A writer’s success depends on their creativity and how often they produce material. So what happens when a writer experiences writer’s block? How are we supposed to motivate ourselves to be creative when we feel lost? It’s overwhelming to stare at a half-finished piece of work and not know where to continue. To feel stuck in our profession is daunting enough. Then add a deadline moments away or a publisher constantly calling can add a tremendous amount of pressure, with minor relief.
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What is writer’s block?
There’s no such thing as stupid questions here, we learn something new every day. Writer’s block is when a writer cannot produce written material because of being unable to tap into their creativity. This can happen at any stage in a project or to any type of artist. Essentially, they’re having a dry spell and cannot come up with new ideas.
Why bring awareness to writer’s block?
My last post briefly mentioned how And Just Like That… reignited my passion for writing. Well, to be honest, this is my first year of writing in over five years. Now that my daughter is in school, I have zero excuses; except: I have no ideas! Or so I thought. When I sat down at my desk with the intentions of writing for the first time this year, I felt so lost. I didn’t know where to begin.
I went through old clips, stories I started but never finished, poems that were written over ten years ago, and articles from college, yet nothing inspired me. After a week or two telling my partner that I “for sure, gonna start writing again, and get published within the year!”, my thoughts switched to “this is why I never seriously pursued it”. I didn’t have any ideas or connections, and nowhere to start. I was beginning to give up hope.
Except, I spoke about being a writer since I was tiny. Once I could plan sentences, I wrote stories. Two-page short stories in the second grade turned into a 10-20 page novella easily. My favorite teacher in high school gave me a book on writing for my graduation gift. When he gave it to me, he said one day he was going to say he “knew me from way back when”. So how could I give up my hopes and dreams so quickly? So I began listening to anything and everything people would recommend to get through writer’s block. Some have worked and some have not; below I have listed my five favorite ways to fight writer’s block.
How do I overcome writer’s block?
1.) Write everyday
It sounds silly, doesn’t it? You have writer’s block; how are you supposed to write? There are a couple of ways we can approach this. I believe we group relativity and productivity too closely together. We focus on the major project until it’s complete. If we switch to something else, we lost the feeling of productivity, because it doesn’t relate to our “work”. However, our brains need a break sometimes. If a specific project is overwhelming at the moment, switch projects. Internally, we might fight it because we want to focus on the problem instead of “avoiding” it, but it is surprising how much more refreshed we feel once we revisit our original project. Keep this in mind: a break is not always a bad thing.
Another good point to writing every day is that we don’t lose our place or train of thought. When I began writing again, I jumped head-first into an old story I started. Only, I kind of forgot what happened in the book and what direction the story was going in. If I wrote a little every day and reviewed the chapters often, I would be in a much better place with my story. My notes and thoughts would be fresh; honestly, the complete novel would be complete and I could work on a sequel. It’s easier to be creative if we’re always in a creative mindset. With that being said, it can still be hard to write every day. That’s where the next two tips come into play.
2.) Use a journal
Sometimes journaling can have a negative connotation. Most people associate journaling with diaries and holding our deepest, darkest secrets, but that’s not at all what it has to be. Journaling can be as simple as going over our day, reviewing our likes, dislikes; what was or not accomplished. It’s also a good place to hold notes for future pieces; maybe an interesting occurrence at the cafe could play a part in a future novel. Write it down! If a separate space to collect thoughts and occurrences, then journaling is the best way to go.
If you’re a little stuck in the journaling department or are open to more internal work, then a guided journal would be extremely beneficial, too. The reason a guided journal may help is that in my experience, when I’m struggling to write, it’s difficult to write almost anything from my head. If you’re defeated and it’s hard to think of something new, having prompts is extremely helpful. Plus, you might find out something about yourself. I recently finished a 30-day guided journal called Self Love.
