How to become a more centered writer

Writing comes easily to those of us who live and breathe the creativeness derived from storytelling. It is almost as natural as eating, drinking, even breathing. However, there comes a time in every writer’s life when the dreaded beast that we call “Writer’s Block” rears its ugly head across our path. So how do we keep our cool under the pressure? When it seems that our entire literary world has come to a screeching halt, some writers tend to lock up and thus, enabling the beast to grow larger and stronger. Is there any hope?

Absolutely!

If you were to ask a hundred writers how they deal with writer’s block, you would most assuredly get a hundred answers. The reason for this is that everyone has their own way of handling it; and you should too! But in order to face down writer’s block, you need to realize, first and foremost, what it is. 

Writer’s block is, in the simplest definition, your body’s way of telling you that there is an input overload. Think of your brain as the CPU (Central Processing Unit) of your body. In order for you to do anything, the parts that require action must send a signal to your brain, just like a computer does with user input; and just like a computer, your brain can often become overloaded. The only difference is that you don’t have to face Microsoft Window’s dreaded “blue screen of death”, but the result is pretty much the same. So when you’ve been writing your heart out, pouring every ounce of energy (both physical and mental) into your current project, your brain shouts, “Uncle!” and stops the process. It temporarily shuts down the creative part of your brain in order to recover. 

Okay, so now you know what causes writer’s block. But how can you handle it, especially when you’re on a very tight deadline? The answer is relatively simple. Are you ready for it? 

Relax.

That is all your body really needs in this all too common situation. You need to step away from your computer (or typewriter, if you are one of the rare souls who still utilizes one of these time-old machines) and take at least 20-30 minutes to allow your brain the rest that it needs. Now, sometimes your brains needs more time than thirty minutes, but that’s okay. Take as much time as you need. If you are experiencing a more stubborn bout, it may be beneficial to take the remainder of the day off (so long as your schedule allows for it). 

Many writers feel that stepping away and reading a book for awhile can really help, but I wouldn’t recommend this if you want to jump back into it after 20-30 minutes. The reason I say this is that your brain is overloaded from the creative process of writing. When you read a book, what are you doing? Your brain is creatively forming the story into images in your head. Do you see? You’re still using the same portion of your brain that has shouted for relief. 

Instead, try taking a walk, listening to relaxing music (instrumental, not vocal), or find a comfortable seat, either inside or out, and close your eyes. Clear your mind and try not to think of anything at all. Then, practice a simple breathing exercise. Very slowly, take a deep breath in, hold for 5-10 seconds, and then release (just as slowly). Do this for several minutes, maybe even ten or fifteen, and you will open your eyes and feel more refreshed, fully prepared to focus on your writing. 

– Jason W. Blair