Breaking Out of a Writer's Block

I have never had a problem with not being able to write; it is with writing for a broad readership that I have a problem. In the blogger’s world, one has to be able to write for a wide cross section of readers, and to be able to do this without compromising on your style, your message and your values is sometimes very, very difficult. My mentor always reminds me that my chosen place of work is a place for forging my character and growing as a human being. By extension, therefore, it is a place for my spiritual practice, a place for practicing and deepening my faith. When I view things from this angle, all my complaints disappear. No one is more pathetic than someone who is constantly complaining. My chosen place of work is at my writing desk, and this morning, all I have been doing is complaining.

This morning has been all about the writer’s block, where nothing I write seems to read properly, leave alone read well. Of course, this is not a new thing for me, since the most common responses I get to my writing is. “what were you trying to say?” After two failed attempts at writing about something that has been on my mind for a while, the role of education in creating a value based society, I gave up and headed over to my favorite scratching post when stuck for inspiration, the Daily Blog Tips site. I ran a search for writers block and found a host of really good articles. I realized that I was not alone, and that this was something I was perhaps best qualified at this point in time to write about. 

Here are my top tips to get yourself out of a writers block. Try them out and let me know how they worked for you in the comments thread.

1. Purpose
I remember the time I first made a decision to make writing the main tool of my work. Whether you are writing company reports at your job, writing bawdy copy for Dora underwear, or writing the next Joycean novel, you will remember the energy and excitement of the moment when you first made that decision to take up writing because of how it made you feel, seeing your thoughts turn into pretty text on your screen. Try and recapture that magical moment. Often, as we writers and bloggers settle into the routine of professional writing, that magic disappears in a maze of drafts and revisions, bills that have to be paid, unkind editors who do not understand your language and style, and dishes that you forget to take off the oven in time as you look at the growing volumes of I-am-sorry emails from publishers. Link back to how you felt in the early days, when you were still telling everyone about your decision to take up writing as your chosen path, a decision that you knew you would never turn your back on. Draw on that energy to enthuse you into writing something equally magical.

2. Passion
When you start out writing as professional, one truth that will hit you hard is that everyone is not interested in reading what you really feel passionate writing about. You will find yourself having to consider writing about things that don’t exactly turn you on. Turn this challenge into an opportunity to develop your skills. Things that don’t excite you can be a springboard for your creativity and skill. Even so called negative feelings like disapproval can become motivators to turn out excellent writing. Consider the use of satire or humor to write about things that you are not passionate about. Passion can be applied to technique just as easily as it can be to subject matter. At the same time, when faced with a writers block, ask yourself what you feel most strongly about, and write about it. The process of restoring flow to your writing can be the foundation that will let you build up on writing about things that you are not so passionate about.

3. Rhythm
All great writers have emphasized the aspect of rhythm when talking about their writing styles. Find out what your personal rhythm is. Do you create your best work early in the morning? Late at night? Do you write best in long stretches? Are you more comfortable with letting your thoughts flow and then revise your work? Do you prefer writing a few paragraphs and then letting it stand, coming back and resuming your work after a break? This is the concept of using rhythm as an ally, identifying your ally time and your enemy time. If your situation is such that you don’t have a choice about when you write, do your routine writing work during your enemy times and your passionate work during ally times. 

4. Insight
The life of a writer is a lonely journey, and no one but you will ever know the extent of that loneliness. Become aware of your weaknesses. Go through your own writing with a magnifying glass, as if you were going through a guest post submission for your own blog. Find ways that you can improve on it. My particular weakness is for using obscure references that have little relevance to anyone except myself. Being aware of your weakness can turn into one of your greatest strengths.

5. Confidence
The task of building up readership is not one that can be accomplished overnight. It takes perseverance and patience. As you build up your body of work, try and identify your strengths. The world of online writing and blogging allows you to exercise your strengths over and over without appearing repetitive. When you are faced with a writers block, look back at your journey and see your literary strengths in perspective. The fact that you are reading this is an affirmation of the strength of your determination. Capitalize on it. 

For the truly committed writer, writing is neither a career, nor a hobby, but a way of life, a way of life that can sometimes be frustrating and appear as being filled with obstacles. The one thing that is common to most great writers is their sheer stubbornness in persisting with their chosen path. The one characteristic that all great writers of all times share is that of diligence. If you are feeling dead-ended, don’t worry, even the greatest of writers has had to go through this. It is their commitment to keep writing, no matter what, that made them what they went on to become. 

When I started writing this post, I did not think I had anything of consequence to write about, but I stuck to the desk, and kept at it, till my keyboard had gleaned what (but not all) it could from my teeming brain. You too can overcome your writers block by putting into action some of the tips I have put together here. Let me know your tips and your experience in the comments.

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  1. Perhaps a slight shift from this "genius writer struggling to find intelligent readership" approach to a more honest one would erase this condescending tone. Let some of the hot air out,man. All this - "a place for my spiritual practice, a place for practicing and deepening my faith", "All great writers", "The life of a writer is a lonely journey", "the truly committed writer", "writing is....a way of life", "great writers of all times", "the greatest of writers" - makes you sound like a sophomoric caricature auteur. The only line that reads honest is "When I started writing this post, I did not think I had anything of consequence to write about." You still don't, my dear Ozymandias. Nobody does. If you are really trying to write "things of consequence" then your disillusionment, as they say, has a long way to go before being complete. P.S. - A singer with a throat infection wouldn't sing for a few days. Why would a writer with writer's block feel this compulsion to produce writings nonetheless?

  2. Three reasons that I let that comment go through. First, to let readers decide about the condescending tone, and second, because at some level, I agree with you. The truth is that it is extremely difficult to find a balance between serious creative writing and writing for the internet. People who read on the internet are not necessarily in search of the next Addison.

    The third reason is because you are so unbearably lovable. You really should set out writing too.

    PS: Happy Birthday, Old Man!

  3. It was interesting reading and also the comment of Rahul and your reply . I am no writer ,not even an aspiring one .But I have lived with a writer for almost 50 years and observed him very closely . Everyday he sits at his table first thing in the morning ,even before his tea or news paper . he writes even if it is a letter to a friend .Incidentally He is one of the few people i know who regularly writes letter s to his friends and acquaintance. watching him i have come to the conclusion that writing is not always inspiration and passion . Much of it is discipline too. To me however writing is a pleasure and a conversation with self .

  4. These tips are really nice. And I agree so much with mom above. Writing is more discipline than inspiration. If I waited for the masterpiece every time, I wouldn't have much work done at all. Consistent mediocre steps lead the path to excellence.

    1. true, juggler. one of my greatest source of inspiration for my own work, and perhaps to some extent this post too, is the writers at work series by the paris review. you will find it here

      i think you will like it.

  5. Hello Subhorup,
    Hope you are doing good..Thanks a lot for your message.Happy to hear from you.We were on travelling all these days so can not be connected with blogging and all..Will be back soon with my updates..:-)
    Thanks and regards,


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