Writer’s block: identifying what’s holding you back

A woman rests her head in her arms

Over the past couple of months, I’ve hit somewhat of a wall when it comes to working on my own writing projects (both creative and blogging). While on the surface I’ve had plenty of excuses for not getting my own content written (short story judging backing up, illness, various family commitments and all-around work stress), I knew that wasn’t the whole story.

When we’re having a productive moment in time, we somehow manage to push past the everyday pitfalls and stumbling blocks that could hold us back. Yet when we get into a slump, the same little blips seem huge and impassable. Why?

After planning yet another new blog with the very real belief that ‘this would be the one’ to get me past my ever-recurring writer’s block, I decided to sit myself down and have a bit of a stern talk. Just like when we get to a tough point in a manuscript and start thinking of shiny new ideas to distract ourselves from what’s really wrong, so too can we do the same with blogging.

For me, I realised I had taken on too many ARCs (advanced reader copies) across Netgally and Edelweiss. It sounds pretty stupid I know, but seeing those six little books sitting on my Netgally shelf and four unread titles in my Edelweiss account has been causing me to freeze. Having less than a 100% feedback score has been weighing on my mind more than I realised.

The truth is, I don’t like giving negative reviews. I’m all for constructive criticism and feedback, but leaving a review that amounts to ‘it wasn’t for me’ feels somewhat like a cop-out. I know it’s silly, but not being able to articulate how something could be improved (or why aspects don’t quite hit the right mark) has been bugging me. 

In many ways, acknowledging that hasn’t fixed the problem. But it has lifted a weight I hadn’t realised was there. Now I know what the problem is, I can start working towards a plan to get around it – and avoid having similar problems in the future. For me, that means going back to those half-read books and either giving them another shot, or leaving an honest but much shorter than usual review. It also means applying for fewer titles at once (a surprisingly easy pitfall, as some publishers can be so hit-and-miss in responding to requests).

If you’re struggling with your productivity or creativity right now, try not to be too harsh with yourself. Taking a step back and allowing yourself the time to breathe can help you to feel calmer. It can sound a little fluffy, but jotting down everything that’s bothering you – big and small – one one massive spider diagram can be a huge help. Once you get past the big, obvious things, you just might be surprised at how many small, niggling details or tasks are weighing on your mind. Recognising your problems is the first step towards making positive changes and restarting a regular writing routine that you can stick to without feeling overwhelmed or overworked. 

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Author: Bonnie Evie Gifford

*waves* I'm a writer and blogger from the not so sunny south coast of England. With bylines in Happiful Magazine, Harness Magazine, as well as on Counselling , Therapy, and Lifecoach Directories, I write about books, mental health, wellbeing, autism, and culture. When not writing, I can be found partially buried under a stack of books, hiding from the outside world. Find me lurking on Twitter: https://twitter.com/begifford

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