- Books, Literature, and Writing»
- Commercial & Creative Writing
Combating Writer's Block
Any writer in any capacity has undoubtedly had a run-in with the dreaded condition called writer's block. Whether it be due to a lack of inspiration, an inability to focus or simply not knowing where to start, writer's block is notorious for stumping even the most accomplished authors. So, how does one overcome the inability to write?
I've read a lot about writer's block and consulted a myriad of sources for potential remedies. Simply put, there's no quick fix and getting back to writing and producing work can take more time and effort than actually writing a piece does. Really, it all comes down to you. How stumped are you? How uninspired or unmotivated do you feel? Do you even know what's causing your writer's block?
When I'm facing my own writer's block, I find that the answer to the problem is that I just don't feel like writing. As a self-defined author, it's a pretty big problem. However, I've come across a lot of helpful exercises and practices that have gotten me writing again. Sometimes, it takes a combination of things and sometimes one tip is enough to get me going again. Try not to feel discouraged. All writing takes some degree of creativity, and being creative or inspired isn't a science.
Keep A Journal
Everyone is capable of recording their thoughts in some way or another and I've found that the exercise of writing in a journal helps to get ideas flowing. If nothing else, I'm writing something every day and sometimes I just need that sense of accomplishment to get on with other projects. Focusing on a journal entry is often a great distraction from whatever I'm struggling with. Even if I haven't strung together a sentence in days, I find I'm always capable of putting SOMETHING on a page.
If you're struggling so hard with writer's block that even the idea of keeping a journal seems daunting, simplify it. Don't be afraid to be boring. Write down what you did when you got out of bed or what you ate for breakfast. The important thing is to get yourself to write something down. The great part about writing journal entries is that you don't have to feel any pressure. No one ever has to read your journal - not even you. You don't have to read it over or edit it when you're done. Just focus on using this exercise to put words onto a page.
Shake Things Up
There's been a lot of times that I find myself not feeling like writing when I've sunk into a routine. If you're like me and you're not making enough money from writing to consider it a soul source of income, you can find that working a full time job to pay the bills makes it hard to come home and be creative. If you're in a situation like that and you can, take a couple of days off. While a week long vacation off to the Caribbean would be great, I'm often only able to score a weekend off and don't usually have the extra income to really go anywhere. A break doesn't have to be anything exciting - just strive to do something outside of your usual routine.
Take a walk in a park you've never been to. Go out and stroll around your neighborhood at an hour you're not usually outside. Shake up your routine without actually putting focus on your writing. Sometimes, your brain just needs a break and interrupting your usual routine will help you find new sources of inspiration. Even something so trivial as going grocery shopping on a different day and at a different hour can make me feel refreshed.
Use Writing Prompts
Some of my favorite short stories have been the product of a writing prompt. You can find creative writing prompts all over the internet and barring that, you can always ask a friend or a family member to come up with one for you. Heck, you could ask for one on hubpages. Having a starting point can alleviate a lot of pressure and writing based on someone else's idea can take you in unexpected directions. The result isn't always great, but it's a nice way to start writing again after a drought.
My favorite types of prompts are timed. If the person providing hasn't set a time limit, I'll make one for myself. Usually, I'll take fifteen minutes to respond to a question or to write whatever comes to mind based off of a few key words. One of my favorite short stories I've ever written was based on a prompt that simply said 'sand castle ice cream.'
Read A Book
Sometimes when I'm experiencing a particularly brutal bout of writer's block, I just need so step away from my work. I write not only because I have a passion for doing it, but because I love to read, as well. I may not draw inspiration from every book I've ever read, but taking in someone's finished work is a great motivator for me.
Listen To Music
It's kind of along the same lines as reading a book, but breaking the silence can be inspirational. I like to listen to the lyrics in songs or even just the overall mood of how an instrumental piece feels and try to give it a story. Try to imagine what the musicians were feeling and going through when they wrote their song. If you feel like you can, write down a story to explain the song.
Talk About It
If you're stuck on a particular piece of writing, talk to other people about it. Let them read your story and ask them for their ideas. Ask other writers where they would take the story. You don't have to agree with or use their suggestions, but having a new perspective on a story can be very helpful.
Alternately, if you have absolutely no ideas for anything to write, try feeding on someone else's inspiration. Rewrite a story you've read in your own words and go nuts with it. Change the plot to whatever comes to mind. In the case of writing hubs, see what topics other people are writing about and try approaching them with your own take on the subject. Browse through unanswered questions and see if any of those topics spark your interest.
Create A Character Or Setting
Although my biggest blocks usually involve creating or resolving plots, I still find this exercise helpful. Write down the name of a character or a place and just flesh it out from there. Ask questions like how old is this character? What type of place is this (i.e. a city, a town, a country?) If you feel like this activity is successful, you can take it even further. Create another character and give them some conflict with the first one without painting either as a villain. As with the other activities I've listed, don't stop yourself from writing down something you might think is initially stupid. Just the practice of coming up with something new can be therapeutic - you don't have to love or even like everything you create.
On occasion, I've just googled brainstorming techniques and gone wild. One of my favorite exercises is to pick a word at random and just play the association game with it. You might not end up taking anything from a game like that, but you might also end up finding some inspiration. Another fun exercise is to write down a list of 100 ideas, whether it be for hubs, articles, other lists or stories. Write down every idea you can possibly think of, regardless of how stupid or pointless they may seem. Every time I've done this, I've come away with at least one solid lead.
Research Writer's Block
Google it. Look around at all of the stories and articles about people suffering writer's block and their various methods for overcoming it. Addressing the problem head on is the first step to getting past it. If trying my methods fails for you, try someone else's. If you don't give up, you'll eventually get past your writer's block and start writing again.
Every day, we all eat and interact with things that we've bought, be it clothing, a movie or a computer. It may seem boring, but talking about the pros and cons of things you interact with in every day life is a good step towards producing material you can publish or otherwise share. Writing about things you've eaten can lead to restaurant reviews or recipes and cooking tips. Consider everything in your daily life as a potential source for inspiration. Don't be afraid of writing things you think people might not be interested in because it may lead you in a shocking direction.
The bottom line? Either force yourself to write something, whether you're excited about it or not, or do something that has absolutely nothing to do with writing. Shifting focus in general is almost always helpful. If you've taken a break and written some prompts or journal entries and still feel like you're blocked, talk to other writers and consult other guides like this.