10 More Ways to Fight Writer's Block
How to write when you STILL can't write.
Are you suffering from complete, full-blown, can't-see-a-way-out-of-this writer's block? Or do you just want as many tricks as possible up your sleeve when you hit that wall? Well, this article is for you. This is a continuation of 10 ways to fight writer's block, which I hope already has helped you a part of the way. If you haven't read it yet, don't fear. There are no continuation issues, it did not end in a cliffhanger, and I will try not to give away any spoilers.
#1: Have a shower
(the one exception to the "bring a notebook everywhere" rule)
In my original article on writer's block I mentioned that as a writer you should bring a notebook everywhere you go. You never know when inspiration strikes, and when it does you want a way to write your ideas down. Unless you have a very special notebook and pen that works underwater (for this, have a look below!), don't take it into the shower with you. Yes, it's obvious, but I just thought I'd mention it...
Many writers claim their best ideas come to them in the shower. If there are some magical qualities to the water coming our of their shower heads or whether it is simply the fact that ideas often turn up when you least expect it, I don't know. But it is still worth a shot!
Doing simple, everyday activities makes the brain think that all is well, and normal, and relaxed. "We're cool. Nothing to see here." The mind wanders. "What should we have for dinner today? I love the smell of this shampoo." And then (BAM!) the idea for a bestseller - no, a book that will earn you a Nobel Prize in literature! - just falls right into your head.
#2: Get a change of scenery
Go to a cafe or sit down on a bench in the park. Describe what you see. The people around you. The dog playing with a stick. The way the light falls through the leaves overhead or maybe you find something interesting on the ground.
I once found an Ikea pencil on the path in the middle of nowhere in Spain, while walking the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It looked so out of place that I decided I needed to keep it and put it in a side pocket of my backpack, but the next day it was gone. I still think there is a story in that pencil, and I might write it someday.
Photo: I took this photo on a beautiful autumn day at the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne, Australia. What a perfect place to sit and write, watching the black swans in the lake (there were plenty of them, but somehow they had all disappeared by the time I had picked up my camera).
Poll: Please tell me I'm not alone.
Do you ever suffer from writer's block?
Naughty, I know. But a truly great way to learn how people are really talking. Write snippets of conversations you hear on the street down in your notebook (which you should keep with you at all times). Note down the gender, age, and any other interesting information you can get about the people just by looking at them, and write down what he/ she says. Try to even get in the filler words: "like", "you know", "whatever". Maybe you see a pattern and find that teenage girls in Justin Bieber t-shirts speak a certain way and middle-aged men in suits a different way (okay, that one is pretty obvious, but you know what I mean).
Personally, writing conversations is my weakest point in writing fiction, and for me this is a very good exercise. Some conversations are even so good that you just have to use it in its entirety in your story. But please, do so with discretion! Oh, and try to also listen with discretion. We are looking for inspiration here, not a restraining order...
#4: Listen to music
Especially when writing fiction I find music a huge source of inspiration. Some people find lyrics to be a distraction. Others look for songs with lyrics that suit what they are writing. Yet others find music in itself too much of a distraction and need absolute peace and quiet. Find out what works best for you.
Personally I find that I sometimes need it to be quiet around me, other times music on a low volume is what I need. I have also found myself writing a tragic death scene while blasting the Swedish version of Holy Night (yes, the Christmas song). Question my sanity if you will - most people I know do regularly - but in the end it is all about whatever rocks your boat (or right now, whatever keeps your boat afloat).
#5: Last Minute Inspiration
Just plain old panic, really...
DEADLINE - That big, scary word feared by everyone who has ever had to keep one.
A clear, unmovable deadline can do one of two things for you: scare you into start writing, or completely paralyze you with blind panic. With me it's both. I spend most of my time checking how much time I have left, and then I do housework. My house is never so clean as when I have a big, fat deadline looming over my head. I scrub the toilet as if hoping a magic genie will come popping out of it and grant me three wishes (my paper magically finished, a new pair of pretty shoes and a trip to Paris. Oh, and world peace. Always wish for world peace!).
Inevitably, most of the papers I had to write in school and at university was started and finished the day before the deadline (even if I had three weeks to do it), and edited into the small hours. Somehow I always made it, despite being over-caffeinated, over tired and just generally over it.
If you don't have a deadline, make one up. If you do have one, make one up that is much, much shorter.
#6: Set a timer
And write until it buzzes. Then you can do something else, be it going to the bathroom after sitting on your heel for half an hour, playing Angry Birds, or having coffee or a piece of chocolate, etc. If you're using edible treats as an incentive, beware the Pavlov's dog phenomena: After a while, when you hear the buzzer you may start salivating, knowing there is a treat coming up...
I find that when I set the timer I immediately get more relaxed. I know that I only need to sit here for a certain time before I can get up and do something else, rather than having to stare at the screen indefinitely, feeling the frustration build up. A relaxed mind is less likely to cause a blockage in your creative flow.
You can also decide to write 100 words, or 500 words before your reward, if you prefer. Before I thought of using the timer, this is the approach I used. But I stopped doing that when I realised I was checking the word count after every sentence I wrote. And then, after drumming my fingers against the table for ten minutes, I checked again - just to be sure I got it right the last time. A lot of time spent checking word counts, not a lot of time spent actually writing.
The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes.
#7: Be creative!
The right side of our brain is associated with creativity. Get this side of your brain working again by being creative in some other way than writing. The idea is to distract yourself, so get immersed in your hobby - be it scrap-booking, knitting, drawing, sewing or painting, or something else. Be creative about it, and trick your brain into switching from problem solving mode to hey-this-is-fun mode. As I mentioned above, a relaxed mind is less likely to panic at the thought of not coming up with another word - and therefore the chance of another writer's block is smaller.
Just a warning: Don't overdo it and end up doing fifty DIY projects you just found on Pinterest, or you will just end up procrastinating (yes, I saw that one coming - shame on you!) Finish one project that you enjoy, and then go back to your computer with - hopefully - a relaxed and inspired mind.
When you need inspiration
#8: Have a snack
And a big drink of water
Sometimes when we are sitting in front of a computer, we can forget to eat. Or drink. Or... you know, that there exists a whole world out there. Writing is actually hard work for the brain, and it needs nourishment to keep going. Maybe you are simply running out of steam?
When you reach that point when your blood sugar is dropping, it is easy to reach for a chocolate and a cup of delicious, hot, steaming coffee...
Where was I...?
Oh, yes, Try instead a healthy snack and a big drink of water. My favourite snack at the moment is a sliced apple with peanut butter. It is both sweet and a little bit salty at the same time, and tastes so good that it's hard to believe it's healthy. And yet, it is!
Not drinking enough water can make you feel sluggish, so make sure you stay hydrated. A tall glass of cold, fresh water will feel revitalizing.
Photo: Do as I say, not as I do... This photo was taken in a real-life situation, where I was too lazy to get up, and my can of coke was juuuuust out of reach. A big thank you to my friend who captured my moment of distress...
#9: Write a list of all the reasons you can't write
Confront writer's block head on, and write down ten things that stops you from writing right now.
Are you tired? Can't concentrate? Have a to-do list that looms over your head? Are the birds chirping too loudly outside your window?
Oh, look: you're writing again!
#10: When all else fails - bake some muffins!
Okay, not really. I just couldn't think of a number 10.
Photo: Home made apple and cinnamon muffins. Yum!