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Breaking Through Writer's Block

Updated on November 4, 2011

Having trouble with writer’s block? Don’t worry, it’s not just you. Lots of writers suffer from writer’s block. “Writer’s block” is a temporary condition where a writer finds it impossible to continue with his or her writing project. There are many causes of this problem; each dependent upon the writer. For me, writer’s block often occurs when I’m uninspired or worn out from writing too much. Writing is an art like any other. You need inspiration to proceed, but too much work will wear you down and that inspiration will drain. There’s lots of ways to help with writer’s block. Below you’ll find some things that help me get passed writer’s block, including a few of my favorite writing exercises.

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Tips You Can Try...

Here are some tips for preventing or getting rid of writer’s block:

  • Take a break.
    - Relax your brain by taking a break from writing. Take a walk, spend some time with friends or family and come back to your work later. Taking a "vacation" from your writing for a period of time will refresh your brain and hopefully get your creative juices flowing again.
  • Reflect on your project.
    - Try to remember why you started the project. What inspired you before? What is your motivation to keep writing it? Are you writing this for yourself? Were you excited about writing this? What made you lose your motivation to write this? What might help get that motivation back? Is this worth writing still?
  • Brainstorm with a friend.
    - Sometimes friends and family can come up with some great ideas even if they are not writers. They may come up with a twist that you hadn't thought of before.
  • Read your work aloud.
    - Reading your work aloud to yourself can, for starters, point out any mistakes or inconsistencies that you hadn't noticed before. For me editing work I already have written so far helps me come up with ideas for where the piece is going. Also reading aloud to a friend or family member can help (if they are willing to be unbiased, of course). Getting a reader's opinion will make you a better writer and help you think about what the readers want to see in your piece. Writing doesn't have to be a completely solitary act.
  • Ask for advice.
    - Ask someone who knows for advice. Fellow writers whether they are established or not can offer you lots of tips and tricks, like the ones I'm providing you now. Everyone's different and someone else may have tricks for curing writer's block that better suit you. If you're a college student like me, teachers are great resources. They are often established writers, and can offer a lot of different ways to improve your writing and break through the wall that is blocking your creativity.
  • Read as much as you write.
    - Reading other writers' work is a great way to come up with new ideas and concepts. Also keep in mind there are great books out there that are specifically designed to help with your writing. I often use prompt and writing books to help me come up with ideas.
  • Work on multiple projects.
    - I find that having more than one project to focus on helps keep the creative juices flowing. What may not work for one project may work for another. You may have more inspiration for certain projects at times. You can easily bounce between your projects when you're stuck on one. If you love to write like I do this one may work best for you.
  • Outline your project.
    - For some people having a course of action can be really helpful. Outlining your project will at least help you by reminding you where you want your project to go. All you have to do is flesh out the details.
  • Keep writing.
    - I find that some writers often break through writer's block by force. Making themselves write at least a paragraph or two where they last left off can help flick the light bulb on in their minds.
  • Use a prompt or exercise.
    - Prompts and exercises are great for curing writer's block and improving your skills. Below you will find a few of my favorite exercises and prompts that often help me come up with some great ideas for my pieces.

Exercises You Can Try...

Here are some exercise I often use to break out of writer’s block:

---Six Word Memoirs Exercise---

  • I learned this exercise in a creative writing class in college. It's fun, challenging and sometimes can spark ideas. Using six words, write a sentence that sums up your own (or one of your character's) life, beliefs, story, etc. Some examples of famous six word memoirs are:
    - "Well, I thought it was funny." - Stephen Colbert
    - "Born bald. Grew hair. Bald again." - A.J. Jacobs
    - "Me see world! Me write stories." - Elizabeth Gilbert
    - "Revenge is living well without you." - Joyce Carol Oates

---Still-Life Exercise---

  • This is a fun one. I often look around the room I'm in for ideas for this exercise. Create a still-life in a room that implies a dramatic moment (e.g. an overturned chair, Balled up papers, crack in a wall, a set of keys, etc). Describe what lead up to that moment or what happened just after that moment.

---In Medias Res Exercise---

  • This one particularly helps me when I'm stuck. Considering most writers get stuck somewhere in the middle and towards the end of their stories, this exercise allows you to begin a story in medias res or in the middle of the action. Use the question "Where were you last night?" as the first line. Work in back story in the form of character evidence (black eye from a fight), flashback or memory. This may require a small amount of character development.

---Character Setting Exercise---

  • Character development not only enriches your story but can also lead to ideas for later. This exercise combines two of the biggest components of a story: Character and setting. From these two components you can develop themes, plots and other huge components of a story. Create a character from setting alone. Describe in as many details the place he or she lives. What kind of objects does he or she have in their bedroom? What kind of order is the room in? How is the room decorated? Etc. Try to create a setting that gives insight into his or her character. You can use a character from your own story or make up a whole new one.

---Musical Inspiration Exercise---

  • Some people, like me, find inspiration in music and other forms of art. This exercise takes that into consideration. Write a story based on a song title or write the story behind a song. This is fun and can lead to inspiration for your current project or even a whole new one.

---Going In Blind Exercise---

  • Think of a place. Using all your senses, except vision, describe the place in as much detail as possible. I really love this exercise. I myself am visually impaired and find this exercise a true gem for teaching others how to use their other senses. Through this exercise you will not only hone your skills but you might even learn to not take your vision for granted.

---People Watching Exercise---

  • Sometimes watching and listening to others can spark some really great ideas. Sit in a restaurant or crowded place and listen to the conversations people are having around you. Be sure to write down the snippets of conversation you hear. Observe the way people speak and the words they use, then finish their conversations.

Utilize Your Resources

The exercises listed above are just a small fraction of what’s available to writers. There are hundreds of books and tons of websites that can help you break free of that blockage and improve your skills. For me, exercises are the most helpful. If you feel the same, I hghly recommend the book, What if? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. It is the most used book by creative writing teachers. It has some wonderful and fun exercises you can try. It helped me out of writer’s block many times. Also consider surfing the web, google writing exercises, or writer’s block tips. There are lots of writers like me that are sharing their own advice right now.

Skylar Spring © copyright 2011


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