Breaking Through Writer’s Block: The Power of Self-Care and Emotional Awareness
Breaking Through Writer’s Block: The Power of Self-Care and Emotional Awareness

Breaking Through Writer’s Block: The Power of Self-Care and Emotional Awareness

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Yes, I said it. I think we simply call it that because it’s blocking our writing and well, we want to write. We believe the want to write should be strong enough to overcome the block and when it isn’t, we don’t know what to do. But it’s been in my experience and the dozens of people I’ve advised that it’s rarely ever that simple. Every time someone has told me they have writer’s block, I’ve always asked them how they’re doing in their life right now, and every single time something has been wrong.

I’ll use myself as the perfect example.

I’ve been thinking of my current WIP for over a year (and yes, thinking is part of writing and planning). Normally, that would mean I would have all the pieces together for the book so it would flow easily. I’m an intuitive discovery writer. I know the plot’s beginning, middle, and end, but I don’t often have the full intricate details and tend to learn them as I go. But this book is so different than my others and that’s been tripping me up from the moment I started.

I’ve repeatedly written Paranormal Romance, specifically Fated Mates. In my books, Fated Mates is not what makes the characters fall in love, it’s what helps them to allow the idea of falling in love. It’s like if you could look at someone and know that’s your person. You’re not in love with them yet, but you know that’s who you’re supposed to be with. It’s a way to create acceptance and familiarity with the relationship while working toward a relationship. However, this WIP is a Mafia Romance. That acceptance and acknowledgment is not there. That means I have to work—what I believed was harder—at creating those reasons. Especially with the heroine’s attitude toward the hero.

This concern has made my overall workflow slower. I’ve tackled it wonderfully thus far. I’m around the 50% mark of the book and honestly, I really love what I’ve written. But the next group of chapters just haven’t been sorting themselves out for me.

Whenever this happens, I can normally think about the problem I’m having with figuring out a scene, go to sleep, and when I wake up, I’ll have the answer. This has worked every single time, and I did have an answer but it wasn’t syncing correctly. It felt off and if you’re an intuitive writer you know that’s the worst feeling you can have when writing because you likely won’t be able to let it go until you figure out the issue.

I kept wracking my brain for ways to solve this. I went to the inspiration section of my writing hub for the story and found I had a lot there that could help me. Going through it made me feel better and more confident. But then I found myself losing the words when I’d sit down to write and the more I tried, the more nervous I got, and the more nervous I got the harder everything was. It was a vicious cycle and I knew I had to stop before it got worse.

Anyone would call this writer’s block. I wanted to write so badly. I wanted to see my characters move forward to their happy ending but it just wasn’t working. So I took a day off and felt a little better. When I came back I ended up having to do some admin work which took about three days to complete and through each of those days, I just kept getting more frustrated that I wasn’t writing and wasn’t figuring out the answer to my issue.

Then last night, while I lay in bed awake at 4 AM and listened to the birds starting to chirp, it hit me. I didn’t have writer’s block. What I had was issues in my life where I did not feel settled which is one of the things I need to write optimally.

My husband is Muslim and I live in a Muslim country. From March till April is Ramadan which means he’s been fasting and to help make things easier, I’ve been waking up at 3 AM or staying up till 3 AM to make sure he eats before the fasting starts again. When I do this and eat with him I don’t end up going to bed until 5 – 7 AM. This is not like me and is not optimal for my sleep much less my work. When I go to bed at 3 AM or later I often have more body aches because I wake up early and don’t sleep enough. Additionally, my whole schedule was off. I was working much later than normal because I’d need an additional nap or to sleep longer to try and make up for going to bed so late.

Pair that with hormones, other big life changes that have caused me to get anxious, and the fact that from the start of this book, I was nervous about writing it and it makes sense that I’m having a hard time right now. That’s the thing that bothers me about how we’ve been taught to deal with emotional health because the truth is we haven’t been taught how to deal with it. It’s often treated that because it’s not visually in front of us, the pain, discomfort, or the negative things we’re feeling aren’t there. They don’t matter so they shouldn’t affect us. Right?

