Part of the reason why I took down my previous website AndBeThere, which had hundreds of thousand of readers, is because I suffered a terrible writer’s block. Fortunately this appears to be over.
I went from twenty thousand plus words a month to virtually zero in a short space of time. Trying to break this writing block has been an interesting experience for me. It has made me realise that sometimes life is not about efficiency, it’s simply about living, and that time often solves problems by itself.
Today’s essay is about how I found my own cure for writer’s block.
Perhaps I needed time to live, and that’s why I have not been writing. I definitely have had the time to write, right now I work half days, I earn decent money, so there is no reason why I shouldn’t spend time writing, but it just hasn’t felt right.
Trusting that gut feeling is also a lesson worth learning. Learning not to force things that don’t feel natural is another.
I think it is easy to miss the lessons that life teaches us when the mistakes are not so obvious and glaring, but the amazing thing in life is that there is no bad result, only experimentation.
So, if like me, you’ve had a writers block. Well, that is a result. You’ve learnt that under your current conditions you are not able to write. You can apply this to everything.
Life is one grand experiment. There are no right or wrong choices, just results. That’s why I urge to to “just do it”. Try it out, whatever it is, and see what happens. Learn from failures, learn from experiments, and even learn when nothing seems to be happening.
Remember, no result is a result.
So I have decided to just start writing again, and publish at least once a week, no matter what. Habits are hard to break, and everything in life is a habit.
Yes, not taking drugs is a habit. Not doing is as much a habit as doing.
So my hope now is to be able to return to my old ways and have new, quality original content posted on a regular schedule. I probably won’t go back to two 2,500 word essays a week like before, but I will try and build up to it.
It has been quite motivating building and launching this new site, and seeing plenty of traffic even in it’s first week, so I think that will help me continue to develop it.
Now, what are some tactics to breaking writer’s block?
1. If you can’t write, think.
Just to be clear, you should always be thinking! It shouldn’t be something that you turn on and off.
So when you’re thinking, just think about the amazing things you want to write in the future. Create lists of titles, ideas, quotes, opinions, topics, and little drafts that will inspire you in the future, when you’ve got over your writer’s block.
I’ve ended up with 143 draft essays in this period where I have hardly published on AndBeThere.com. All in all, that probably amounts to tens of thousands of words. Most of it probably dribble, but that’s not the important, it means that I now have a huge amount of material to start working on.
2. Read all your old work.
I re-read all the essays on AndBeThere.com – that’s over 175,000 words of content, and then started selectively publishing it slowly on here. Currently I’ve got around 80,000 words of content here.
This has a dual fold purpose:
Firstly, it allowed me to check the quality of all my previous work, and slightly modify some aspects of some essays. Mostly it was changing sentences due to bad grammar and/or typos. Occasionally there was also a logical hole in an argument which needed to be fixed.
Secondly, I began to slowly get ideas about what to write next, or follow up essays based on previous essays. There were also a few series of essays that I have yet to finish.
Also, it was actually quite enjoyable, it made me realise where I am at, and how I have changed since I started writing.
3. Read other people’s work!
It’s always inspiring to see the amazing work of other people, and I think it is a great way to rekindle the love of writing.
I’m going to eventually publish a list of websites and books that I read and enjoy.
And anyway, reading is something you should be doing on a daily basis as part of your self-education.
4. Get Excited Again
It’s difficult to continue writing once you stop, especially when running a website, because one’s traffic may well dip due to the lack of fresh content, and then you feel that you’re on a downwards slide.
Fortunately my traffic has been quite steady since I stopped publishing regularly, but it hasn’t hit the peak that was set in February of 2014. This can be demoralising, but then I stopped and realised that there are still tens of thousands of people reading each month, so what the hell, that was still hundreds of times more than I thought were ever going to read when I started this website.
The trick is to think about the cool things one will learn in the future by writing, and the opportunities that will arise from that.
If writing has changed my life so dramatically in eighteen months, what could it do in the next ten years?
5. Start Small.
Don’t be in a rush to cure your writer’s block, it took me months.
Instead of trying to immediately get back to my old schedule, I just wrote the occasional essay, with no pressure to try and write a minimum amount of words or to publish on a certain date.
Every essay that I published during this period helped me regain my writing confidence, and now I finally feel that I can start writing regularly again.
Remember, during your writer’s block keep the content you create short if needed, and keep it simple.
6. Embrace the Block!
One of the core principles of Stoicism is that we should accept things exactly the way they happen. Nothing is bad, unless you think it is.
Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
So learn to embrace the fact that you’ve got writer’s block, because it might be the best thing that has ever happened to you.
While I’ve not done much writing in the last few months, I have manage to finish some large projects related to work and also set up a new business that already looks very promising.
So if you find yourself completely stuck and you can’t write, my advice is to embrace the block and concentrate on doing other things in the meantime.
Conclusion: Don’t worry too much about it.
Having a writer’s block is something that will happen to everyone who writes regularly. It’s a completely natural part of a writer’s life, and the less you worry about it, the faster it will go.