A writer once said that writing to him was like securing an impenetrable dome during an avalanche. He went further to describe how he felt as if his writing was a monster free cradle, his haven. He had experienced a rough childhood and since he eerily lacked an imaginary friend to share his mishaps, he learnt how to rely on paper and ink. When writing he blurred the gore around him by immersing himself in characters that were valiant and intelligent. Hours later the police would pound on their door and ask to interview him. He would just stare at them blankly and the police would eventually give up and take their leave. Thereafter, his father would treat him to ice cream and “froyo” saying that his son was no tattle tale, that he had sloughed his cowardly ways. The drug lord would look at his son with utter admiration while the son silently appreciated his pen and paper. Not only did he feel gusto searing his veins as he created brave characters but he himself also got a chance to be gallant in the real world. Before he discovered writing, his father would throttle and beat him as a warning every time they caught wind of police planning a burst on their operations. In other words, writing salvaged his life.
This same principle applies to writers everywhere. Different writers have different reasons for having a volcanic urge to pour their souls on paper. Whether the writer specifies in lyrics or bars or scripts or short stories or poetry or novellas; the reasons are almost always the same. They want to communicate, they want to breathe, they want to be happy, they want to feel alive.
While it might appear fairly simple, writing at times can be compared to trying to walk in sliding mud. Yes, that hard. You can spend months trying to finish a five worded sentence. Sounds easy right? Five words? Jumbling up words so as to create a sentence that will compel a reader from the word go? Not so easy now huh?
Writer’s block is a well known cancerous disease amidst the writing community. Once you acquire it, this disease gnaws your insides, threatening to squeeze the life out of you. You begin pulling your hair whenever you are in front of your computer or tearing page after page if you are using a book. Soon after you begin mimicking a basketball commentator as you shoot one worded crumpled pages into your waste basket. Then you run out of paper balls and fall into an abyss of depression.
As bad as it sounds, writer’s block is unfortunately a regular occurrence. So are there any cures for this form of cancer? Fortunately, yes.
Here are 5 tips that will save you from seeing how bad you actually are at paper basketball.
One of the mistakes writers do is that once they have been ensnared by writer’s block they tend to have a short fuse when it comes to perseverance. You write a single line, bite your lip, shake your head and long press the backspace button or rip the page into smithereens. If you keep doing that you will never move past one sentence.
What you need to do is to keep writing. Is your work a bucket of farts? Yes. Would your audience roll their eyes or plunge forks in them once they read it? Sure. Can a baby write better than you? Of course. Stop worrying about the quality and focus on the quantity. Break the dry trance by writing nonsensical disjointed concepts in your book or on your computer. Just write.
You will be surprised when you read your work later and actually find inspiration in what you referred to as rubbish. You wind up writing an extraordinary piece despite your earlier lack of creativity. Seizing to write altogether will prolong your residence in the abyss that is writer’s block. It’s time to move out.
I once watched a friend of mine have an intense eye contest with a bark of a tree. Minutes later, she whirled around and made a beeline for her laptop. I asked her what was going on and she responded by mumbling something along the lines of, “I found inspiration for my short story.” I flitted my eyes back to the bark of the tree. After a half an hour of squinting and cocking my head, I stood up and left. I was beyond aggravated and to be honest a bit jealous. Why wouldn’t the bark also give me inspiration? What could I have possibly done to have it treat me that way?
Writers find inspiration from different situations or even objects. I mean Nyashinski wrote “marathon runner” after Kipchoge conquered the world through his feet and there are short stories dedicated to mundane things such as pebbles, rivers, bananas, iron etc.
When experiencing writer’s block, these sources of inspiration evacuate and board space shuttles to Mars. You rack your brain for something to write about but nothing surfaces. When you are in this situation, where you feel nothing is initiating that familiar zing of creativity, then you need to actively seek for inspiration.
This translates to you shutting down your computer or closing your book and shelving them until you find a spark. Read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk, go for a hangout, travel, attend a book read or a gallery event or a concert or a poetry slam, talk to another writer, listen to music; actively seek inspiration. During all of this you can be whipping out your notebook and jolting down things that you find intriguing. Trust me, even if you don’t use these scattered ideas on your next project, they tend to come in handy in future pieces.
Writer’s block exerts pressure in your mind. It pitches a tent on the creative side of your brain and settles there. In order to chase it away, you need to get out of your own head and encounter something different and you can’t do this while staring at your computer or book.
Build your bulk
So you have reeled in a potential source of inspiration and have written bogus words stemming from this potential inspiration. Now you are at a stage where you need to make it a masterpiece.
The key in tweaking your draft in order to produce extraordinary art is by pooling content from varied sources. This is where previous iconic works come in handy. See how they whipped up phenomenal pieces. Analyze these works and see how you can achieve similar results without poaching from your icons.
Bulk can also be gotten from watching news, documentaries or films depending on your writing.
Always remember to never adopt the voice of the writer from whom you are siphoning content from. You are learning not copying.
Short term goals
Procrastination is an epidemic among students. The words, “I will do the assignment tomorrow,” are always on the tip of their tongues. This same principle applies to writers.
During the writer’s block phase, writing doesn’t seem fun anymore. It becomes a chore, something that makes you snarl each time you think about doing it. Because of this, you keep on procrastinating when to write.
In order to overcome this, you need to set stringent short term goals. Make them feasible so that you don’t wind up feeling even more depressed when you fail to accomplish them.
You can perhaps set a goal of writing 100 words per day. Then you can progress from there. Your mind will soon adopt this habit and viola, you will find yourself typing away on your computer or scribbling enthusiastically on your book within no time.
If you are having difficulties keeping this goal, bring in someone who will ensure you execute this goal.
Find your writing groove
You know that voice in your head? That pesky voice that sounds just like you? That whiny voice that insists you can’t write? Yes, you need to snuff it.
Writer’s block inserts you with negative energy. You will always second guess whatever you write during this phase. This will slowly feed your frustration and sooner rather than later, you will end up long pressing the backspace button or tearing the page into pieces. Then the migraine will come pounding on your door and you will have no choice but to open the door. Generally, writer’s block will have you screaming into your pillow.
That is why it is important to find your groove. Do you listen to music as you write? Or do you prefer pin drop silence? Are you a morning or an evening or a witchy hour sort of writer? Do you like an immaculate environ when you write or a messy surrounding? Find your groove, something that will keep you relaxed and comfortable during the whole experience.
This way even when frustration kicks in, you don’t blow the gasket and abandon writing altogether. You simply shoot your paper ball into the basket, sip your coffee and start writing again.
Overcoming writer’s block isn’t easy. You can go for months without writing anything substantial. What you need to remember is that lacking the zeal or inspiration to write does not make you any less of a writer. If you feel that negative chi sipping through your veins, read your previous works and people’s comments about them. This will considerably lift your spirits.
You can still create, the gift is embedded in you. Stop beating yourself up and fight to plummet through your writer’s block. Take it one word at a time.
In case you are wondering, the drug lord from the introduction was eventually arrested. No, the writer had nothing to do with it but his father did serve as an inspiration to his many and I mean many stories.