With the help of that journal, I realized and processed the other areas I struggled in; ultimately allowing me to be more open and creative instead of being blocked by negativity. A guided journal helps us analyze our strengths and our weaknesses, ultimately leading us to the best version of ourselves. When we’re at our best, our writing is at its best and it shows. Take the extra time and focus on yourself for a change.
3.) Prompt books
Another way to make sure we write every day is to use a prompt book. If you’re fresh out of ideas or struggling with what to write about, prompt books will get you started. There are a variety of options out there. A Year of Creative Prompts provides three prompts for 365 days. The first is a five-minute prompt, the second two are a little longer, so it’s important to set aside enough time to give the prompts the attention they deserve. The topics range from science fiction, horror, fantasy, non-fiction to journal prompts; even if some of these genres are out of your realm, try to be open-minded.
If you’re looking for something with a wider range of topics, another great recommendation is 5,000 Writing Prompts: A Master List of Plot Ideas, Creative Exercises, and More. This book contains plot ideas, character suggestions, scene descriptions, and many more different types of prompts. It’s listed a few different ways to facilitate easier navigating. Whether working on a horror story or trying to master the description of a specific emotion, this book will help. This book has prompted so many ideas out of me. I’ve struggled to stop writing using this prompt book. Sometimes it’s hard to not get attached and continue more.
For more suggestions, browse Kindle; there is a variety of writing prompt books available for free. From creating scenes to characters to plot, prompt books are sure to get the wheels in our brains spinning again. Writer’s block? What’s that?
4.) Read, Read, Read!
I honestly forgot how it feels to curl up in bed with a good book and some warm blankets. Why did I ever stop? Probably because I allow myself to get too wrapped up in the story! Recently my family has introduced library trips into our weekly routine. My daughter is in kindergarten now and I wanted to introduce her to books and the library. Now I take home a pile of books and read a little before I go to sleep. Reading is another way to stay in a creative mindset. We learn more than we may think by reading other writer’s work. It also can help us formulate ideas.
For example, there’s a character I really enjoy in a new novel that I’m reading. The more and more I get attached to this character, the more ideas form. Absorbing other’s creativity keeps it flowing through us. We can piggyback off the things we liked, the reasons we enjoyed the story, and leave out everything that we hated (unless that’s what made us loved it that much more, if so, embrace!). Plus, sometimes living someone else’s life for a few minutes is exactly what we need!
5.) Make the time to fight writer’s block!
This is tip probably the most important one. All the above will help push us to break out of a stump, but if we don’t have the time and we don’t actually do it, how is it supposed to work? Hopefully, you already set aside time every day to sit in your space and create. If you don’t, do it now. Even better, make sure you have a space dedicated specifically to your writing, too. While some, myself included, believe they work better with distractions, for example, music, keep them minimal and only include productive ones. Unfortunately, we can’t multitask as well as we think we can, so stick to what’s familiar and brings you comfort.
BONUS: Reenact what made us fall in love in the first place
Yes, yes the title says five, but I must share this one. This tip is kind of weirdly intimate, but works for me every time. Along the way, we get lost ourselves in characters, stories, and our favorite one-liners, so much that we forget about why we are writers. We must take a moment to remind ourselves why we fell in love with writing in the first place. We must ask ourselves, why am I a writer? What inspired me? A book? A movie? A song?
Find the moment in the past where it clicked and being a writer just made sense. Then do it again. Go find the book that opened your eyes and read it again. Listen to the song, feel the song. Write about why you chose this. We must remember what we’ve accomplished and all that we’ve fought for. For me, there’s always been something about a beautifully smooth pen on paper. I feel important when my words, in my writing, are on paper for all to see. Even though I constantly complain about my handwriting and I can type this incredibly faster than I could write it, it brings me a small slice of happiness. Indulge as much as you can. You’ll thank yourself later!
There it is! Five plus one bonus tips on how to combat writer’s block. Which of these tips do you think will help you? Are there any tips you care to add? Leave a comment below!