10 Things I Learned About Recovery from My Experience With Writer’s Block


How can you make your recovery plateau an opportunity to grow deeper?


Right now, I’ve got a serious case of writer’s block. It may not seem like it, because I publish one new piece every day. After two years of writing this blog, I have a few strategies that I use when I have slumps so that I don’t go through week after week with no new posts.

Most times, the ideas flow and I love writing. But for the past few weeks, writing takes longer and I experience way more distractions than I am used to. The writing is hard. My ideas seem less appealing and I am more self-critical.

This isn’t the way I’d thought the New Year would begin.

Writer’s block is a real thing and it can be scary as hell. As a writer, ideas are your business. If you dry up, you begin to worry. Then the voices in your head begin to shout and your greatest fears echo all over your mind. You may even wonder if your best work is behind you. You fear that you can’t write anything but flat, empty words.

A while back I wrote about writer’s block:

Writer’s block is more about ‘liver’s block.’ No, that’s not a blocked liver but if we are happy and thriving, our minds will do the same thing.

I started writing this piece and then scrapped it because I didn’t like what I was writing. Then it hit me that writer’s block is a little like being in a recovery block or a recovery plateau. That is what I feel like right now: I’m spending a little time living on writer’s block and recovery plateau. It’s not what I want, but for now it’s where I am at.

If you are spending some time in a recovery plateau, here are 10 lessons from writer’s block that may help to kick start your recovery:

1.It helps to admit to yourself that you are feeling blocked.

The definition of plateau is table land. Living on a table is flat and unexciting. Plateaus are not the most inviting places to be, especially not if you have to find a place to live for the rest of your life. It’s a little like settling for a color palette that consists only of beige. Step one of the 12 Steps is acceptance. Accept that you feel stuck, you feel blocked, you feel burned out. Acceptance that this phase of growth is taking a break may help to begin a new phase of your growth.

2.Don’t sweat it.

This is similar to #1. Often I am chugging along in my writing and the ideas flow. Then for some reason, I hit a wall. My first tendency is to grab a few books and my journal and my note pad and get some new ideas. But the more I tro to force the ideas, the faster the ideas dry up. Instead, don’t sweat it. Let the process unfold. You may not know where this is going, but know that you will be okay. Use this opportunity to practice having faith in yourself and in your recovery.

3.Play with words.

Writer’s block feels like your mind is empty. One thing I often do is pick a word and then look up the definition. Take plateau: it can mean table land but it also means a state of little or no change after a time of progress. This second definition is interesting. A plateau can be the time after a season of growth.

This may help you with your feeling of being in limbo. You need some time to recover from intense growth or hard work. Just like your body needs sleep and your mind needs to go off line once in a while, your recovery needs to plateau to prepare for the next phase.

4.Have fun and edit less.

The lesson here is that creating should be a different process than critiquing. Maybe your recovery just needs more creativity and less critique.

Writing is different than editing. Professional writers recommend separating writing tasks from editing tasks. Just get your ideas out, even thought they are rough and unpolished.  Then leave it alone. Come back to it the next day and edit your work. The lesson here is that creating should be a different process than critiquing. Maybe your recovery just needs more creativity and less critique. Have fun. Go to a movie and relax. Play some sports or some video games. Give yourself a break and turn off your inner editor.

5.Get away from your routine.

Get outside more often, read fiction for a change, have coffee with a friend. Changing your routine can ease up on the familiar and bring some new stimulation. Moving forward does not always have to look like achieving your goals. Sometimes just moving is going in the right direction.

6.Get back to basics and don’t try and be fancy.

Consider this example from professional hockey:

If you follow professional hockey teams, you know that sometimes a team can go through scoring slump. They just cannot seem to score any goals. The Coach will try to help. They teach, they motivate and sometimes they scream. After doing everything to prepare for their best, what the team needs is just to score. ANY. WAY. THEY. CAN. It’s not about getting the perfect goal. Breaking a slump often comes by scoring a few messy, lame or uninspiring goals. We break our slumps by just getting pucks into the net, not by being fancy.

Remember that the best might be the enemy of what is good for you right now. Let go of procrastination and accept that for now, you will need to get back to basics and yes, the basics can be messy.

7.Let it go.

Remember that the best might be the enemy of what is good for you right now. Let go of procrastination and accept that for now, you will need to get back to basics and yes, the basics can be messy.

Sometimes I just need to write… even if it sucks. Just getting words onto a page seems to create a flow. Even if they stink, I always save my ideas.

This piece looked way differently when I first wrote it. I hated what I wrote, so I saved it and left it alone for a few days. Then something hit me that working through writer’s block is similar to working through a recovery block. With a little effort, this article is the result. Not bad.

8.Know that your recovery ‘demons’ will scream louder, for now.

Stephen Pressfield in his fantastic book “The War of Art” tells about how you may need to face down your demons. Sometimes, when you sit down to write you will walk past your inner demons that scream at you. They will tell you that you suck, that you won’t amount to anything or that you can’t change your life or your future. You are not alone. When you feel stuck, the voices seem louder. Don’t worry. They are just voices.

9.Go back.

What you may need to do is stop trying to create new growth, but instead go back over what you have already learned. When I am in a writing slump, sometimes I will go back to a piece that I wrote a few years ago and then re-write it. I take a good idea and improve it. I add some new ideas or a different perspective and freshen it up. It doesn’t feel like the same pressure to create out of nothing.

In the same way, you may need to go back over some areas of growth and deepen your growth rather than always expanding. You have to grow deeper before you can get bigger.

10.You may need some therapy.

Writer’s block is not a sign that you need therapy. BUT… blocks in your recovery, your growth or your relationships may point to underlying obstacles that keep coming back. If you can’t resolve them, you may need some help.

I hope that you have learned something from my experience with writer’s block. I’m working through it and I am confident that I will get back to feeling more flow in my ideas.

If you liked this piece, I appreciate that! It was a labor of love. Have a look at some of my other work:

5 Ways to Make Peace With Your Hostile Inner Editor

Why is Your Good Better Than Your Best?

Recovery and Your Inner Grouch

I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain. Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you like what I have to say, please share my work with your friends.

Lastly, if you like my writing, you can click here to vote for my page on Psych Central’s list of mental health blogs.

Keep it Real

Photo by Edna Winti

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