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How Compassion Cures Writer’s Block‏

This guest post is by Brandon Yawa of BrandonYawa.com.

If you are a writer, I don’t have to tell you how a dark shadow dubbed “writer’s block” hoovers over all your projects like Casper, but in the form of a not-so-friendly ghost. However, I assure you, this phenomenon known as writer’s block is not an apparition that needs a force like Ghostbusters to be removed. In fact, this phenomenon is not a phenomenon at all.

If you were a pro athlete in any sport…

You would know that you could only push the limits of your body so far before your body would give out. In a pro athlete’s world, people call this “overtraining.”

As writers, however, the heaviest weight we lift is our laptop, and our physique is never tested beyond hauling it from café to café. For that reason, we easily forget how overworked our mental faculties can be.

Writing is a mental treadmill that never stops.

The day you set foot on the path of being a writer, you have inadvertently placed yourself on a mental treadmill that has no end. Everything that happens to you, whether it is conscious or subconscious, speeds up or slows down this neverending treadmill.

If you have been writing for ten years, you have been mentally running, jogging and walking on your mental treadmill for 3,650 days straight. That’s enough mileage to make you the new spokesperson for Nike, and definitely enough mental mileage to warrant fatigue.

You are not blocked.

You are mentally fatigued, whether it be from worrying about living up to your last creation, living up to your own expectations, or just living a writer’s life in general.

I will repeat, you are not blocked, you are tired, and rightfully so I might add.

Humans need rest.

It sounds so clichéd to say you need rest, but you do. In order to rest, you have to figure out how to take yourself off that mental treadmill. You have to learn to separate the material you need for writing from the material you need to be human.

5 steps to get off the mental treadmill

1. You have to show yourself compassion

You have to accept that you are mentally tired of the process of writing. Just like you allow yourself to go to sleep, you have to allow yourself time away from writing.

2. Forgive yourself for being unable to write

You have not done anything wrong, and you don’t suffer from a life-threatening disease.

Instead, congratulate yourself on what you have accomplished thus far. Even if it’s only that you got out of bed, opened your laptop and pressed your fingers on the keyboard. Congratulate yourself for trying, and then congratulate yourself for having the compassion to know when you are passed your limits.

3. Don’t allow the outside world to affect how you feel about yourself

You are not a machine whose sole purpose is to produce. Instead, as a human being, you decide what your purpose is. If you choose writing, remember it’s what you chose on your own terms, and that’s how it should remain.

4. Find hobbies that take you away from the writing world

Sometimes just shutting our mind off isn’t enough. We need an object or objects to assist us in shutting off that mental treadmill. See the world, travel your city, play video games, or read books that relax you (not ones that inspire you to write).

5. Learn to love yourself whether you are writing or not writing

Whether you are producing Shakespearean material, or creating child’s play, learning to love yourself totally (the good and the bad) not only gives you an immediate place of refuge, it arms you with a sensitivity that knows when too much is too much.

True compassion starts with the individual before it is shared with the world.

Brandon Yawa is the author of BrandonYawa.com. A blog built to show you new ways to tackle the same old human dilemmas.

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Comments

  1. Cheltz says:

    What a great post! I agreed with every word! I especially liked the part about loving yourself even if you don’t write. This is a lesson I learned many years ago (in high school), but with athletics, actually. And it has made all the difference in the world :).

  2. Olga says:

    Hi there.
    Thanks for a great article. As an owner of two blogs (not a professional writer, though) I very often experience writer’s block or I am simply at a loss for words. What works best for me is sports. When I feel like dying and when my words totally make no sense I either go swimming, biking or running. After one hour I am a new person and it all makes sense again. It’s so important to take breaks and NOT to exaggerate. IT’s great that someone is talking about it.
    All the best,
    Olga

    • Brandon Yawa says:

      Having extracurricular activities that replenish your mental faculties is so important–it probably deserves a blog of it’s own. However, your point “NOT to exaggerate” is a great one. Most people waste too much time compounding their negative circumstances with negative sentiments instead of trying to find positive ways to deal with the situation. Great post Olga.

  3. Samuel says:

    Smart ideas to take to get your mind off of negative thoughts that can hinder your progress.

    Taking a little break can never be no good.

    Thanks!

  4. adeeb says:

    Great 1-2 on writers block today from you and Darren.
    I feel doing it without caring for the outcome is the best way to beat it.
    Just do it for yourself.

    • Brandon Yawa says:

      You sound pretty daredevil Adeeb. I prefer objective actions, with the acceptance that outcomes are not entirely in our control.

  5. Sarah Park says:

    Giving yourself time to rest from time to time while writing is very effective. Too much stress is a big factor that causes writer’s block.

  6. Len Bowcott says:

    Another fantastic post, and one I can relate to completely.

    Writer’s block is bad enough, but most of my writing lately has been in the form of a pseudo travel log. I can’t remember the number of times I’ve drawn a blank while seated in front of my laptop. The problem is, I’m usually seated in front of my laptop somewhere I’m supposed to be writing about, and not likely to return to any time soon, if ever. Nothing beats writing about observations as I take them in, but too often I’m trying to relive the moment thousands of miles away, using my notes to try and recapture the moment.

    I admit, I’ve never tried to unblock my writer’s block with compassion for myself. Quite the opposite actually. I’m willing to try anything, so next time I won’t try mentally bashing myself to jog something loose. Rather, I’ll accept I’m temporarily helpless and go sightseeing until the moment passes… which hopefully it will. Thanks!

    • Brandon Yawa says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Len. I actually had a similar problem. I liked writing about things that came to me in the moment, so if I didn’t finish whatever I was writing in that moment, I could never go back.

      For a long time, I used to go through the same personal bash of why I couldn’t come back to my writing. However, one day after a meditation session (not sure if that sounds cliché but meditation has saved my life), I realized that who I am in the present moment is just fine. The only need to go back is my own compulsion. Now I make it habit to finish my writing in the moment, and if I can’t finish, I wait until the time comes again. I never try to cling on to what was; instead, I embrace what I have right now.

      Oddly enough, after adopting the attitude of writing from the perspective I have in the moment, and letting go of the idea of having to recapture what I felt previously, I can actually finish “old” works a lot more seamlessly.

  7. Breeza says:

    Very simple, yet reminders are constantly needed to be compassionate and sleep on it – I am always fresher of a morning to blog. I find simply shutting the computer, getting on with daily life with a notepad for ideas closeby can also get me going again. Great article – thank you