When you’re learning how to overcome writer’s block, it can be helpful to keep in mind that there are approximately 86 billion neurons in the human brain, give or take a few million.
Our next closest competitors in the animal kingdom are gorillas, who have around 33 billion. Then there are elephants, with a far more Company Email List generous 257 billion.
To put all of those numbers into perspective, our Milky Way galaxy has somewhere between 200–400 billion stars. That’s a lot of zeroes (and gas).
Although other animals do have artistic tendencies, sadly, neither gorillas nor elephants have been able to write a bestselling novel or any inspirational quotes for writers.
Neurons are responsible for how our brains process information and define creativity, thus giving humans the ability to write.
Where to begin when overcoming writer’s block
So, what is writer’s block? What happens when we feel like we can’t write?
“I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands.” – Jodi Picoult
After interviewing neuroscientist Michael Grybko for The Writer Files podcast about the dreaded writer’s block, I started to understand just how important our brains and emotional health are to staying prolific.
To put it simply, when we feel like we can’t tap into our creativity to write a good blog post, the neurons in our brains aren’t firing the way we’d like them to.
Training your brain for success
It’s easy to use the tired trope of the writer as athlete, but it somewhat devalues the processes our brains engage in to communicate effectively with written prose.
There are somewhere between 650–800 muscles in the human body. It takes only about 20 of those to pick up a pen and scribble down blog post ideas on a piece of paper.
But in order to fire millions of complex patterns of neuronal activity in tandem, the brain must be trained for years and years before becoming proficient enough to turn stimuli and information into persuasive writing.
Still, it’s easy to understand the superstitions and misconceptions that surround writer’s block. Until recently, we really didn’t know that much about how the human brain works.
Moving past the continual writer’s block debate
On the same podcast episode I referenced earlier, I spoke with Mr. Grybko about the many famous writers who have discussed writer’s block, from Toni Morrison to Joyce Carol Oates.
Ms. Morrison would tell her students that writer’s block should be respected and to not try to “write through it.”
Whereas Ms. Oates doesn’t believe it exists, but admits that “… when you’re trying to do something prematurely, it just won’t come. Certain subjects just need time …” before you can write about them.
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7 ways to overcome writer’s block
Steven Pressfield, in his classic The War of Art, described writer’s block as something closer to a supernatural force inside professional writers and artists. He dubs it Resistance that shoves us away, distracts us, and prevents us from doing our work.
But with our new understanding of how all of these neuronal processes connect, it’s far easier to get a handle on why we might be “blocked.”
“… [Our brain’s] connectedness also comes with a downside; activity in one area of the brain may affect another area in a negative way. Our emotions can have an impact on our productivity and learning … When activity in the area of the brain that is responsible for processing the information needed to write effectively is altered, the result may be writer’s block.” – Michael Grybko, Neuroscientist