Defining writer’s block: The writing process, like any other art, is a creative pursuit that can pose many difficulties along the journey of producing written
material. Some of these difficulties can be overcome with practice, but one of the most infuriating problems is known as writer’s block. If you are a writer, you will probably have gone through this state at least a few times, and it would have undoubtedly been an extremely frustrating phase for you.
Writer’s block can be described as the condition in which a writer is no longer able to engage in or produce new material. As a general condition, you may experience this creative shut-down in varying forms, but ultimately, you will end up staring at a blank screen or page after a very copious period of trying. When you have writer’s block, it’s as if your ‘creativity power’ has become paralyzed and the more you try to break through your block, the more helpless you become.
Writer’s block, however, is not usually a symptom of a lack of writing skills. You can be a very successful writer, a fountain of ideas even, but you can still be susceptible to it for a variety of lifestyle and psychological reasons. And with whatever is causing your creative block, it may even occur to you during this period of stagnation (which can last from hours to years by the way) that you should quit writing altogether. This can be accompanied by a period of extreme self criticism and insecurity exclaiming “what kind of writer am I if I can’t write?”
Managing writer’s block can be helped, and sometimes prevented by understanding what the condition is, appreciating what traits you bring to your writing projects and being aware of the situation and conditions in which you write.
Does writer’s block only affect writers?
Whilst the term “writer’s block” is primarily associated with writers who write novels, it can affect anyone who produces creative written content e.g. students working towards your degree or higher degrees, playwrights, poets, scholars, television producers, article writers in magazines or newspapers, blog writers etc.
A similar “creative block” is commonly experienced by professionals required to produce creative materials, content or products. This list can include artists, architects, sculptors, designers, composers, musicians, songwriters, inventors, teachers, researchers and choreographers. In a much broader sense, a ‘mind block’ can also affect business professionals involved in problem-solving and project management roles.
When you are stuck in your block, you may have gone deep into a project, are now committed to completing it, but you fear that the solution evades you in the time required. As the stress and pressure mounts, it further inhibits your creative abilities to complete the task.
What happens when you have writer’s block?
Consider the mind as a vast lake. Below the surface of the water is your creative subconscious mind that gives you access to your creative zone. It is brimming with stimulating ideas, enriched past experiences and inspiring emotional content. When you are writing expressively, you can freely access the content below the surface and apply your creativity to the task in hand.
But when stress, anxietyand negative beliefs are overwhelming you, access to the content below the surface is obstructed. The surface of the vast lake freezes over. Your creative (subconscious) mind is blocked and you are left to operate from above the surface of the water (using your conscious mind).
Your conscious mind struggles to work by itself. The conscious mind can function, but its concepts are slow, rigid, structured and at times, dull. When your subconscious mind is at hand, your inspirational flow of ideas and emotional creativity can be accessed. The collaboration between the two parts of your mind forms a creative unity that is inspiring and abundant.
At a physiological level, excessive adrenaline and cortisol levels created by stress and negative emotional states cause your brain waves to function at a higher Beta level. At this level, your brain struggles to be creative. When you are in your relaxed creative zone however, the brain waves operate at the Alpha level. At this level, there is a reduction in stress hormones and an increased production of serotonin that can balance your mood and give you open access to your creativity.
What causes writer’s block?
Since the process of writing is usually a day-to-day requirement for the writer, you will discover that many of the causes of the writer’s block are related to your personal lifestyle and habits. If you are a diligent writer, for example, you may have been overly focused on the prospect of completing certain milestones in the time required. But, as a consequence, you have had to sacrifice your resting periods and indispensable full night’s sleep. As you settled on this poor sleeping habit, your brain began to decrease its efficiency and it no longer offered you the surge of creativity you always received in a less pressured lifestyle.
The process of engaging with your creative work is now the hardest phase because your body and brain are not rejuvenated with the needed rest. Coupled with this, there can be the issue of poor eating habits, over-reliance on addictive substances (like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine), a lack of exercise as you attempt to maximise time efficiency. The writer’s block will easily become the standard mindset if your body and brain are not getting the balance of creativity, rest, nourishment and tension-release from exercise. The mind becomes deeply affected by fatigue and “mental fogginess”.
If you are working from home and balancing family life, the slightest distraction from family commitments can justify extended periods of frustrated “clock-watching”. You become agonisingly aware that if you happen to find the key to open your creative door, then it will need to be shut again within a short period of time to meet the external family demands.
