The Mind’s Jail: The Four Commandments of Facing Writer’s Block

As I sit on my chair, in front of my laptop, my fingers are hovering over the keyboard while I summon all the creative Gods out there, to help me come up with ideas to complete this write-up. 

And then I try again, one last time.

This time with love.

I am sure this is something most of us go through from time to time. It makes us feel bored, powerless, hesitant, defeated, exasperated. It’s a cage that traps our mind. We want to write but we can’t seem to find the right ‘motivation’ or ‘inspiration.’ 

This is a common experience in any writer’s life. 

Every time I feel this way, I shove my write-up aside, as far away from me as possible, even if the guilt chews me from inside. No matter how hard I try, I don’t seem to come up with anything at all. 

I went through this feeling about a couple of thousand times before I understood something very important about writing and writer’s block. I realized that the reason I feel this way is me. I am responsible for the writer’s block and no matter how much time I spend to get inspired; only I can undo it.

One fine afternoon I sat down and compiled a list that I would focus on, whenever I find myself in such a situation. I jotted down ten points – out of which only four proved to be very successful in my case. These have now become my ‘Four Commandments of Facing Writer’s Block’.

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Commandment 1: Thou shalt get out of your heafod (head)

As Max Posternak of Gravity Transformation says, “99% of the battle is in your mind.”

Posternak is not a writer, but his words can’t be denied and can be applied even to the craft of writing. 

There is no way one will be able to get past this mind jail until they change their mindset. There is no other way. The only solution is to get out of your head and keep writing, despite the protests. 

Commandment 2: Thou shalt face writing word-by-word

In A Summary of Writing on Writing, Scott Berkun discusses his writing process:

“I start with the first word of the first sentence and then write the second word. I continue with words until the sentence is done and then I move on to the next sentence…I don’t think there is anything magical in any writer’s process. You have to do the work and as you do the work you figure out which process works best for you.”

Trust me, it is just the process that you are afraid of and that is what creates the writer’s hell.

Deep down you will always find that there are words hidden inside of you that are waiting to be poured out. It’s not that hard writing down random tidbits dominating your head.

Just write something. Anything. 

Commandment 3: Thou shalt read as much as thou can

As Alberto Manguel writes,

“Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.”

Perhaps nobody could have put this in better words.

Read. 

There is nothing like ‘enough literature’ or ‘enough pages’. 

Read about the things you want to write about. Read the books you don’t want to write about. Read. Read. Read. Something will eventually come up. 

Commandment 4: Thou shalt share thy work

This commandment is a recent addition to my small list. 

Sharing my work is something that I learnt very recently as a writer at Mith Books. My wonderful mentor, Dipa Sanatani, author of ‘The Little Light’ shared something perhaps very profound. 

She said, 

“For most authors, writing is a solitary pursuit, and I am a firm believer that we can only do so much on our own.”

This really created a huge impact on my thought process. I admit, sharing the drafts of pieces that are very personal to you can be very intimidating at times. But as a writer, no matter where you stand, it is necessary. 

Surrounding yourself with like-minded people will help you grow as a writer. 

Find out the group of people who would be interested in what you write, who would provide you with the best possible feedbacks at every step and most of all – people who will encourage you to continue despite the hard bits.

Freedom from the Cage

Always remember – this writer’s jail is inside of us. And that means we own the key to it too. I do not believe that we are to blame for being in jail.  

Rather, instead of fuelling ourselves with regret and guilt, sadness and paralysis; we must approach the writer’s block with energy and empowerment, motivation and excitement. 

Once you are able to do that, the rest will fall into place. 

What’s your sworn commandment to deal with writer’s block?

About the Author

FareehaFareeha Arshad is a forager of meaning, a reader by passion, a writer by choice, and a scientist by vocation. The Arab born, confused Desi lives on the Persian Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia with her parents and siblings, where she spends most of her time studying, teaching, writing or cooking.

Author: Mith Books

Mith Books | The Merchant of Stories | Publisher of Timeless Tales from Around the World

One thought

  1. This post seeped right to my heart.

    It is so relatable. As writers, we all felt this at some point of time but never realised that the cage is within ourselves. Now that I read it, I feel it’s kinda true. The lock and the key both lies within us only… What an observation!

    And what an amazing way of expression! So inspiring…

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