James Braxton Peterson Discusses The Science Behind Writer’s Block How To Break Through It

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Whether you are a student in school, a freelance writer, an author, a journalist, or even a songwriter, there have been instances where you cannot craft a simple line of thought to advance your creative process. Sometimes “the block” is a fear of creating something you think will be unfit for the level of talent you have. We cannot escape creative blocks because for many of us they are part of the creative process. Although this may seem counterintuitive, writing, (the writing process) requires time and space: time to do the work and space – in your mind and in your physical reality – to do the work. Let’s explore what’s behind creative blocks and how you can work on addressing it.

What is a Creative Block?

For as long as writing has existed, writers have wrestled with creative issues. However, the phrase ‘creative block’ came to life when Samuel Coleridge, a poet in the 19th century, wrote that he felt an indefinite and indescribable terror when he could not create poems worthy of his liking. By feeling like he was failing himself, he felt like he was failing his audience. This was when authors and poets deemed creativity a gift from the gods, so when they could not write, they thought they were unfavored by the divine. Some writers probably still feel this way.

From a psychological perspective, some writers have found their creativity fueled by vices such as neurosis and depression. This can feed into the ‘starving artist’ line of thinking that suggests a certain amount of suffering is required for creators to birth masterpieces. French culture has promoted the image of writers as having tortured souls.

In truth, there is no scientific explanation for a creative block. There is no writer’s block hormone that periodically traumatizes your process. Writing is a mental process and so is whatever we think of as writer’s block.

Creating anything is a mental process that involves a deep mining of your mind and soul, repeatedly experimenting with your craft until the uncertainty gives way to your desired results. Writing alone requires razor-sharp focus and seamless cognitive sync. The results of your labor of love are often presented to editors/readers and sacrificed at the altar of judgment. Once your work goes to an editor for review, to a professor for marking, or to readers of an article or a blog post it is out in the world and the “block” is a distant thing of the past.

Reasons for Writer’s Block

1. You Experience a Burn Out

Our bodies have their limits, and sometimes we work too much and exceed these limits. You might push your body, but it will push back. If you keep pushing it, your body will shut down mentally, psychologically, and emotionally. Even when you are experiencing a serious flow of writing, take a break to replenish your mind.

2. Your Passion Dwindles

When you start writing, it is usually because you have a burning passion for telling a story. However, like anything else in life, monotony might kill something you do repeatedly over time. When you do something consistently for an extended period of time, you can become bored. The editing process is brutal, and editing and revising can be frustrating. (Keep in mind here that edits and revisions are the life’s blood of the writing process). Whenever you get bored with the process, you need to take a break and focus on what inspired you to begin working on this project in the first place.

3. You Have High Expectations

When you create something that supersedes your expectations, you set the bar high even for yourself, a phenomenon that James Braxton Peterson has acknowledged. Even when you produce a lot of written work, you might find your own work to be subpar and this can block you from staying the course or getting back to the work at hand.

4. You Become Too Distracted

Different writers and creators often point to various forms of inspiration as a motivating requirement for their craft. A writer’s inspiration can (and should) come in many forms. However, finding inspiration to write can be impossible if there are too many distractions in the psychological, emotional, and physical environments. A writer’s focus will be diluted as it is diverted to any or all of these distractions. If you are writing on a laptop, disable the internet because it is almost inevitable that you will sneak a peak at social media, YouTube, or your favorite website. Remove or manage the distractions before you settle down to create.

Treating/Dealing With A Writer’s Block

1. Rest

Sometimes, creative block happens when you write something and have to edit or revise it over and over and over again. Meeting deadlines, editing, proofreading, and other activities in the process of writing and editing can be grueling. Writers like James Braxton Peterson have recommended the same. If you are writing two books simultaneously, or if you are writing and having another edited at the same time, you could crash. After completing a longform project, starting another book can be paralyzing. After you are done with a book or when you are in the process of writing one, take a break and rest your mind. If you have a long run, the burnout incurred can cause writer’s block.

2. Feed Your Mind

Writer’s block can also occur when you run out of ideas. To treat the idea-deficit version of writer’s block, you can always develop your pool of ideas by reading, listening to music you love, or immersing yourself in something you love. For writing in general, READING is fundamental. When your mind gets a lot of ideas, it becomes easy to find inspiration and create. So, whatever it is that you love doing, do it for inspiration and ideation. And read, read, read.

3. Talk to Other Creators and Writers

Whatever field of writing you are in, there are others like you. Whatever problem you might be facing, others have experienced it before. People like James Braxton Peterson have talked about overcoming the challenges of writer’s block. They have overcome the issues and have crafted their own ways to deal with short stints of writer’s block. Sometimes, just talking to them can help you feel better. Don’t beat yourself up about it; you are not the only one going through it. It comes with the territory.