by Leigh Holland
What is it?
Whenever we sit down to start writing, we find ourselves staring at a blank page.
Sometimes, nothing happens. The fingers may touch the keys, possibly even tap out a word or five, but jab the backspace key repeatedly. In short, it’s the inability to write when you want to write.
If I drink lots of coffee, will that help?
Some folks say it does, but science says the most likely outcome is that you’ll be wired, tired, and even less able to write.
What could be causing this?
Many possible causes exist. Some of them are:
- Exhaustion. Get some sleep!
- Lack of passion for the topic you’re writing about. Switch to writing about a topic you care deeply about to get the juices flowing. Alternately, set goal posts and rewards you’ll treat yourself to for reaching them.
- Lack of knowledge on the topic you’re writing about. Research can help.
- You just don’t feel like it. That’s fine- do something new.
- Depression. Seek help as soon as possible.
- Anxiety over wondering if your writing is good enough. The cure for this is easier said than done. Your first draft of anything you write will be terrible. Let it go. Write the terrible thing first, so you can come back to it later and improve it.
- Analysis Paralysis occurs when we go back over the earlier parts of the writing before completing the initial draft. This slows down your writing and puts you in ‘editor’ mode rather than ‘writer’ mode.
- Stress. Walk away from the desk. Do something that relaxes you for a couple of hours. Come back only after you feel less tense.
Let’s talk a bit about:
Where the Muse Lives
Creativity is the activity of the brain in which we manipulate and generate ideas, symbols, and images. For decades, scientists have told us that the left-brain commands logic while the right brain is responsible for the creative impulse. Researchers at Dartmouth College have discovered recently that there are eleven areas of the brain in all four hemispheres that work together to create the “mental workspace” of our imaginations.
How can I turn my creativity switch on?
There is no single switch. Creativity involves a vast neural network. However, it can only manipulate what it knows to generate new combinations and ideas. Here are some ways to expand on your creativity.
Since you can generate new ideas by fusing together or tearing apart what you already know- what’s in the toolbox- take yourself out and add new experiences to your toolbox. Often, this can give you that “Aha!” moment you’re looking for.
Examine Past Experiences
By thinking back on your past, you may be able to remember something a different way, or with added detail. This exercise can often generate ideas for stories and characters. Additionally, you gain the benefit of strengthening your neural networks and memory center.
Try Mind Mapping
Get a blank piece of paper (with writer’s block, that’s all you have). Write the central topic in the center. For example, let’s say you want to write a romance, but have no ideas. Write ‘Romance” at the center and circle it.
Next, draw four branches in opposing directions away from the central idea. Start writing the words there that your brain starts dropping to you. For example, mine were “highlander”, “reluctant spy”, “family feud”, and “bigger fish”.
Continue to expand out. (When I did that, I came up with King Edmund of England blackmailing Rose Howard-MacDuff into spying on the Highlander Clan Chief. Naturally, she thinks he’s hot and feels horrible guilt at spying on her distant kinsman. Meanwhile, they’re fighting a clan war with Clan MacGregor).