A more subtle cause of writer’s block can be related to your organisational skills. The writer’s block is a condition in which your mind is paralysed, unable to manage a complex task with diplomacy and ease. Therefore, some of the causes that breed the writer’s block can be your unrealistic management of tasks. You can be having too many irons in the fire, trying to handle different and unrelated tasks at the same time, for instance, trying to write while using social media and then over-planning the future. In addition to this, you may have made the environment in which you write too distracting. Constant stimulus from the outside world answering trivial emails for example not only decreases your focus and productivity but also drives you toward procrastination. When faced with frustration, responding to the email waiting in your inbox can seem like a temporary honourable achievement. Meanwhile, the available writing slot is getting shorter!
The approach that you use in organising your work is also extremely critical to the rate of your productivity. A lack of realism when dividing your time and work tasks, writing your draft and finding the suitable ideas for your piece ultimately decides how much you will be able to complete. The general cause for this mismanagement is being a perfectionist in the handling of your projects.
Lastly, a common cause that produces a writer’s block is the awareness of pressure to meet creative demands in your day-to-day life. You are probably familiar with the feeling of frustration as soon as you face a blank screen. It can be accompanied by a fear of failure and associated financial worries. This constant anxiety takes you further away from the creative control that you seek. It impedes you from writing imaginatively and stifles your confidence. As your anxiety levels increase, it affects your level of concentration and ability to recall information. Without these valuable internal resources, you are almost guaranteed to have a writer’s block
How is the condition diagnosed?
A writer’s block does not need an expert to diagnose your condition since it is a subjectively recognised. Its presence is likely to be detected as you fail to produce any acceptable content after trying for hours or even days. You may not want to acknowledge to your peers that you have writer’s block as it could define your failing. Instead you persist with “trying” in the hope that some miracle will surface and rescue you from your helplessness. For how long you struggle in denial is your own subjective boundary to establish. Once admitted however, it may then release you from your chains and allow you to recover. You are free to admit that you have the condition and invite others to empathise with your plight.
Major Common Symptoms:
A writer’s block has distinct symptoms that can intervene at all stages of your writing work. Recognizing them will help you understand the severity of your writer’s block and what lifestyle areas you can focus on to release it.
One major symptom you are likely to experience during a writer’s block is a gripping feeling of brain fog. This state reduces your ability to concentrate or think creatively. It is a mental state where your vision is severely limited by the “fog” and as a consequence, you form very poor writing scenarios. When you are experiencing this brain fog, you will find it very hard to write coherently or follow the plot line that you initially decided.
Another common symptom of writer’s block is that of defenceless distraction. You have gone to endless trouble to prepare your ideal creative mood. You sit there poised with the keyboard on your desk and screen in front of you. But instead of progressing with your ideas, the slightest noise or physical imperfection leads you astray. Then your own thoughts send you on another diversion that achieves everything else but the writing task. Irrelevant ideas and activities fill your time until you leave your work-station infuriated and in need of a break; only to return refreshed and ready to start the whole bewildering process off again.
Another symptom that typifies writer’s block is the absence of inspiration. You have a reservoir of ideas and scenarios listed in your journal, but you seem to return back to your starting point with no substance in which your ideas can flow. As you rebound from one meaningless idea to another, your mind gradually becomes disinterested and fatigued. You long to recapture the good old days when resourceful and inventive ideas would spark your creative engine. Your growing apathy depresses you, knowing that there is a world of unceasing ideas that surrounds you. Somehow you just can’t connect with them.
Frustration and anger filter through all of these common writer’s block symptoms. These emotions have secured themselves to the whole process of your writing. You grow more helpless and irritated as you type each sentence. You review the meaningless content on completion, delete it and then churn out another sentence in the hope of a revelation.
Whether writing as a hobby, occupation, or ambition, the symptom of frustration will question your desire to pursue any of them further. As it takes over, it can penetrate into the deeper essence of your creativity. In the end, these and many other psychological symptoms can make the condition of writer’s block a torturous suffering for any creative soul.
Given the serious symptoms that a writer’s block can create, being ready and motivated to subdue its grasp on your creativity should be paramount to ensure your longevity. But like most situations where there are multiple demands, the strategies that prevent a writer’s block (the worst case scenario) may only be heeded after it has struck. Only then does it serve as that “wake up call” that can ensure you apply a balanced approach to your writing and give attention to yourself.
The nature of the writer’s block is not beyond your conscious understanding. You probably know exactly what causes it and maintains it, and in light of these, you can arm yourself with the following techniques and treatments to manage it.
