Most of us have gone through the situation where we have to write a piece of the article at work or complete an assignment at college, but fail to do so because we do not know how to start or where to start from. Sometimes we have a great start in writing but get stuck at one point because our creativity fails us to carry our work further. This condition is called “Scriptoplegia” and commonly known as Writer’s block.
This concept originated in the early 19th century when the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge put forward his fear of not being able to produce a writing worthy of his level. (Reynolds, 2015) Writer’s block is a state where the writers cannot start a piece of writing or unable to write any further. People who are more comfortable with numbers than with words are especially vulnerable to this condition. (Stone, 1992) Even the most experienced writers face writer’s block.
According to a Los Angeles therapist, most of her clients are a writer and 75% of them suffer from writer’s block (Krause, 1991). The writers usually freezes at a point when they keep thinking questions like “what should I write?”, “Will my teacher/boss like it or not?”, “what will readers think of me?” and so on ( (Stone, 1992). This will put a stop to the writer’s creativity when they focus on matters other than writing.
The symptoms of writer’s block may vary upon the different individual. One person may not be able to focus on his/her writing while the other has difficulty understanding the topic. Here are some of the symptoms of writer’s block: (Writer’s Block: Causes, Symptoms, & Cures, 2014)
Brain fog: Usually people use the term brain fog and writer’s block synonymously. It is a feeling of confusion, lack of focus, forgetfulness and mental clarity. (Alban, 2017)
Drawing a blank: It is a condition where we try to think but our brain completely shuts down and we can’t think of a word to forward our thoughts. This feels like we are in a staring competition with a blank board
Frustration: It is common to feel frustrated when we are trying to write but our mind does not support us. Especially when we have a deadline to meet, we become more frustrated and as a result, we become stressed which leads to an inability to write further.
Inability to focus: Some people get easily distracted even by the sound of birds chirping outside the window. The inability to focus makes our mind diverted to other interesting things and we cannot write on a topic.
The condition of writer’s block can be caused by a number of things. Some say that the author may not be creative enough, so the stress of writing something new lead to writer’s block. In other cases, lack of inspiration makes the writer feel bored to write on a particular topic. Let’s discuss some of the factors that cause writer’s block:
Lack of Interest: When we are not interested in the topic then it’s very difficult to write. For example, I have 0% interest in politics. Therefore, if I am given a topic on it, I will go blank and sit clueless with probably a hand to my head because I don’t care about it. Ignoring a topic because of lack of interest is not an option at work place In order to overcome this, we can ask for a view on the topic from the co-workers. If someone is really interested in the topic, we can ask for an interesting point in the boring topic.
Lack of information: At organizations, most of the employees face writer’s block due to the lack of information provided by their immediate supervisors. If the facts are missing, we can easily contact the concerned person and get the reports ready. In some cases, intensive research on the topic is required to gain insight and clear writer’s block. For example: If your supervisor asks you to prepare a report on “Due Diligence”, it is better to do research than asking for small details.
High expectation: When we have been performing well in the organization, then our boss expects us to do everything to the same standard. Some employees are good at handling but may not be good at writing reports. To meet the high expectation of boss, the employee feels pressure and goes blank. In order to overcome this cause, they can create and draft and review it by the co-worker. After reviewing and re-writing, the employee gains confidence in writing the next time. If the writing has to be done in a short period of time, he/she can follow the standard format for writing.
As the cause for the writer’s block is different for different people, so are the ways to overcome it. In some cases, we have the time to let the creativity come to us while in other time we have a deadline to meet. So in theses case, the following steps help us:
Step 1: Stop thinking about content:
We need to constantly remind ourselves that we do not write to develop content. The main purpose of our writing is to connect with the audience. We cannot connect with the writer if we have our focus on content only. So while writing, we should know our audience, analyze the needs of the audience and what attracts the audience to our writing.
Step 2: Feel someone else’s pain:
Whenever we writing a piece and get stuck, one way to come out of writer’s block is to relate with the problems of the audience. For Example: If I am writing an article about “Ways to motivate your Employees” then I think about the practices that would reduce the problems at the workplace and motivate my audiences as an employee.
Step 3: Swing with what you’ve got
At this point of writing, we know our audience and have some idea about what we should be writing to address the needs of the audience. The challenge some writer face at this point is that they feel they do not have anything good to present. As the proverb goes “Something is better than nothing” (Simpson & Speake, 2008), it is better to present the matters we have then, not presenting at all. Even if we think the writing does not contribute much, it gives us the confidence to move ahead in writing.
Step 4: Give it a simple framework
Up to this step, we have determined our audience, their needs and gained the confidence to write. Now, the next step is to provide a framework for the writing. Most people feel it is necessary to make the writing complex to match their level of education. The simple framework helps the reader to understand the concept clearly.
Step 5: Let it go
We continuously strive to make our writing a work of perfection. There can always be the better form of writing as editing is always an option. So once the writing gets in the “acceptable zone”, we should just send it and break the cycle of endless editing.
Writer’s Block is the condition where we are not able to express our views on a certain topic or our mind goes blank and we cannot write any further. Even the experienced writer goes through this when they are writing on a certain topic. There are various factors that contribute to this mental paralysis such as lack of motivation, lack of information, high expectation and especially when we have to meet a deadline. This is a common state that everyone faces at the workplace. So, in order to help writers get out of this situation, certain series of steps of steps has been mentioned which proves to be really helpful. By following these steps every time we come across writer’s block, we will be able to tackle writer’s block and write effectively.