This post is for all you authors out there.
Inevitably, in every writer’s life, we are stricken with writer’s block: the agonizing affliction that takes away our inspiration and leaves us with no idea where to take our story. Excuse the unprofessional language, but frankly, it sucks.
If you type into Google, “What to do when you have writer’s block,” the search engine will return 122,000 results for you (and I have no doubt that number is constantly increasing). Clearly, it’s a common plague that even the best writers succumb to, and we turn to Google for a magic potion to turn our blank screens or notebooks back into beautiful pages full of script.
There are many things that can help writer’s block, and I’m going to list a few tricks that have assisted me in overcoming that mountain of writing hopelessness.
Write somewhere new.
Sometimes that’s all it takes. I find I can can get bored sitting within my same old office walls every day. (I can also be easily distracted by the kitchen a few feet away and all the potential food it could provide me…) Whether it’s as simple as moving to the couch or dining room table, or taking drastic measures and driving to the beach or a coffee house, changing your surroundings can do wonders to refocussing your thoughts and finding your words.
Write something different.
This can be hard. Why waste time writing something that isn’t what you normally want to do? Forcing yourself to think about different words can sometimes mean you come back to your passion project with fresh ideas that had time to ruminate in the back of your mind (or maybe just make you remember how much you love your genre of writing). Writing a thriller? Give yourself a goal of writing 500 words of romance. Writing romance? Give yourself 500 words to write the scariest scene you can imagine. Stretch your creativity and see what happens.
Read more books.
The best writers are also the most avid readers. Sometimes it helps to have a reminder of why you’re forcing yourself through the suffering that is writing a novel. Reading a complete and successful book can be a great reminder of the goal you are working towards. And chances are, if you’re a writer, you just love words, and allowing yourself guilt-free time to immerse yourself in someone else’s words can mean you emerge refreshed and ready to engage in your own story again.
Engage in activity.
This one is huge for me. As an editor, I spend my life sitting. This is hard on the body. After a few hours, I begin to get antsy, and no matter how I sit (or where I sit) I just can’t seem to get comfortable. This, of course, cuts into my focus and it becomes a battle to be productive. I’ve learned to take these cues and get up and move! If I have time to go for a run or a walk, you can bet I will be lacing up my running shoes. If I’m on a tight deadline, I will take advantage of my two flights of stairs and race up and down them a few times. The point is to get the blood flowing, the creaky bones greased, and the muscles stretched.
But here’s the biggest secret I can let you in on:
There’s truly only ONE way to get over writers block.
It’s painful. It’s like pulling teeth. Don’t worry if every single word you eke out ends up being terrible. Don’t try to type the perfect story. Don’t edit as you write (a bad habit most of us have!). Just start pounding that keyboard and pour those words all over the screen. Whether it’s coherent sentences or fragmented ideas that are floating around in your brain, grab them and bring them into reality.
Before you know it, you will have found the stream of consciousness that leads you back to the words you need to keep writing. The only way to get over writer’s block is to write, and it’s in these most challenging moments that we really grow as writers in self-discipline and creativity.