If you’re a writer, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I refer to writer’s hell.
Whether it’s an article for your own blog or a blog post for a client, it doesn’t matter when you can’t seem to produce a single word.
Frustration, anger, and depression arise in you and tie your heart into knots. You start worrying about your future and you think “what if I will never be able to write the way I used to?”
We writers deal with a lot of monsters in our brains. And our inner state is crucial for producing great work that is not only satisfying for our readers and clients, but most importantly to ourselves.
I very recently went through a long streak, too long, of being stuck in writer’s block land. Not cool.
I’ve always been an aware person. I observe my thoughts, and I know when my mind is about to hit overdrive.
Nevertheless, we all go through periods where we know the solution, but can’t seem to execute, or get out from the hole.
It isn’t until you reach your breaking point that you realize that something needs to be done. And that is exactly what happened to me.
All I can do is thank these dark periods in my life and writing career, because they are the ones that help me grow as a person and as a writer.
Before you can make progress, you have to be aware of the fact that a problem exists, or shall we say, a block that is preventing you from getting into your writing zone.
But even being aware of your writer’s block doesn’t make it magically go away, at least not for me. In fact, sometimes I can get in a rut, know it, and stay there for a very long time.
Not fun, but always enlightening.
I can try to force myself to write articles by outlining and taking a more analytical approach, but the feedback I get on those articles is usually nowhere near the ones where I get into the zone and write from my heart, like I am doing now.
If you become acutely aware of the underlying reasons you can’t write, and you see them for what they truly are (illusions), you can break free by just shedding light on them.
Our thoughts dictate how we feel. We play movies in our head, we listen to that little voice, and we tell stories about how bad things are, how they should be instead, and how everything is against us.
Those movies, that voice, and those stories are all lies we tell ourselves.
They are nothing but thoughts. And what are thoughts?
Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Pure air.
Thoughts come from nowhere and return to nowhere. The problem arises when we identify with certain thoughts, such as “I’m not good enough,” or “My writing isn’t worth being published.”
Meditation can help unravel the madness that is going on inside your head, and it’s not as hard as you think it is. I wrote a beginner’s guide to meditation a while ago if you’re interested in learning more.
All you have to do is sit on your couch or lie down (if you can stay awake), start taking deep breaths into your stomach, and relax.
As you keep breathing, become aware of your body and how it feels, and notice all the feelings and sensations you are experiencing.
If you’re feeling anger towards your writing, observe it, and accept it. Keep breathing and each time your mind starts to wander, bring it back to your breath.
Meditation is a great way to get inspired to write in 10 minutes or less.
3. Emotional Freedom Techniques
I like to keep things practical, and I know that most writer’s won’t eliminate writer’s block with awareness or even with meditation, although they certainly help.
In fact, I personally prefer using other methods which are far more effective (for me).
The first one is Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT for short.
It’s basically acupuncture done with your fingertips. You gently tap certain meridian (energy) points on your body that alleviate stressful and negative thoughts.
This is also one of the most woo-woo of all these techniques, so you may not feel entirely comfortable doing this in public.
Here’s a great video showing how to use EFT in a fast and effective way:
4. Sedona Method
The Sedona Method consists of three simple questions while focusing on a negative thought (or even a positive one):
- Could you let it go?
- Would you be willing to let it go?
Simple, yet very powerful questions.
What shocks most people is how simple it is, which can lead to dismissing the Sedona Method altogether.
I dismissed it myself, and I didn’t bump into it again until a few years later. I guess that’s when I really needed it.
I love it for its simplicity. It’s easy to do when you are in a hurry, taking a walk, or feeling frustration boil up when you’re talking to a friend or family member.
The bad news is that the Sedona Method is the most expensive of the options on this list. You can learn the basics, but you will have to buy some training to get deeper into it.
So if you’re interested, visit their website at Sedona.com for more information.
5. The Work
The Work is what I’ve been diving into lately. It fascinates me. It’s very similar to the Sedona Method, but it’s different in the way that you take a closer look at your thoughts, beliefs, and stories, and you identify them for what they are: illusions.
To show you how it works, let’s take a belief like “People won’t like my writing.”
You take this belief and put it under inquiry with four questions:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react (inside) when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
You then do what is called a turnaround, in which we take the belief and mess with it, for example:
- I don’t like my writing
- I don’t like other people’s writing
- People like my writing
For me, The Work has been extremely powerful in getting me out of my writing rut.
