, note whether that action led you to becoming productive or unproductive.
- If you still can’t get over the block, try another option. Then, after that, you can continue working on the next work session. Sometimes three months of slow progress are more frustrating than a quick 10 minute walk to solve a problem. So, that’s ok.
- When you can’t move past this block after two sets of action options and two working sessions, there are still a few options:
a. Maybe you just need to rest and get ready for the rest of the day. Do not underestimate the power of resting and starting fresh.
b. Write a list of all your stressors and decide which ones you can control and which ones you cannot. This is a powerful way to explain what’s happening to your mind and how it may affect you and your progress.
c. Now go into planning mode. I would plan ahead and write down some more detailed outlines. I would jot down the ideas that you have in your head for each section. And I would work on topic sentences to make them more detailed. If you do that, you will be ready to make progress and then you will be ready to be successful later when you return to drafting.
There are many options for breaking out of writer’s block.
If you find that the actions below are enjoyable, lean into the options below. Set a timer for yourself, respect the time that you have allocated, and do the only tasks that you have chosen. No texting while you are walking. No browsing the internet while you are talking to a friend. These actions are meant to ground you, to cause you to become center, and to help you concentrate on one simple and enjoyable activity in order to relax and soothe you. Take this opportunity to invest in yourself.
There are many options for breaking out of writer’s block.
-You should change where you are working.
-Take a short walk.
-Take yourself out to the cafeteria, or make yourself a cup of coffee or tea.
-Also, complete some breathing exercises.
-I urge you to call a friend or family member.
-Write a letter to someone.
-So, take a shower.
-Do random acts of kindness.
-Do some gratitude exercises to show you that I am grateful for something.
-Wash your face or put on a face mask, or else, you should do other self-care tasks.
-Read something that is unrelated to your project.
-I suggest that you do some bodyweight exercises (air squats, pushups, planks, etc.).
-Listen to good music.
-So sit outside and do nothing other than smell the air and feel the sun.
-You can prepare a simple dinner.
-You can stretch out, or you can do a short yoga session.
-Snuggle your pet.
-Make sure you do something to help yourself that is stressful (like a cluttered desk).
-So, play a game!
-So, do some crafting or some other creative project.
-Do something fun, with no agenda.
-Look at some hashtags that will make you smile, like #inspirational, #funny, and #wholesome.
After you finish doing that, cross-check that some of the actions that you enjoyed the most were the ones that led to you being happier or that helped you feel more productive. That is the most effective remedy for writer’s block.
We’ll be back shortly to talk about Part 2 of How to overcome common writing roadblocks. In this talk we will talk about procrastination and imposter syndrome.
(1) You can also check out the infographic below the page for more information on this frustrating cycle and the writing problems that are feeding it. After the series on writing roadblocks is over, we will have a very large discussion about the loop.