Writing a story can be one of the best experiences you can give yourself. But what do you do when your creative high comes crashing down into the dreaded depths of writer’s block?
by CASSIUS VAN DER MERWE
The first time I ever decided to write a book, I was a mere 14-year-old kid. I was bored in my English class, having gone too far ahead on work, and decided to record my silly little daydreams for once. That’s all it was for me, at first. Writing daydreams, not a care in the world. Little did I realise that, for years to come, that silly little mess of words would be the first and only book I would complete amid an ocean of incomplete projects.
What causes writer’s block?
Back then, I wasn’t much worried about what other people thought. I had no intention to show off my little story. At least not until the whole thing was done, and I asked my mother to read it. She praised my creativity and determination. That book was over sixty thousand words long. Quite impressive for a 14-year-old.
But I wanted to improve. I wanted to give her more to praise me for.
Writer’s block can be caused by a myriad of little things. Boredom, the wrong topic, too few ideas, too many ideas … But it can also be caused by pressure.
I already had an idea for a sequel to that little book. And I was eager to dive in. But now I had stress that didn’t exist before. What if it wasn’t as good as the first book? What if it didn’t make sense? What if Mom wasn’t proud of me?
I abandoned the sequel after three chapters.
Why doesn’t inspiration feel like enough?
I ask myself this question all the time. I felt inspired to write that sequel, but simply couldn’t get the words down. Some of it can be blamed on mental health – there are all sorts of afflictions that can make life harder than necessary – but sometimes, even in the best of circumstances, inspiration and healthcare are just not enough.
Thanks to a combo of anxiety and ADHD, it’s even harder for me than it should be. Dopamine, that important hormone that’s supposed to motivate me to keep going, just isn’t there. But you don’t need either of these afflictions to feel this way; even neurotypical people struggle to snap out of this headspace. Writer’s block can trap anyone, regardless of mental health, with seemingly no way out.
Halfway through this very article, I got stuck. I must’ve rewritten it three times already. And two of those times, I never reached the ending. I just couldn’t get myself to continue.
And yet, somehow, I did. With a bit of brute force and constant stimulation, I did.
So how do we writers keep going?
I’ve wondered about this question for so long. I’ve searched endlessly for answers, scoured the internet, dug up every article, and I’m still not sure. Is it extra stimulation? Finding music and making a cup of tea to set the mood? Is it support? Motivation and encouragement from your friends and family? Is it determination? Is it spite?
It can be all of those things, but it can also be none of them. Every brain is different. Some days, music works better than conversation. Sometimes, tea works better than determination. The point of all of these little guides isn’t a sure-fire trick, guaranteed to work every time, but a wild dance with yourself. Every time you start, you have to learn your own steps all over again, until your mental choreography manages to line up perfectly.
And when that happens, everything just clicks into place.
The human brain is a mess of electric signals and chemicals. It’s near impossible to predict what can work for everyone. Yeah, I have more incomplete projects than I can count.
But I managed to finish this article, didn’t I?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cassius van der Merwe has had a lifelong love for sharing joy through writing. He has a passion for languages and storytelling, and he adores sharing snippets of good news as he finds them. He takes pride in the little bursts of stories he can bring out, the articles he can write, and the advice he can give. When he’s not writing or discussing story ideas with his friends, you can find him wandering about with his nose buried in the latest book he’s fixated on.