Do you know what is even more frustrating than a writer’s block?
Having to write about overcoming a writer’s block while chronically suffering from one! Talk about a double challenge!
I wonder if there are other types of blocks, like a lawyer’s block or an engineer’s block! Do they lock themselves up every couple of weeks because they suddenly feel they have forgotten how to do their job? I don’t think so! It is just us artists who find ourselves clueless at times because inspiration is not something we learn, teach or possess. It is like rain… a blessed gift that falls upon us from up above, and makes our ideas bloom and flourish like beautifully colored and scented flowers. And when we are blocked, our minds and hearts endure a dull drought; where words evaporate and we literally hear our brains crack!
People think writers live in dream world. And to be honest, they kind of do. Writers create characters that do not exist and fly you to magical places while still cuddled on the couch. They will be engaged in a serious conversation and suddenly mute to stare into space and jot down an idea. I must admit we are strange people! Nothing else exists when the art of writing does, and yes, our imagination fuels our existence. Until you hear the crash sound of a dream world hit by reality… that is the signature sound of a writer’s block, and it comes in three excruciatingly mind-numbing tones!
Fear: Writers do not write when they are scared!
I remember submitting my first article for publishing while being held at gunpoint! If it were not for my best friend pushing and encouraging and emotionally blackmailing me to do it, I would not be here today writing about how to write when you cannot write! Truth is, I was scared. And you would think the fear would subside with experience, but no, it does not. The more you succeed, the more you are praised for your work, the more scared you will become.
The writer’s block is the huge gap of reality you have to cross to get to your next dream. And before every leap of faith, there is the classic question: ‘What if it’s not good enough?’ In our daydreams, our words have super powers. We would be washing the dishes or driving or doing some other mundane job, with a silly grin on our faces because the stories and ideas in our heads are so good! But faced with a blank screen and a looming deadline, fear and a cold cup of coffee are all we have. We are scared of being judged, even if we are writing a piece called ’10 Reasons Why We Must Not Judge.’ We are scared of disappointing or boring or even misleading our readers! We rob ourselves of our own creativity because we are terrified of failing! The voices in our heads say ‘You can’t do it!’, so we pause or give in and call it a writer’s block! That is pretty much the gist of it (Raise your cold cup of coffee if you agree!)
Arrogance: Writers go down when their egos go up
Eventually, you start getting comfortable with the idea of going public. Other people read your work and you smile proudly when they look at you with awe.
“Did you really write this?” they gasp.
“Ah-ha” you smirk with confidence.
And then BAM! Your next piece is a total fail: you are thinking strangers will throw tomatoes at you the next time you step outside of your house! Or the more probable and realistic option is you will be hit with a wave of the ultimate writer’s block that could qualify you to be featured in the Guinness Book of Records. I remember one time I did a notorious smirk! One of my pieces went viral and fried the website’s routers! Not only was I slammed and criticized into oblivion, not too long after that, I also suffered from a writer’s block for seven whole months. My imaginary friends stopped talking to me and I could not type one single word. I think I almost forgot the alphabets!
I stared at the ceiling for weeks, wondering where my inspiration came from. I read all kinds of books, ransacked my brain for ideas, went for walks, and the whole shebang! But still nothing! Complete and total blockage! But now when I think of it, I am truly grateful to Allah for the humbling experience. It made me realize that talent is a gift that can easily be taken away. My mom’s words still ring in my ears:
“It is not you who inspires others. It is not your creativity that makes the words flow gracefully. It is Allah’s Power. He inspires you to write only what He allows you to write. He puts the thoughts in your head and sends out the message to whom He wills. He is the One who lets your words touch hearts or make an impact on lives. It is all Him , not you…”
Confusion: Writers do not get it right when they write for the wrong reason
If your heart is not pounding with every word then you are probably writing about the wrong subject and you will hit the inevitable block somewhere along the road. Without passion, you will stop cold! It is the eagerness to deliver a message that compels you to get all the facts, do your research and gather all the relevant data to write up a piece. But the artist in you needs intense and genuine emotions to paint the colors of your voice.
You cannot write for people if you do not communicate or listen with compassion. Raw talent speaks a language of its own and awakens those buried emotions that make us feel alive again. It all depends on your intentions. What are you hoping to achieve? Anyone can list facts or jot down answers from an interview, but only a true writer knows words have the power to change worlds. One genuine piece can restore faith, or delete doubts or motivate others to open a new door. Some writers might roar and fabricate their info to prove a point, and others will journey with the readers to beautiful destinations. They will not tell them what to think, but they will surely show them how they feel.
“The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”
Now I can wrap up by giving you the textbook advice to overcome a writer’s block. Actually, let me do that since it does work for many people.
- You cannot edit a blank document. Write! Keep writing till you finally get it right.
Start with scribbling down what you want to tell, just some words or phrases or you can even try a mind map.
- The rule for our profession is ‘There are NO rules!’ So start with your conclusion if you must and work your way upwards.
Use the voice of a wise fish watching the world from an aquarium or an alien, visiting planet Earth to learn about Islam. Colors can have sounds and trees can have multiple personality disorders. Find your inner child and discover life from a different, creative perspective.
- Remember your Five W’s and an H:
Who are you addressing?
What crucial message are you portraying and in what way does it enlighten others?
When did the events you mentioned take place and when will your readers feel the light?
Where did you get your information from?
Why did you write this piece?
How can we all benefit from it?
- Drink lots of water, go for long walks, take time to brainstorm, mute electronic devices and keep a little notebook with you at all times for impromptu ideas (There! I said it. In case anyone asks!)
But if you have tried everything and still feel the air of nothingness clouding your brain, then just do what I do:
Look at the bigger picture and understand the wisdom behind it. The word ‘inspire’ in the Holy Qur’an is attributed to Allah more than 70 times. He is the One who makes you laugh and cry. He is the One who opens hearts and elevates you with spiritual power and inspiration. And our beloved Prophet gave us the answers when he said,
“Sometimes I perceive a veil over my heart, and I supplicate Allah for forgiveness a hundred times a day!” [Muslim]
So when you are in dire need to create, supplicate! Go help someone in need in hope to please your Creator.
Pray on time, be prepared, put the effort, keep it real and show up for your job! And then close your eyes, smile and wait for it…
He gave you the seed of talent, and He will bring down the rain of inspiration to water it when He wills. Just have faith and say ‘Bism Allah’
Have you ever been on the edge of this precipice, with no way out but to jump ahead either to get wings or to find a cushioned surface for a safe landing or to just free fall endlessly? What are your tips for overcoming writer’s block? Please share with us in comments.
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