I’m sure there are a lot of different ways to neutralize emotions and thoughts, but these are the ones that have resonated with me and proven the most effective for me.
They have helped me grow and get me out of the deepest emotional holes before they even had the chance to begin.
How to Choose
I use all of the five woo-woo techniques above interchangeably. It depends on what my heart is telling me is the most effective at that specific moment in time.
And that is what I recommend you do: listen to your heart, pick one of the above, and see what happens.
I bumped into EFT when I was 16, Sedona when I was in my early 20s, and The Work when I was 24 (when I am writing this).
I had seen all of them earlier, but they didn’t resonate with me until I really needed them, so it’s important that you feel out which one is a good fit for you right now and go from there.
It’s also important to keep in mind that we have negative moments in our life for a reason. They are there to teach you something, or nudge you in another direction.
Perhaps you’ve been getting off track with your writing (or your life).
Always remember … the more you resist what is, the more you suffer.
I can relate completely to “I had seen all of them earlier, but they didn’t resonate with me until I really needed them,” These moments have been plenty in my own life as well. One particular thing I remember is buying a book that sat on my shelf for five years before I read it, and when I did, I knew that it would ot have meant anything to me five years earlier. But then again, I’ll never know.
That has happened more times than I can count. What we resonate with matters, and there seems to be a time for everything.
Thanks for reading, Rasheed!
I’ve never gotten into meditation or anything like this however I do think it would help me half the time. I have a lot of negative thoughts run through my mind randomly and doing something about those, I’m sure would help me in more ways than one.
Definitely! There are so many ways you can deal with those negative thoughts that there are really no excuses for living with them, if you don’t really like them 😉
Steve M says
Great article Henri – thanks for the tips. I use ‘The Work’ regularly – Byron Katie is an inspiration – it’s really good to see her work helping writers get rid of writers’ block, as well as all the other things it can be used for.
Good stuff, Steve. And thank you for reading!
Marissa Bracke says
I’m noticing that my Writing Hell exists when I’m constricted. Getting out of my Writing Hell and into a Writing Zone usually coincides with getting some space. Sometimes that’s physical–literally getting up and away from my desk and getting some space elsewhere.
But more often, it’s mental space I need. Rampant thoughts (especially negative thoughts, comparisons and judgments both of self and others) feel constricting and block my writing. If I can calm those thoughts and get some mental space, my writing flow can find its way back to me.
The techniques you mention all help with achieving that spaciousness that’s necessary for my writing. Some I use regularly, like meditation. Others, like EFT & The Work, I have used in the past & had great results… but kind of forgot about! And I’ve never tried the Sedona Method at all. So this article has been useful not just in helping me clarify my thoughts about how constriction vs. space affect my writing, but in reminding me of some less explored & unexplored options for achieving that spaciousness. Great stuff.
It’s funny how we find the answers to our problems and sometimes just forget about them when things are going well.
I’ve noticed the same thing; if I can get unnecessary thoughts out and gain clarity, my writing tends to flow like the Niagara falls.
Thanks for your ideas! What works for me when I encounter the writer’s block is to find some open space where I’m free from the constraints of a claustrophobic environment to wind down and free up my mind.
This helps to unclutter my mind and it allows me to re-focus on the things which I’m writing about.
Good tip, Dominic. I’ll have to try that. But I’m pretty sure being somewhere open (and in nature) will open up even the most closed mind.
I love all of these suggestions. I have done a lot of “The Work” and it is amazing how wrong our thoughts can be and how by challenging them we get to a place of acceptance.
I am about to try EFT and Sedona.
The Work is indeed amazing!
Henri, you are an extremely mature 24-year-old. And a helluvawriter. In true woo-woo spirit, these ideas came at just the right moment. After a couple of years of obsessive blog-surfing, I have boiled down my visits to a handful that are truly useful and enjoyable to read; yours is among them. Thanks.
Well thank you, Jesinalbuquerque (is that your real name, or did something go wrong here?) 😉
I’m thrilled to hear that the woo-woo spirit is strong in you!
Rex Dunlop says
Thanks for that. I like EFT and The Work too, but for those times when I don’t want to actually DO anything dynamic, I find this talk by Liz Gilbert great:
Yeah that talk is great. I’ve seen it a couple of times.
I am reading a book called “Accidental Genius“. It’s about free writing. It’s one way to generate ideas and get out of writer’s block. Have you tried that method before?
I haven’t, but the book sounds interesting, so I just ordered it. It sounds like he’s doing a lot of what I do when I write. Never hurts to learn more!