Wrong. Emotional health has such a monumental effect on so many things we do and being able to be creative is one of them.

So how do we fix it?

Well for me, the first step was being honest. By saying, “I acknowledge I’m having a block right now,” I accepted what was going on. If that statement has any negative feelings for you, which it still does for me, acknowledge those. The feelings I feel when I say that statement are frustration at it being true, anger at it being a situation I’m going through right now, confusion about what is happening, and determination to figure out how to resolve it.

Now that I know that, I can ask myself, “Why?” Why is this going on? What lead to this? Can I remember the first time I felt nervous, concerned, insecure, stressed, anxious, or anything that seemed connected to my writing or my life over the last few weeks?

When I did that I discovered everything I just told you. I realized that I was the most frustrated over three specific things. First, that I was so concerned about my novel when I’ve written dozens of stories and published six books. I know what I’m doing and while yes my writing process has changed and that in itself is scary, that’s not where my concern was coming from. Second, I was frustrated about the things that were frustrating me in my life and that I wouldn’t be able to change them for a month. Knowing the end goal is good, but knowing how far away it is can be frustrating when you want it to be done and over already. Lastly, I was frustrated that I couldn’t prioritize my writing again even though I wanted to.

Acknowledgment of your emotions is important for your emotional and mental health. Sitting with and feeling them is part of how you work through them. As I often tell someone, when you’re feeling an emotion is not the time to try to judge or shame yourself about whether you should be feeling that emotion. You’re feeling that emotion and you are right to feel what you feel. Only after you’re done can you begin to process and reflect.

I was right to feel everything I was feeling. And once I finished feeling it at that time (because emotions can come back around and they often do), I could begin to work on a solution. I realized that while I knew I could figure everything out, I wasn’t figuring everything out and that bothered me. I felt I should be smart enough to, that I should be experienced enough to. And sure I am or I will be. It’s good to know that but it isn’t good to judge myself or get frustrated because I couldn’t.

I needed to give myself grace and permission to take a second. Then I needed to remind myself of a truth: it’s completely okay to struggle with the how, when, where, and why, but everything will always work out the way it’s supposed to and in my best interest.

I don’t need to know everything and I was trying to. I can’t look around a corner when I’m nowhere near it. The truth is I’d already figured out the very next chapter. I didn’t know the next three after that. But, why would I need to right now? I’m not writing those now. I’m writing the next chapter. And if I decide later it should be moved around or deleted I can keep it as a deleted scene. There are no mistakes in my manuscript. By that, I mean, that whatever I’ve written whether it’s usable right now or not serves a purpose. It may teach me or it may assist me now or later on down the line. So why would I be so focused on getting everything right at this exact moment? That’s not how I work. That’s not how my brain works, and to be honest that’s way too much pressure.

When I woke up this morning, I promised myself I’d start with self-care. I stood out in the sunlight and sang songs I enjoyed that made me feel good and boosted my mood. Then, I squeezed about ten oranges so any frustration or anger would get worked out into something productive. I made myself a cup of OJ and then wrote this post. My mind is still saying, “Hey, let’s write today,” but the voice is a little calmer, a little less flight-or-fight, and a little more, this is something you love so let’s do a little bit of it and make it a priority. I’m still nervous and I think I will be until I officially write that halfway point chapter, but I also remembered that plenty of authors get stuck at the 50% point of their books. In fact, that’s what made me let go of creating hard outlines and allow for more flow because the story would always shift slightly at this point.

I hope this post helps you, if in no other way to let you know you’re not alone. It’s hard to be kind to yourself, especially when you think you should be able to control an outcome and it’s simply slipping out of your grasp. But even if it does, that doesn’t mean that you did something wrong or that you will. It doesn’t mean that you should criticize yourself or try to push yourself harder. It just means you’re human and shit happens, so let it happen.

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