We all tend to blame the dreaded Writer’s Block for an inability to create, but it’s often a different problem entirely. Writer’s Block indicates a drought of ideas, a blockage of the pipeline to the creative part of your brain. But what if you’ve got a plethora of ideas and still can’t sit down at your favorite writing spot with your writing instrument of choice and produce? What if your brain is overflowing with ideas, and you’re dying to get them out, but just…can’t? This is surely not Writer’s Block. It’s the opposite of Writer’s Block. It’s Writer’s Overload: when a writer has too much going on his head to be able to sit still and patient and let the work flow. I’m often stricken with Writer’s Overload, and there are many causes and just as many ways to break free.
The obvious cause of Writer’s Overload is too many ideas. Too many stories. Too many characters. Too many projects. Too many possibilities. Too much to choose from. This is, essentially, indecisiveness. Sitting down to write with five or six options is usually not a good idea. You take your seat, maybe with a nice cup of coffee or tea, fire up your computer, and think, “Hhmm, what should I work on today? My short story? Maybe that novel I’ve been planning? No, wait, I should probably get that article written that’s due in a few days. But, jeez, I haven’t updated my blog in a while, and I’ve got that screenplay idea that’s been percolating. Damn, I don’t know what to write.” When this happens, a writer will often, in one writing session, go back and forth between projects; a few minutes working on this, a few on that, a few on the other thing. What ends up happening is that the writer will often get very little accomplished. The best way to handle this sort of problem is to know exactly what you’re going to write before you sit down. Pick one project, think about it for a bit, then write. Focus is the key. Work on one idea at a time. There’s nothing wrong with working on a few different projects simultaneously; just don’t do it in the same writing session. Always know what you’re going to write that particular day. Have a plan. Stick to it. Focus. See? Easy.
The other major problem occurs when the real world interferes with your work. You have writing to do. You know what to write, but just can’t. You can’t concentrate. You’re easily distracted. You’re uncomfortable. Your skin is hot, your hands sometimes shaky. This happens for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’ve had a bad day at work. Maybe you haven’t slept properly. Maybe your personal life is in shambles. Maybe someone on the street called you a jerk. What to do? I suggest not writing. Get your mind and body straight before you attempt to write. Several things work for me. After a long day at work, if I’m not in the right frame of mind to write, I’ll take a short nap. An hour usually does wonders. I awake feeling refreshed and ready to write. If I don’t need a nap and still can’t focus, I’ll take a walk. Living in San Francisco, there’s always something interesting to see during a nice stroll around the neighborhood: tranny hookers, a woman on the corner playing the violin, a naked marathon, a lost tourist, a guy dressed as Buzz Lightyear. Once I’m in a good mental place, I start writing. Maybe a solution could be as easy as cutting out the coffee. I used to drink coffee all day and night. Now, I have a cup or two in the morning, then tea at night. This slight change has definitely added to my overall sense of calm.
Now, there are certainly more serious reasons as to why a writer with ideas can’t get them down. Mental health issues could be creeping in on you. I’ve never seen a psychiatrist (although maybe I should), but I’ve known creative people who’ve told me that talking to someone about their real-life issues allows them to gain confidence in themselves, the confidence to write and live and be happy. Maybe medication is needed to correct some sort of chemical imbalance. I’ve also known some creative people who refused to take medication because they felt it would stifle their ideas; but if you’re not creating anyway, what could it hurt? We are unique individuals with unique needs.
If you’re a writer and you’re brimming with ideas, but consistently frustrated by your lack of production, figure out why. Isolate the problem and fix it. There’s a solution out there for everyone. Writer’s Overload is correctable. You’re a writer. You’ve got ideas. Allow yourself to get them out into the world.