30 Surefire Ways To Bust Through Writer’s Block
Are you feeling stuck and uninspired in your work as an author?
Have you extinguished that spark of creativity that lights up your imagination and ability to write with ease?
Maybe you’ve lost track of where your writing was going, or you feel like the well of ideas has run dry.
Writer’s block affects all authors from time to time, but knowing this offers little comfort to those who are currently experiencing it. It’s a painful, frustrating place to be.
Author and blogger Jeff Goins has narrowed the causes of writer’s block down to these three common culprits:
Timing – your ideas aren’t quite well-formed enough to be memorialized in writing.
Fear – you feel way too vulnerable to put your work out into the world to be judged or criticized.
Perfectionism – you need everything to be perfect in your head before you start.
Science fiction author Charlie Jane Anders says that writer’s block is actually too broad a term for a number of different creative challenges. She breaks up the concept of writer’s block in these 10 problems:
- Not being able to come up with an idea.
- Being unable to commit to a single idea.
- Getting stuck on one part of the outline.
- Getting stuck in the middle of the story or concept.
- Hitting a dead end because you took a wrong turn a while back.
- Feeling bored with characters who aren’t doing anything or material that seems dry.
- Being paralyzed by future imagined negative reactions.
- Not being able to think of the exact right word.
- Thinking the story or idea was great in concept, but now seems all wrong in writing.
- Getting stuck while slogging through revisions.
Having an awareness of what your block might be can enable you to judge how best to proceed.
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Fortunately, authors have a variety of opinions for busting through writer’s block. Just remember that what works in one situation may not work in another. That’s why we at Authority.Pub encourage you to try out many different strategies to figure out what works for you.
Some are practical, some are more creative, and some are a little woo-woo. Whether or not you believe in muses and divine inspiration, don’t rule any out until you’ve tried them.
The most important part is that you do something. Don’t just sit there staring at an empty sheet of paper or a blank document on the screen. Once you get the momentum going, you will be on your way soon enough.
Here are 30 ideas on how to overcome writer’s block.
1. Get your body moving.
This could involve going for a walk, run, or any other type of physical activity. Mokokoma Mokhonoana tweeted out, “Whenever I encounter writer’s block, I stop writing … with my hands; I then start writing with my legs,” and he’s got a point.
Research has shown a link between bodily movement and cognitive enhancement by overcoming mental blocks or lack of inspiration.
2. Eliminate distractions.
Turn off your cell phone and internet.
Try using a site such as Cold Turkey Writer which runs a writing document in full screen and blocks out everything else. It even locks you into this mode until your pre-set time requirement or word count goal has been reached.
3. Change your environment.
Sometimes sitting in the same place day in a day out will put you in a funk.
Grab your notebook or laptop and head to a coffee shop or park. The change of scenery may kick start your brain with some fresh ideas.
Sit down with a newspaper, magazine, blog, novel, nonfiction book, anything. Good writers are also avid readers.
5. Drink a cup (or two) of coffee.
It is no secret that many writers throughout history used stimulant drugs to activate their writing process.
Instead of going down this unhealthy and dangerous road, how about trying some coffee?
The caffeine acts as a stimulant in the brain, and it might jump start your productivity.
I don’t drink coffee every day, so I really notice a difference in the amount of writing I can crank out with a caffeine jolt.
6. Call a friend.
This is a quick and easy way to get a mood boost and renew your energy stores.
Let you mind run wild with a brainstorming session. Write down any and all notes in point form on a paper.
Afterward, go back and look for any theme that emerged or connections you can make between ideas.
8. Take a break.
Step away from your work and take a little break. When you come back, you will have fresh eyes.
This may make it easier to see things from a new perspective than before.
9. Create a deadline.
Some people work better under pressure. If you do, then create deadlines for yourself throughout your writing process.
Decide that you must write x number of words by a certain date. Come up with rewards for meeting your deadlines or consequences for missing them.
Tell a friend or family member so they can keep you accountable and dole out the punishment if necessary.
10. Practice free writing.
The steps of free writing include choosing a topic, setting a timer, and writing nonstop until your time is up.
Do not worry about grammar, spelling, or anything else. If your thoughts run dry, simply write the same word over and over until you can start again.
New York Times bestselling author Anne Lamott says, “I encourage my students at times like these to get one page of anything written, three hundred words of memories or dreams or stream of consciousness on how much they hate writing – just for the hell of it, just to keep their fingers from becoming too arthritic, just because they have made a commitment to try to write three hundred words every day.”
11. Draw a mind map.
If writing words isn’t working for you, switch to something visual for a bit.
Draw out a mind map or other visual representation of your outline. Doodle, use symbols, draw stick figures, or whatever gets you thinking and making connections.
