lifestyle · Student Guide

Why can’t I write anything? Writer’s block?

So, I’ve been doing a bit of research into this. A little bit of context and I’ll share what conclusions my own experience and research have brought me to.

When I created this blog, I had a mid-year resolution – It’s better late than never, so I’m going to start writing down what I’m passionate about, what interests me, and how I would incorporate those things into my life, and by extension, share those things with whoever decides to read about it. Of course, since then, my reasons for writing have changed slightly; it became a question of motivation.

perfectionism 2

If I can motivate myself to write a blog post, then I can motivate my self to start that assignment, or try that new recipe that’s been brewing in my mind for a while, or try out a new creative venture that I could perhaps write about later. That seems like a good plan, right? Doable, surely.

So, why hasn’t it worked out that way? Why, since starting this blog, have I got plans for ten posts but only have two published? Why am I writing this at one in the afternoon instead of building on those ideas, or even doing necessary assignment work, or whatever else should have my attention?

At this point, I doubt I could consider it writer’s block, and maybe it even goes beyond lack of motivation. I desperately want to do these things, write these posts I have lined up, but I can’t bring myself to.

But I’ve overcome this before. So why not now?

So, this is a reminder to myself, and to you, on how to get writing. Or, even, how to do that thing you really want to do but can’t bring yourself to do it. And I’ll give an insight as to why it has been so difficult for me, so maybe something might resonate with you.

  • Fear of failure.

Unless you have the uncanny ability to have the utmost confidence in all you do, chances are you would experience fear of failure to some extent. You fear the unknown outcome, and you don’t want to risk leaving your comfort zone; you fear the negative impact of failure, so you attempt to avoid the possibility of it altogether. Therefore, it is unsurprising that you experience a higher level of procrastination as a result.

A study I came across explained a good way to overcome this: You will need to disassociate your procrastination with fear of failure. To elaborate, you can let yourself have fear or be paralysed by it. To have more faith in your own competency is to lessen the extent of this fear (and procrastination). Your knowledge of your own competency is based on past experiences, and therefore, you know that your ability to do the task is adequate; It is based on perception. You’re more likely to remember past failures than successes and that hinders your ability to carry it out in the future. Therefore, develop your confidence and competency by focusing on those successes, you’ve done it before, why can’t you do it now?

Don’t let that past failure mean procrastination, let those past successes mean faith in your own ability to carry out the necessary task. Let the fear be just an emotion, not your motivation, or lack of.

  • Perfectionism
perfectionism

You have set standards for yourself that are impossible, or extremely difficult to meet. You’re afraid of making any mistakes, and anything below perfect is unacceptable, or if you can’t achieve that, not worth doing. Sound familiar?

It is human to make mistakes, and to strive for the best you can possibly achieve is a great way to build and achieve aspirations. It is common that if you suffer from a tendency towards perfectionism, you fear failure (even if that failure is just falling short of the impossible standards you have set yourself) and disappointment, whether that is disappointing yourself or someone else.

Maybe you imposed these impossible standards on yourself, maybe it was someone else, or maybe you’re trapped in the generational phenomenon of unrealistic expectations young people put on themselves in order to stand out in this increasingly difficult age. But whatever the reason, you’ve entered into a detrimental cycle of impossible achievement and procrastination that will just continue to hinder you.

One piece of advice I can give: Stop comparing yourself to others. I know this may seem like quite the leap, and therefore maybe not what you were expecting, so let me explain.

Your impossible standards are can be fuelled by the achievements of others, and you find yourself disheartened when you are not as ‘naturally’ gifted as they are, or you cannot do a task as well as they can (Or maybe you keep remembering that time your parents scolded you for getting a ‘B’, when your siblings or friends got an ‘A,’ or when your friends boast of higher grades causing a sense of shame that you did not do as well as they did.)

It is rare that anyone is naturally gifted, and if someone says they didn’t work hard to get successful in life, well, they were lying.

Another small piece of advice. Remember your self-worth is not based on achievements. The effort you put into your work is just as valid as anyone else’s, and you’re not worthless if the result of your work does not match up to your unrealistic expectation.

