Whether you’re an aspiring writer or a published author, you’re all-too-familiar with the ailment known as writer’s block. It’s that frustrating, maddening, fist-shaking experience when the words simply won’t come.
But don’t sit there and watch a blinking cursor forever. Believe it or not, there are a few things you can do to kick that writer’s block and get those words flowing. Read on to learn our top ten tips.
Tip #1: Let Go
By far, the number one concern of writers plagued by writer’s block? Perfectionism.
You want desperately to fulfill a dream of writing a book, but those first few sentences are so … clunky. The negative thoughts start swirling: “This is not as good as the book I just read” or “I can’t even write one good paragraph.”
You’re being too hard on yourself. For one writing session, just write freely whatever thoughts come to mind. Promise yourself that nothing on the page will ever be seen or read by anyone. You can even burn the page at the end if you must.
Tip #2: Old-School or Tech-Savvy?
If you’re new to writing, you probably haven’t developed your own set of habits yet. This can be your favorite writing location, like a couch or library, and even your favorite pens and notebooks.
But if you continually sit down with a laptop and find yourself stuck, try going old-school and pulling out a pen and paper. Some studies show that writing with pen and paper results in better focus and retention.
Tip #3: Try a Change of Scenery
There’s no use sitting in front of a laptop for more than twenty minutes, frozen in place without a single word on the screen. Get up, put on a pair of shoes, and go outside.
This is one of those writing strategies we can all benefit from. To function at its peak performance, the brain needs variety. Whether you live in a concrete jungle or along the beach, a breath of fresh air will do you good.
Consider, too, the option of writing in a new location. Some writers swear by a favorite coffee shop, whereas others can’t stand the noise and activity. If you’re short for words and feeling frustrated, try a new location and see if it inspires your creative side.
Tip #4: Play with Form
Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, screenplays…the list goes on. If you’re unable to make progress on one project, why not dabble in another?
Poetry is an especially good option for dealing with writer’s block because you don’t need to write a lot of words. You’re simply aiming to craft an idea, and you can do this in whatever word formation you choose.
Tip #5: Consider Where You’re Starting
If you’re struggling to imagine a scene in your narrative, much less get it onto paper, ask yourself: Am I starting this story or scene in the wrong place?
Do some brainstorming on what would have happened before this scene or what comes next. Are either of those tugging more at your creative energy? If so, consider starting the story elsewhere, or at least working on that scene to get the juices flowing.
Tip #6: Who’s Talking?
One of the key writing strategies in the world of fiction relates to point of view (POV). Most often, POV is either first person (“I ate the burger”) or third person (“She ate the burger.”)
Many writers struggle with third person POV because it feels distant. One trick is to place yourself in the role of the character and write in the first person so you’re better able to relate to their feelings and actions during a scene. Experiment with this technique and see if first person POV allows you to better narrate a scene.
Tip #7: Set Realistic Goals to Prevent Writer’s Block
Just as we sometimes expect perfection of ourselves, we often tend to set writing goals that are a bit lofty. If you aim to write 1,000 words in an hour, those minutes sure tick by fast if you’re starting at a blank, white document. And the more time that passes, the more frustrated (and frozen) you’ll feel.
Try lowering your writing goals or not setting them at all. Commit instead to timing goals (“I’ll sit at my desk for one hour tonight”), or, even better, just allowing yourself a night of creative exploration with no real goals in mind.
Tip #8: Explore a Different Art Medium
Creativity comes in many forms, and writing is merely one of them. But they all utilize the right brain: our creative engine.
If words just aren’t coming to you, consider engaging your right brain in another art medium: perhaps music, watercolor, leaf pressings. But this doesn’t mean you need to pay big bucks for an art class. It might be as simple as grabbing your kids’ colored pencils and drawing on a napkin.
Tip #9: Start Something New
Let’s face it. At some point, it might be time to throw in the towel. That’s what desk drawers are for, anyway: all those unfinished works.
The best thing about shelving any writing project is that you now have the emotional and mental space to start a new project. In this way, even “failed” projects served a purpose: they got you to the point where you are now.
Tip #10: Remember What Inspired You
But you’re not ready to give up? Kudos to you for staying strong. If this is your “passion project” or your gut is telling you to keep on, then take it back to the very beginning and ask yourself: what inspired you initially?
Was it a location, like a creepy old building in a favorite city? Or perhaps an interaction with a loved one? Whatever inspired you to write in the first place, go back to that place and re-center yourself in it.
Writer’s Block Is for the Birds
If you’re experiencing the frustration known as writer’s block, congratulations: it’s akin to a rejection slip from a publisher, and all good writers have hundreds of them. Consider it a rite of passage.
For more information about publishing, writing, and books, check out the rest of our blog. If nothing else, it’s a great way to pass the time when facing writer’s block!