12. Use aromatherapy.
Science has proven that scents have an impact on our mind and nervous system.
Frankincense, grapefruit, and lemon are uplifting scents that can enhance creativity and concentration. Eucalyptus and peppermint are useful for renewing the mind and creating mental clarity.
13. Take notes at the top of the page.
If you can’t stand to face that intimidating blank sheet of paper or empty document, get a few ideas down in point form at the top of the page. Then start your writing beneath it.
14. Clear your mind.
Try a short meditation session or take five mindful breathes to clear away any rumination and create a feeling of openness in your mind.
Igor Stravinsky would go as far as doing headstands when he felt blocked in order to “clear the brain.”
15. Create a routine.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work is an entire book on the sometimes quirky routines that 161 famous artists, writers, scientists, and more made for themselves to get their work done.
Some worked early, while some worked late. Some wrote standing up, while others lay in bed. It didn’t matter what they were doing; the key was the consistency of having a routine.
16. Read inspiring quotations.
Look up inspiring quotations, perhaps specifically from a personal role model or hero.
Knowing that others have been in your shoes and powered through can provide powerful encouragement to keep moving forward.
17. Do more research.
The reason you’re feeling stuck may be that you do not have all the information necessary to carry on. Spend some time digging deeper into your research to ensure you have the facts you need and there are no discrepancies standing in the way.
Let your child-like wonder and creativity run free with some unstructured playtime. The activity itself doesn’t matter as long as its main purpose for you is enjoyment.
19. Start anywhere.
If you are struggling to write that all-important hook of a first line, then leave it. Maybe you have already visualized the last chapter. Then start there. Write wherever you feel your inspiration leading you.
20. Try The Most Dangerous Writing App.
This terrifying app uses a very motivating consequence to get you writing. You choose how long you want to write, and you cannot stop typing for longer than 5 seconds or else all your work will be lost. Yikes!
This reminded me of a quotation from Barbara Kingsolver where she says, “I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.”
21. Write in the early morning.
When you first wake up, your brain may still be in theta mode. Theta brain waves are optimal for creativity and are connected to raw emotions and intuition. You can take advantage of this opportunity by waking early and writing first thing.
22. Stop editing.
It’s easy to get caught up in the little details regarding grammar or formatting. Stop editing yourself while you write, and you may be surprised by how much more you get done. You will always be able to go back through and revise as needed when you’re finished.
23. Listen to music.
Music effects our emotions and is a common source of inspiration. Perhaps mix it up with some classical or jazz if that is not in your usual playlist.
24. Try the glass of water technique.
Suspense author Brian Moreland described this technique as follows. Fill a glass with water before bed. Hold it and speak your intention into the water.
Try something along the lines of, “My intent is to connect with my creativity and write effortlessly tomorrow.”
Drink half the water then leave the glass on your bedside table. When you wake up the next morning, drink the rest of the water. Then go immediately to your computer and write for at least an hour without distraction.
There’s no science behind this one — but Brian says it works for him, so it maybe it will work for you!
25. Find a random writing prompt.
If you’re stuck in your own work, put your mind in another place with a random writing prompt. There are countless websites, books, and apps that can be used to find prompts. Get the creative juices flowing on something new, then go back and try again later.
26. Engage in a different type of creative venture.
Color a picture, write a poem, snap a few photos, paste together a collage, build something out of wood, or decorate a cake. Just exercise your creativity muscle and prepare it for writing.
27. Read through your old work on different projects.
It can be reassuring to go back and reread your completed works.
Find encouragement in the fact that though you undoubtedly struggled through different challenges in those pieces as well, you made it through and completed something incredible. If you have done it once, you can do it again.
28. Write something low-pressure.
Make a grocery list. Write a letter to your aunt. Type an email to a friend or comment on some blogs. Continue to put words together, but do it in a low-pressure situation where you aren’t self-critical or judged by others.
29. Implement the Pomodoro Technique.
This is a time management technique that Steve Scott frequently recommends where you set a timer for 25 minutes and do your task until the timer rings.
Then you have a 3-5 minute break before another 25 minutes of writing.
After completing four 25 minute sessions, you take a 15-30 minute break before beginning again.
30. Spend time with someone who makes you feel good.
Positive feelings can be contagious, so spend time with others who love and support you. Their good vibes might just provide the confidence boost and courage you need to access your break through.
As Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
So choose one task from this list. If it doesn’t work out, move on to another.
There is an endless amount of advice on the internet about getting past writer’s block. You could read about it for days, but don’t use this plethora of information as yet another procrastination tactic.
Instead, now that we’ve gone through these strategies, I suggest you stop reading and start working. You already have the tools to bust through writer’s block, so it’s time to write!