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Psychology of the Writer's Block - How Self-Motivation Unravels Your Muse


a woman looking postive and happy, self motivation and unraveling writer's block
Unravel your Muse

Hey readers,


So, I'm feeling a tad lost. We all come to this crossroads many, many times as writers. I know I've been here a lot. Kinda like that song 'Hello darkness my old friend." I'm not feeling dark per se, but it feels like a block.


Merriam-Webster says, "Writer's block is a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece." I've had writer's block before. It's not so much a mental block but more of a nagging voice that keeps saying 'no' at the back of my head. It pipes up whenever I pick up a pen or sit with my fingers poised on my keyboard. Ever felt that way?


So, here's my writer's block. I've battled it in many ways. Routine. Methods. Exercises. I've written some pretty jarring and profane letters to my writer's block. No, I'm not insane. At times, it's been cathartic. The point I'm making is this: writer's block is a reality, and it will rear its ugly head again and again. So, this is my ten cents on how to embrace the darkness...er...block.


"(A Writer) unconsciously tries to solve his inner problems via the sublimatory medium of writing."

If it's all in my head, why does my body feel like it'll be a puddle if I just let it? A psychiatrist in 1940, Edmund Bergler (yeah, that's his name), said a writer is inherently a psychoanalyst who "unconsciously tries to solve his inner problems via the sublimatory medium of writing.” And I am guilty of doing it. I have been writing my troubles away since the first time I sat with the 'My Little Pony' journal back in second grade and realized there was someone I could pour my heart out to, and no one could judge me. It. Was. Liberating.

a woman looking sitting on a desk and writing, self motivation and unraveling writer's block

But this is flawed in a way. Bear with me. I have a point. A study by Yale in 1970 by Jerome Singer and Michael Barrios discovered that most 'blocked' writers were unhappy. And they said there were categories of unhappiness that affected each differently. Some were depressed, some were emotionally distressed, stressed, irritated - the works. But one thing they had in common was a lack of motivation.


And there is my AHA!!! iPhone moment.


Here's the skinny on motivation. It is the root of our creativity. The spark. The muse. The motivation drives the kaleidoscope of images in our head, the imagination, the daydreaming. We writers cannot survive without it. It is our life's blood. So, yeah, we can't fix the melodramas in our head or the triggers that keep flicking the stress switch fast enough to pick up that pen again, but we can manage it if we know what's causing it.


"Self-motivation is the key to fixing writer's block."

You can try the Pomodoro method, the sticking to the routine, the proverbial but cathartic hate-mail to your writer's block, but it's not your enemy. It is an indicator. Same as pain in our body. This is my mind-pain. Powering through the block or pain is not the solution. Pouring down into the page isn't either.


Here's my point: Self-motivation is the key to fixing writer's block.


The following tips work for me. They might not work for you, so pick your poison.


Don't think of it as 'work' - Think of it as 'play'

Work is essential. Writing requires it like any other job, but writing isn't a chore. It isn't doing laundry or doing the dishes, stuff you can't live without. Take the pressure off and think of it as something you love. Something that takes you away from the 'work.' It was the reason the 'My Little Pony' journal filled in like a month! It was fun! It was enjoyable. You want to pick up that pen again? Stop thinking about how you MUST do it. Think about how you 'can't wait' to do it. Associate writing with happy thoughts even when it's hard. Humans can multitask. It's like having an awesome cup of coffee while you write. Listening to musical crescendos as you create poetry. Dancing while you post idea stickies on your wall. Play as you write.


Reward your writing

Writing can be terribly lonely at times. It's soul-crushing when people don't like it or we can't get it in front of people. External rewards are great. But reward yourself now and then, especially when motivation is low. I do whatever it takes. I be my own cheerleader and give myself a pat on the back, a cup of strawberry sorbet, or a gold star on my forehead; who cares! Write and then celebrate, no matter how small. I know for a fact we punish ourselves more for not putting pen to paper than for hugging ourselves when we do. Retrain your brain to go higher and higher the more you achieve. The high will be worth it.


Ride the slump

Motivation is high when we start something exciting. The middles tend to get slouchy. So, here's how to power through them. Break your writing into smaller parts. Put achievements closer together. We are so much more motivated when we can see the end. So put the end somewhere you can see. Then move it farther away when you get better at riding the slump that comes in the middle of a story, for example. The days you struggle to write are when you must divide and conquer. Write a dialogue if the setting eludes you. You wouldn't believe how many screenplay-like conversations (written entirely without anything but basic emotions) between my characters eventually became epic scenes.


Write about writing

Sometimes, the best way to get motivated is to tell others why it's awesome. Or offer advice. I often try to work through someone else's problems and find my own happy place instead. Maybe it stems from human interaction, paying it forward, or just being kind, but it works. It makes me more confident when I can help others be more accomplished. Many times, I find my own advice helpful. So, think about creating and being a part of positive social influence. They naysayers be damned, surround yourself with fans and students for a regular dose of perspective. Just remember, it's not to impart knowledge but to share. No pedestals, please.


Self-motivation is challenging but achievable and a skill that will benefit you no matter what you do. So, tap into the power to bolster yourself and be your own cheerleader - the writing will come.


Happy writing!

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