Moving Beyond Writer’s Block: 3 Tips For Writers For Social Justice

Sometimes you hit a wall. It’s one thing to have writer’s block, but when it relates to the emotional labor involved in writing for social justice, not knowing what else there is left to say carries a deeper, more personal meaning.

Here are 3 things I find helpful in those times. The work we do offline often provides the fuel for the words we post online, so these thoughts can apply to your actions in the real world as well.

Take a break

Sometimes, it’s as simple as that. Doing anything but writing can have a profound impact on your ability to recharge.

Choose yourself. Taking a break is a necessary act of survival. What helps you to relax when you’re feeling stressed? What healthy thought processes, behaviors, and relationships can you turn to that are restorative to you?

I’m talking about a full stop, including ceasing the consumption of social media. Even if it’s just a day off, sometimes you really do need a solid day to reaffirm your humanity. Give this a try. It doesn’t mean defeat, it doesn’t mean that you’re giving up, it’s an acknowledgement of your life’s inherent value.

Read the work of others

Reading the work of others can help you to make sense of your own thoughts. Especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed; others who are not at that point might be able to say the things you can’t at the time.

In my note “I will try again tomorrow” I shared 10 different links, each saying a little bit of what I wanted to say, but couldn’t at the time. I’ve done the same thing in a different note in hopes to help myself, and others process the events in #Ferguson.

There’s room for all of us in this work, and everyone has something to contribute. One of the great things about that is when we need to recharge, someone else, somewhere is continuing the work.

Reading the work of others; particularly in those moments where you can’t utter the words yourself, can be deeply affirming and restorative.

Revisit your purpose

If you’ve been experiencing writer’s block lately, feeling somewhat immobilized by things that are happening in the world, revisiting your purpose can also be helpful towards nudging you from that place and can remind you to get back to the honesty, to the openness in sharing, and the reasons why you started writing in the first place.

Those were some initial thoughts from me, but I’d like to hear from you.

What readers have said

I posed this question to the readers for community input earlier today, and here are some responses that came up.

(N.A.H.) community member Shannon says:

“Can you invite guest posters to your blog and do some guest posts for other bloggers? Activist fatigue is real. Take care of yourself, please.”

“How about some IRL (In Real Life) interaction with other activists? Like  a meetup to do something unrelated if you’re getting burnt out. It’s easy to get comfortable by having all activities online.

Ex: I led a feminist bike ride through our city. We blasted music and danced and raised hell. It was both fun and memorable and many folks on the ride became good friends of mine afterwards.”

Friend to (N.A.H.) D.A. Królak added:

“Fatigue is very easy trap to fall into, being outraged anew, or watching others get outraged everyday can take a very steep toll on both the writer & the human. Self-care, a bit of distractions, going to your “happy place”, reading really great historic pieces from previous social movements (esp when they were in conflict), meditation, but probably nothing else above simply reading”

“…Writing is hard, very hard. Blogging (and the past decade) have made everyone think that it is easy, and we all can do it. While we can, when it comes to crafting a well placed message that is meant to do more than entertain minds/hearts for a few minutes in the new Attention economy, it requires a real craft & commitment. It also requires calling on reserves of strength which can leave you depleted. That for me has always been found in the words of great thinkers.”

For some, acknowledgement of the challenge was enough:

 

 

Many thanks to my community members and friends for your support.

How do you move beyond writer’s block?

Ubuntu,

From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones, MSW, LLMSW

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I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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3 Responses

  1. dakrólak says:

    Thanks for the inclusion, really loved this post, as it is very easy to fall into “writer’s block” and then find yourself bereft beyond words. A good follow up to this would also be how to return from the break, and after you’ve done those things. Reentry can be a difficult process to navigate as well. Depression can merely be rage disassociated, and often times when we are just about to push through to a break-through we give up because the work seems too tough. Our ideas, thoughts & compassion can then become inverted. So I’d follow up by adding that getting encouragement, seeking others out who have done just this, and connecting (or reconnecting) to that purpose can bring you back again renewed & recharged. In fact these have to become a part of any social justice work, in a time where we are hyper-connected.

    Oft times, especially in the age of social media, when taking a break, it can become something more permanent, a ghosting. Many a blog or activist has abandoned their work, process, or even their platform because of the negative or unintended consequences. Most times that disappearing act gets lost in the fray of voices that are forever clamoring for attention.

    Thanks so much for this post, will use it when encountering people who need that boost, need to reevaluate, and to recharge!

    • You make some wonderful points that have given me an idea to do a follow up post on this topic in the future. It’s important to take a break, but how long is too long? How can we keep from being totally removed from the process if that’s not what we want in the end? Talking to others who have taken breaks and returned is a good place to start.

  2. dakrólak says:

    Yes, those are very tricky waters to navigate…more painful & fraught with tension sometimes than just saying: “I need a break”

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