You are your own person, you cannot achieve perfection, but you can work hard for what you want in life, and keeping yourself in the toxic cycle of inability and expectation will ensure that you won’t get what you want.

(I will write a separate blog post on comparisons, to others and to your past self; expanding on perfectionism and how it ties into fear of failure, among other detrimental effects. It may seem to be a bit of a contradiction, I know.)

  • Stress

Some people are more prone to stress than others, but it is so easy to become overwhelmed by it when you have a list of tasks that is ever increasing, and a pile of work to do that just won’t stop growing. It is not unusual to cope with this overwhelming level of stress by just shutting down, by avoiding those deadlines, and trying to prolong the sense of calm for as long as possible (even though you’re aware that you’re making the situation worse by just putting it off.) This can also lead to loss of appetite, loss of sleep, and make you more prone to illness due to resulting physiological pressure of your stress.

To help cope with stress:

  • Exercise. Although this won’t eliminate the root cause of your stress, it will help you clear your mind and reduce the emotional intensity you’re feeling. This will allow you to focus, and let you deal with your problems more calmly.
  • Take time for yourself. You have deadlines coming up, there is no time to spend on yourself right now. But you’re not doing anything to help those deadlines right now, so take this time for yourself, for relaxing, socialising, or exercising. Refresh your body and mind, so you can tackle the tasks ahead.
  • Avoid unhealthy habits. Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drugs, and use caffeine in moderation. These will help you avoid your problems, not solve them. They’ll make things worse in the long run.

This list is by no means exhaustive, I have posted links below to help you find more information.

  • Depression/Anxiety

To begin, if you suspect you suffer from depression/anxiety, please see your GP. I am not a specialist. Most symptoms and advice here are taken from the NHS. I can only offer personal experience, but I’ll leave advice on this topic to the professionals.

For many, a long-term symptom of depression is the persistent lack of motivation, although this may also tie into other symptoms such as long term low mood, hopelessness, lacking energy. I will link the NHS website below, but if you’re worried that you might be exhibiting symptoms of depression or are suffering from harmful thoughts, immediately make an appointment with your GP.

However, if you know or think you may suffer from this, the NHS has provided some self-help tips:

  • Lifestyle changes such as getting a good nights sleep, keeping a healthy diet, reducing alcohol intake, and increasing your exercise will make you feel more in control, and aid your physical well being.
  • Self help techniques such as meditation, and breathing exercises. Tools such as online counselling or self help books. Also, if you’re at university or college, make an appointment with your counselling and wellbeing services, they’re there to help and support you.
  • If your GP prescribed medication, make sure you take them. If you feel as if they’re not working, or you’re not reacting well to them, make another appointment with your GP and discuss your options. Your GP may also refer you to counselling services in your area.

(https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/low-mood-and-depression/)

(I will also write a blog post on self-care, that’s the next one in the works, but for this post, I believe healthcare professionals are best to advise in this area)

This is not so easy to overcome, but there are ways to support you through this difficult time.

Although there are many resources online that can help you with procrastination, lack of motivation etc. I hope at least I have provided some valuable contribution to helping you overcome your trouble or, at the very least, given you more insight as to why it might be a problem in the first place. Please look out for future posts, as I said, I will be writing on various topics (comparison and self care), and other light hearted topics as well (recipes, tea, and plants coming up!)

Thank you for getting this far, I know it was a long read!

Like and follow for future updates. And leave a comment, I’d love to hear what you think!

Sources:

‘How to Conquer Fear of Failure’ – “https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/smashing-the-brainblocks/201801/how-conquer-fear-failure

‘Fear of Failure: The latest research on fear of failure and procrastination.’ -“https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/dont-delay/200902/fear-failure

‘Is the Perfectionism Plague Taking a Psychological Toll?’ – “https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-athletes-way/201801/is-the-perfectionism-plague-taking-psychological-toll

‘Perfectionism’ – “https://www.kcl.ac.uk/campuslife/services/counselling/concerns/study/perfectionism.aspx

NHS: Low Mood and Depression: “https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/low-mood-and-depression/

NHS: Mental Health Helplines: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

NHS: 10 Stress Busters:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/reduce-stress/

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