The key to successfully battling writer’s block lies in your courage to write badly and to write authentically. This is difficult for writers who struggle with perfectionism.
You see, writer’s block is not a lack of ideas, but actually a fear of writing.
Two primary branches of the fear cause writer’s block: fear of not meeting our own standards, and the fear of rejection from others.
Fear of Not Meeting Our Own Standards
Dara Girard, author of The Writer Behind the Words, says that when we have trouble writing, we should just write any way.
Many writers think they’re writer’s block is a lack of interesting subjects to write about. They toss out topic after topic because it’s not the “perfect” topic. Their writer’s block is really a case of perfectionism.
They’re paralyzed by the potential flaws in every idea. They stare at a blank page for hours waiting to come up with the “perfect” opening.
Occasionally they come up with an idea that’s so perfect, they’re afraid they can’t do it justice. They’re overwhelmed by the “perfection” of the idea with the relative “imperfection” of their writing.
For defeating this perfectionist’s writer’s block, the courageous approach is to write a rough draft that’s supposed to be rough and imperfect. Rather than endlessly watching the cursor blink on the page, remind yourself that writing is 90% revision.
A finished product is merely a tenth of all the work that’s been done.
When you realize that whatever you initially put on paper is supposed to be revised, you’re less afraid to just go with it.
Fear of Rejection from Others
This branch of fear has two stems.
Writers might fear criticism about their writing skill.
One tool to break down this wall is to tell yourself that your skill can only improve if your write. If your approach is to wait until you’re a highly skilled writer before you write anything, then you will never write anything, and you will never become highly skilled.
A second coping mechanism is to read rejection letters sent to legendary writers. Earnest Hemingway was once told that it would be “extremely rotten taste” and “horribly cruel” to publish his writing. You can find more rejections of famous writers online.
The second stem comes from the fear of revealing your authentic self to the world which is liable to think and say anything. We fear vulnerability.
If you’re supposed to be writing a piece that gets a little personal, you may feel blocked because you’re anxious about revealing anything about yourself.
This might require the greatest degree of courage to overcome.
A few tips that might encourage you in this situation:
• Remember that mean critics will strike no matter what you do or write.
• Determine how much value might be added if you include the personal content, and how much value could be lost if you delete the personal content. Weigh the pros and cons as objectively as possible, and make your decision from that. (Even with the “objective” data, it will take courage to include the personal content. The exercise won’t remove the fear, but it will give you motivation to act despite the fear.)
• Visualize one reader (real or imagined) who needs to hear your story. When I decided to blog about a topic I’d never expressed to anyone, not even my closest relatives, I was moved to write for others who needed encouragement.
Whether it’s insecurities about your skills or fear of scrutiny, it all boils down to this: Have the courage to write, no matter what.
Agree or disagree? How do you deal with writer's block?