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How to Beat Writer's Block: Creative Solutions

Updated on May 24, 2011

Are your characters floundering or your plots tying themselves in knots?  Have you lost confidence in your writing style?  Do you need motivation to begin a project or stay put for the one you’re struggling with?  Try these creative, fun solutions today and get your writing back on track. 

There are many ways of beating writer’s block, each depending on the situation that has caused a stall.  Your first task is to decide which aspect of your project is causing the holdup; if the whole thing just looks like a big mess, take a break for a day or so and do something fun. 

Character troubles? 

Go for a character walk.  Choose a setting that your character might encounter or feel particularly attached to, and put yourself into your character’s shoes as you walk.  If your character loves shopping, wander through the mall and look at the colorful displays and cheerful shoppers through her eyes.  For a stay-at-home character, stroll through a neighborhood where you could imagine him living, and search for a house with embellishments to match his quirks.  And for an adventurous, nature-loving type, take a hike in your closest natural setting and imagine what draws your character to the sweeping expanses, the dark woods, the soaring peaks, or the crashing waves.  Even if you don’t manage to solve the specific problem you began with, you will have gained new insights into your character’s psyche, which will result in a greater enthusiasm for her story. 

Plot problems?

If your plot has somehow failed, or if you have the beginnings of an idea but can’t figure out how to make it work, try writing a letter to yourself--explain what you want to achieve and why it poses difficulties. The letter can be as strange or untidy as necessary; it just helps to lay out the difficulties you’ve struggled with in a way that leads towards solutions. You should begin this by describing the problems you’re facing. If these problems have been nagging at you for a while, you’ve probably come up with a set of possible solutions that, for some reason or another, will not work. List these next. At this point, your subconscious will have already begun puzzling out new ways to approach these difficulties; if you still fall short of a solution, list any crazy thoughts that come next. Once you reach a solution, write it down—new connections and possibilities that never occurred to you will suddenly seem obvious as you lay out your thoughts.

Stuck on style?

Style is a tricky element of writing. Writers insist that voice cannot be taught, so there are few rules to abide by when you become unsure of your own voice. This often happens when you compare yourself too closely to another writer (or your own previous work) and begin doubting your ability to write well. If this becomes a long-term problem, try participating in a writing challenge that encourages speed and quantity over quality. Although this strategy may appear to force a lower standard of writing, it actually frees a writer’s creativity and eases the pressure of performance. One excellent way to do this is by trying National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo); this annual competition challenges writers to complete 50,000 words of fiction during the month of November. It’s an intense, exhilarating experience that allows you to suppress your inner doubts and second-guessing.

Missing motivation?

If you’re having trouble forcing yourself to sit down and write, impose a very simple goal and promise yourself a reward upon its completion.  Decide to write for ten minutes or the duration of your favorite writing song, or until the end of two sentences or a quarter of a page.  Reward yourself with a treat, like food or a movie.  Usually you won’t be ready to stop when you’ve completed your goal; even if you are, you’ll continue thinking about your story while you eat. 

Getting started on a new project?

Beginning a new project is difficult, so I like to do it in a setting that puts me in a good mood and gives me no choice but to write.  Bringing your laptop to your favorite café—one that allows you to stay comfortably for as long as you wish—is a wonderful way to enforce focus.  Whatever you do, don’t make use of their free internet.  If you deny yourself the wireless code, you won’t have the chance to get distracted.  And with a steaming drink in hand, what would ordinarily seem like hours of boredom will instead become a wonderfully romantic way of freeing your imagination.  By the time you drain your glass, the story will be well on its way. 

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