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5 Ways to Beat Writer's Block

Updated on June 26, 2013

Set in Stone

Before we get started, I wanted to say this is my opinion. It's not set in stone. Nothing about writing is set in stone, an important lesson, not even all the rules of grammar count in some cases.

How does this make any sense when it comes to writer's block. We're all writers, we all know nothing's set in stone.

But, what you might not know is nothing is set in stone when it comes to beating writer's block. These are just five examples that have helped me in the past.

B.I.C. Butt In Chair

This should be obvious. To get any work done you need to be set up in your work space, in front of the computer ready to type.

Don't have a work space? Don't worry, your work space can be wherever you want it to be. Library, basement, closet, home office, cafe, Time's Square, anywhere at all. But, I've got a couple of rules for mine.

I have a home office, called The Writing Room, and I like neat organized spaces, be it shelves with books arranged alphabetically, or just a clean floor. I hate working in a mess. And, right now I need to practice what I'm preaching.

You're faced with a blank page... what do you do?

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Blank Page

I'm pretty certain that everybody whose ever written anything (shopping and chores lists included) have to run into this problem.

You sit down, turn on your word processor, and you're faced with the writer's ultimate nemesis, the blinking cursor on a blank screen, or just a blank sheet of paper, and bam! Gridlock.

I think this phenomenon is caused by something very simple. Thought. That's right, your head stuffed full of brilliant ideas has become Time's Square during rush hour. Nothing can get in and nothing can get out. And, the longer you stare at the screen (besides damaging your eyes) the thicker that traffic jam is going to get.

So, what you really need to do is stop thinking.

How?

Zen. Zen is the Japanese art of no mind (don't quote me on that). It's a state where the individual, you or me, needs to relax and act on instinct. Basically, do what feels right.

But, I can't get past that point...

Single Sentence Therapy

One thing I've done in the past, to beat the blank screen problem is pick up one of my favorite books, (something by Salvatore, King, or Block) and flip through it, stop on a random page, and pick out the third sentence in the second paragraph.

Sounds odd, I know, but take that sentence and write it on the top line of your paper. Now, your page isn't blank.

Use the sentence as a pair of jumper cables for your writing, and go where instinct and imagination take you.

And, remember to take that sentence out during editing.

Talking to Yourself

Another way to beat the blank page syndrome is to start writing about the scene or chapter or whatever you're working on. Talk to yourself about it. This is what I call free writing. I begin, usually with a single sentence about the scene:

Mordos buys an apple.

And, from there I would talk about the street, the people on the street, the vendor, how the vendor's stand is set up, and the vendor himself. I would ask myself questions. Does Mordos talk to anybody on the street? Does Mordos fight with the vendor about price? And, so on, and so forth.

I personally prefer this method, and I often do it before a scene whether I feel stuck or not.

Outline: Jim's Day Out

Chapter Scene/Title
Description
Characters
Jim Takes a Walk
Jim goes for a walk, seeing the sites in the town he just moved into
Jim, Joe Bob, Margaret
Disaster 1: Jim Breaks His Leg
During his walk, Jim is hit by a car, and his leg winds up under the tires.
Jim, Joe Bob, Margaret, Paramedic
The Hospital
 
 
One possible way of handling an outline. Usually works better with a traditional spreadsheet. Or I just use a numbered list on Word.

Outlines

This is my favorite way to beat writers block.

To do it is simple, pick an outline format (I use the snowflake method), and start to plug in the information.

What is the one sentence description of your story?

What major events are going to take place?

How do the characters fit into the story? What are their motivations?

What's the rough outline of the story in the form of a one page synopsis?

And, on it continues with several more questions bouncing back and forth between the characters, and the plot.

And, I know, some people might criticize me for admitting to using an outline, they could say stuff like my work is based on a formula, blah, blah, blah.

But, aren't all stories based on a formula; beginning, rising action, climax, falling action, conclusion. Then there's the three act books, or the five act books, and so on and so forth. You can really make an argument either way.

And, I have tried writing by the seat of my pants, usually it doesn't turn out well, and it's never as long as I want it to be.

Conclusion

I'm not sure I have much to say in conclusion. Breaking writer's block is a different and deeply personal thing for each person. I know I went through two years of heavy writer's block. Sitting in the dark, trying to turn on the lights inside my head so I could see the story. I couldn't get through by myself.

So, I read, and watched TV, and played video games, and did everything but sit down and write.

Then I took a creative writing class with a wonderful professor, Dr. Delilah O'Haynes, who became my mentor on this long and winding writing road, and she showed me that you have to remember what you're writing for, not why you're writing.

To break my writer's block I had to realize that I wanted to do this for a living, and I had to realize that I didn't want to get famous. I just wanted to be able to generate enough income to live comfortably, and to take care of my family.

I'm still working on that last one. But, I think that day is going to come soon. And, I think writing really is what I was put here to do. Whenever I feel blocked, I think about that, and I think about what I'm writing for.

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    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 3 years ago from Vernon British Columbia Canada

      Great Hub. You have a great sense of humor, and have given us some interesting suggestions. Talking to yourself is a great one. I've been told I do that a lot anyways, so talking myself through writer's block will probably work for me.

      I also really like what your professor said - you have to remember what you're writing for, not why you're writing.- That's great advice!

    • RyanSmith86 profile image
      Author

      RyanSmith86 3 years ago

      Thank you, KoraleeP :) I try to bring a sense of humor to everything I do, though, usually my creative writing tends to take a darker tone. And, talking to yourself is one of the best ways to have an intelligent conversation, as long as you don't get into an argument. That starts to look kind of weird. Staring in a mirror and yelling at yourself.

      Yeah... you're folks and roommates might think that's...

      Mental hospitals aren't fun...

      Lol.

      Glad you enjoyed the Hub :)

    • Viva Jones profile image

      Viva Jones 3 years ago from UK

      I love these suggestions, especially writing a line down from a favourite book. I just force myself to write knowing that it'll all get rewritten umpteen times anyway. And instead of that dreaded first paragraph I tell myself that I'm starting with the second one, and that the first will come to me as the story/chapter develops. And I'm so glad I'm not the only neat freak who cannot work in a messy space!

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