Most writers have probably felt as though they’ve been “blocked” or stuck for words at one time or another, so if this is something you struggle with, you’re not alone. However, I believe that writer’s block can be solved quite easily by trying these simple practices:
1. Change your perspective. Writer’s block really isn’t about being unable to write. Have your hands and fingers seized up? Even if they have, you likely have a voice recorder on your phone that you could use. You see, writer’s block isn’t about your inability to write; it’s only about your anticipated inability to write well. Every writer has bad days when their writing isn’t great. This is normal, and it will not last forever, as long as you keep pressing on. Give yourself permission to write poorly for the next week, and I’ll bet you’ll be finding glimmers of greatness within your writing again in no time.
2. Focus on the positive. Rather than thinking of writer’s block as a debilitating state and focusing on stuck-ness or the poor writing that you feel you’re churning out, focus on your abilities and past accomplishments. What is the best piece of writing you’ve done? Read that over, and take a minute to let yourself enjoy your success of putting words together in the past, rather than always worrying about the future. Worry only serves to eat away at your creative energy.
3. Write what you enjoy writing. If you’re constantly thinking of markets and publishing trends and what may be expected of you, you may find yourself immobilized. Even if you have deadlines to meet, sometimes it’s necessary to get back to the roots of why you started writing in the first place. Tune out any voices around you and find your joy for the process again.
4. Go for a walk. A healthy and moving body leads to a healthy and moving mind. Get your blood circulating through your body, so it will circulate more through your heart and your mind as well. Not only will exercise help improve creativity, but it will also improve your mood, your life expectancy, and your sleep.
5. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. Writer’s block is often signified by a lack of ideas, or a lack of understanding of how to implement ideas. Keep a notebook (or I use an iPhone app called A Novel Idea) with you at all times. Character ideas can strike at the oddest moments. I may be in the grocery store line and notice a clerk’s nametag. From there, my mind may wander to what type of person I think of when I think of that particular name. The thing is, if you leave the store without recording this information, it will be gone. When you’re feeling blocked and looking for a new and interesting character to add to a story, chances are, if you have all sorts of character ideas to flip through, you’ll find one that fits. Do the same thing with ideas for motivations (when you notice someone around you who really wants something, make a note of it), emotional reactions, and obstacles others are facing. Our world is full of great story pieces. It’s simply our job to find some that interest us and put them together.
6. Don’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration often doesn’t show up when our kids are at school or the house is suddenly empty and we have a chance to sit down and write. It especially doesn’t show up when we’re staring at a blank document. Inspiration comes through doing. Get your pen moving or your fingers typing. Even if you don’t feel like it’s your best work (see number 1) or even if you feel like you may be going in the wrong direction, you’re much more likely to find the right direction simply through getting some forward momentum.
7. Keep writing, every day. Momentum breeds momentum. The longer you stay stuck, the harder it will be to get moving again. This applies to everything from working out and eating properly to working on our stories. Write every day, especially when you feel stuck. The connection between your brain and your fingers will get stronger over time, and it will become easier to write more and more words.
8. Write first thing in the morning. Our dreams can provide us with wonderful story fodder. During that time between sleeping and fully waking up, often our dreams are still floating through our thoughts. Don’t let those ideas go to waste! Take five minutes to jot down everything that comes to mind, then put it aside and don’t look at it until you sit down to write again later. Is there anything in there you want to use, or build on, or add to your brainstorming files? If you do this every day, not only will you add momentum to your writing, but you’ll also build a full and useful file of ideas to come back to.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that writer’s block can be solved. You’re not alone, and if you lower your expectations for yourself, at least for a short time, you’ll be able to find your love for writing again. Use the above strategies to build momentum and story ideas, and soon you’ll be flying through pages that take on lives of their own once again.
is the author of Fast Fiction, Losing Faith
(Simon and Schuster, 2010) and Never Enough
(Simon and Schuster, 2012). She lives in British Columbia with her husband and son, and is currently at work on another young-adult novel, which she fast-drafted during the 2012 NaNoWriMo
(National Novel Writing Month).
Based on the book Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days. Copyright © 2014 by Denise Jaden.