Every now and then I find myself with a crippling case of writer’s block. Nights where I stare at a blank page willing words to come, only to find myself increasingly frustrated as the paper seems to taunt me.
For me, writer’s block is usually not a case of not having anything to say. It’s a matter of having too many ideas crammed together in my mind that just won’t come out, no matter how hard I push. It’s uncomfortable, it’s irritating, and it’s slightly painful.
If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing to do is try to loosen up all those backed up words. I know, I know. Easier said than done. Here’s three methods I’ve found that can get those ideas flowing smoothly.
1) Switch gears. Try writing something different. Take your mind off of whatever it is you are struggling to create and work on another project for awhile. If that doesn’t do the trick, try doing something unrelated to writing. Draw a picture, sing a song, rearrange the items on your desk. Stepping away from the project at hand can give you fresh perspective, and if you’re anything like me, once you’re focused on something else your brain will go back to whatever you were trying to do in the first place in a desperate bid to procrastinate.
2) Try free writing. Grab a sheet of paper and just write the first words that come to mind, even if it is as silly as “I am writing. Watch me write…” continue this stream of consciousness scribbling for a few minutes. Don’t worry about things like grammar or a coherent narrative. The point here isn’t to create great content (although it’s always a nice surprise if you do!), it’s about flipping your creativity switch. Once you get in the writing zone, it’s hard to get back out of it!
3) Have some story juice. If all else fails, pour yourself a glass of whatever adult beverage you prefer and relax! Sometimes all it takes is a nice buzz and a peaceful setting to make those words come pouring out!
Now that you’ve conquered your writer’s block, let’s look at some ways to prevent it in the future.
1) Don’t wait to write. Just like you shouldn’t refrain from holding in bodily functions, the longer to put off writing the harder it will be to get the words out. Keep a small notebook in your pocket or purse to capture your ideas as they come, or jot down some quick notes in your phone’s memo pad. You never know when inspiration will strike, be prepared!
2) Flex your creativity muscles. Do you usually write romance? Try writing horror instead. Get outside of your comfort zone! Try other forms of art, do various puzzles, visit an art gallery, read something challenging, try to understand viewpoints other than your own. The key to keeping your creativity high is to keep your mind engaged. Give it the food it needs to stay active!
3) Try new things. While it would be awesome to just pick up and visit a new country, you don’t need to do anything quite that drastic to reap the benefits of new experiences. Try a new food. Visit a nearby town you’ve never been to. Take a different route home from work. Say yes to that invitation. Pick up a new hobby. The more experiences you have, the more you have to write about!
4) Create a routine. What time of day do you feel most productive? Schedule yourself some writing time as close to that time slot as possible. If you can, write in the same place everyday. If that’s not possible, choose another constant constant variable. For example, use the same pen or drink coffee from the same cup whenever you sit down to work. The idea is to train your brain to recognize a symbol that this is writing time and draw in your focus. Give yourself a goal. Set a timer, for example, or set a daily word count. Even if what you generate isn’t usable, just getting some practice and developing the habit is a win!
5) Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Drink enough water. Eat good food. Get some exercise. When you feel good, it’s easier to be productive. Don’t forget to tend to your emotional, mental, and spiritual needs as well. The healthier and happier you are, the better!
While I wouldn’t say that I’m an “expert”, these are the things that I’ve found help the most. Now, let’s hope I can follow my own advice and keep the writer’s block at bay for awhile!
Do you have any tips of your own for beating writer’s block? Tell us about it in the comments!