“Writer’s Block” really isn’t the right word. We ought to call it “Writer’s Inertia.”

A block suggests that there’s something in your way. Some outside force has entered in to create a barrier between the writer and the creative output.

In my experience working with hundreds of writers, this is virtually never the case.

Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that, “An object at rest remains at rest, and an object in motion remains in motion at constant speed and in a straight line unless acted on by an unbalanced force.”

Writers who continue writing practically never experience “writer’s block,” because their mind is already in motion. More than anything else, they may be paralyzed or not complete projects because too many ideas are vying for their attention.

Writers who write consistently but feel jammed up may also suffer from an overactive idea filter—they have ideas, but continuously reject them—but this, too, is different from “writer’s block.”

Rarely does an active writer suddenly, without warning, hit a creative block in which no more ideas will come. They finish a story and suddenly the tap has just been turned off. No more.

On the contrary, most active writers finish a story, and the process of writing has inspired several more that they can’t wait to start! The discipline is in finishing the first thing before you move on to the new one.

In practice, here’s what writer’s block actually looks like: Someone who wants to write, but hasn’t written recently (or ever), sits down to a blank page, and no ideas are forthcoming.

They feel “blocked.”

If we’re being honest, does this sound right?

Here’s the key: writing begets writing. If you write, you’ll write more.

But wait, now we have a chicken and the egg conundrum. If you need to write in order to write, who could ever start?

If you’ve fallen out of a good writing routine, how do we get the wheels turning in the first place?

I think Jesus gave us a pretty good solution. He once said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Luke 6:45)

Do we really feel “blocked” or do we feel “empty”?

The ideas that come out of you will be a reflection of what you put in. You have to fill the well to overflow.

Of course Jesus was talking about the way we live our lives, but the principle he stated is true for our creative work as well.

If you want to write, the best thing you can do is read. That’s how you fill the well.

Interestingly, reading books and watching TV do NOT stimulate your brain in the same way.

As confirmed by many studies, watching TV (including Netflix, etc.) activates the same brainwaves as staring at a blank wall. While those “alpha waves” are helpful for relaxation, neuroscientists have concluded that too much of them results in unfocused daydreaming and the inability to concentrate.

While the creative concept from that Netflix show or movie might be inspiring, trying to fill your creative well with visual content will usually do more harm than good.

Reading, on the other hand, is a fundamentally empathetic experience, and your brain does a lot of work while you do it. Neuroscientists have shown that when you read, your brain will activate the same areas as if you were actually doing the things the characters are doing.

If the main character in a book is cooking dinner, your brain looks like it’s cooking dinner! If the main character in the book is solving a puzzle, your brain activity looks like it’s solving a puzzle! If the main character in the book you’re reading falls in love, well…

And isn’t that what makes reading powerful? That’s kind of why we want to write, right? When we write well, somebody actually lives as a different person for a moment. The reader can experience the world differently than their normal life, and even change the way they think and feel.

Here’s the cool thing: it doesn’t actually matter what you read.

My friend and apprentice RJ Catlin shared on her blog last week about the value of boredom. There’s scientific evidence that reading boring things might stimulate even more creativity and kick you out of “Writer’s Block” even faster!

So read what makes you happy. If you like the classics, read the classics. If you like cheap genre fiction, go for it! When you’re suffering from “Writer’s Inertia,” quantity is more important than quality.

There’s definitely value to reading things that are good, especially if they’re close to the target that you want to hit with your writing. But if you’re just trying to break out of a funk and get the wheels turning, read what’s easiest or most convenient for you. Just read!

You don’t get any extra points for challenging yourself with Robinson Crusoe or The Count of Monte Cristo. This isn’t the time to score literary points, this is the time to plow into something fun.

(If you need help picking, may I suggest getting started with The Librarian’s Ruse, Lawless, or Sejal? You can also check out Vella Karman’s growing catalog of clean fiction reviews.)

Stop watching shows and movies. Read instead. It’s that simple.

Netflix drains the well. Fiction you enjoy fills it!

It might take a while to fill the well. Commit to it, develop a reading routine first, then develop a good writing routine. (I recently answered a question from a reader on my blog about how to develop a good writing routine. Check that out next here.)

After the well is overflowing, it’s time to change your inertia. Inertia says that an object at rest will stay at rest, but an object in motion will stay in motion. It works both ways!

To break the last straw, just write anything. Get moving with words on the page, even if they’re terrible…even if they don’t make any sense! Start with a stream of consciousness, or write out directions for doing the laundry, or re-write the script of a movie scene from memory—anything to put words on the page.

If your well is full, you’ll be surprised how quickly an idea forms and goes in a better direction.

I don’t believe in “Writer’s Block.” There’s no such thing. There is such a thing as “Writer’s Inertia” and it’s most common cause: “Writer’s Empty.”

But those are solvable. It’s not magic.

Fill the well. Generate momentum—even if the first words on the page are absolute garbage.

Brad Pauquette is the director of The Company, where he trains writing apprentices and inspires a community of Christian writers. Join his mailing list for training, encouragement, and inspiration at BradPauquette.com.

Learn more about The Company and explore their full-time writing apprenticeship today at Writers.Company.

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