Initially, address the poor lifestyle issues that have become a reflection of your struggle. It may seem to be ignoring the primary issue (your need to produce written material), but your mind and body needs nourishment (healthy eating) and recuperative sleep in order to be creative again.
Then, take an objective look at your writing approach. Analyse your organisation plan that formulates your writing process. What are the measures that you go through in every writing project? Usually, by having a schedule, brainstorming and using outlines for writing drafts, you will guide yourself right back into the heart of productivity. In the same vein, eliminate distractions where possible and improve your work environment to cut out many sources of procrastination.
In order to drive your mind out of the mental inertia, you can provoke your mind by reading an interesting book. Reading can entirely influence your thinking and ideas. One of its benefits is its effectiveness in placing you back in an imaginative and creative mindset.
Additionally, you can flush out your physical tension with a refreshing brisk walk around your local area. Physical activity forces deeper breathing techniques that can clear your mind of clutter.
Once you are back home and ready to write, focus on one more effective treatment: humility. Perfectionism is a paralysing thinking habit. Be prepared to tolerate the first mediocre paragraphs, the recurring incoherent ideas in the draft and the holes in your plots. They are a necessary human component of any writing project. In other words, be more realistic about the imperfections in your work as they are; it is only when writing them that you can discover them and weed them out.
How can hypnotherapy treat writer’s block?
If you are struggling with your self help strategies and are no longer responsive to your peer support, decide on a timescale in which you will seek professional external help. Someone who is objective to your situation can identify solutions that are limited by your own perspective. Hypnotherapy offers a number of solutions at different levels.
Fortunately, writers, like just about all other creative professionals who use their imagination in their skill are highly responsive to hypnosis. You can experience rapid changes from the implementation of hypnotherapeutic techniques.
Hypnotherapy can reduce your stress and anxiety symptoms
Stress and anxiety symptom reduction is an integral part of your hypnosis treatment. You will feel more relaxed about your condition and the way that it is affecting you. Detaching these symptoms will help you feel less affected by it. You can then objectively focus into your block with potential solutions.
Hypnotherapy will help you deal with your lifestyle issues
The negative lifestyle habits that have accumulated due to your writer’s block like eating habits, poor sleeping patterns and lack of exercise will be examined with suggestions to address them. Some of these habits (like smoking and habitual drinking) and major lifestyle changes (like bereavements and relationship changes) can be treated specifically where they seem to be having a direct negative impact on your creativity.
Hypnotherapy will analyse your work situation and working methods
Some work situations and working methods are counter-productive to your creativity; they serve to distract you rather than stimulate you. You may be helplessly and habitually clinging to them believing that they benefit you when, in reality, they stifle your creative potential. Some work situations need a deeper acceptance and humility that can be accessed and boosted in a therapeutic treatment. This can ensure that you continue to be inspired by your talents without being envious of others.
Hypnotherapy will identify your emotional blocks and negative traits
If you don’t already know which negative emotions and traits are exacerbating your writer’s block, your hypnotherapy treatment will be instrumental in identifying them. If you already know what they are, hypnotherapy can help create strategies to reduce their intensity.
Hypnotherapy will re-establish your creative zone
As your negative psychological structures are flagged and then demolished, the aim is to reposition the good structures and create new ones that will redefine your creative zone for writing. This rebuilding process will lift your stress, depression and anxiety. It will also boost your self esteem, placing you back within your core self definitions as a writer.
Hypnotherapy will help you practise self hypnosis
Your continued practise of self hypnosis will keep your creative writing zone active and ensure your longevity. It will also help you to be mindful of internal and external changes that affect your creative zone. It is continuously evolving throughout your career, even with positive experiences and it needs to be resilient to withstand these changes. Learning and practising self hypnosis is an essential part of your hypnotherapy treatment.
Writer’s block conclusion
The writer’s block is a “roadblock” that every writer has to face in any process of writing. When its effects are troubling you, you can be reminded that most writers have already wrestled with them and come through them successfully. In other words, this condition is not a quality of poor writing skills. Instead, it is a symptom of many of the ill-made conditions under which you formulate your creative work. In knowing the causes which produce this condition, you can begin to be more conscious of your bad habits and poor lifestyle choices that surround this creative pursuit. As you improve your lifestyle and habits with reference to the treatments already shared, your mind will once again climb to its maximised creative performance.
For further information on how to overcome your writer’s block, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff.
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