Writer’s block is the state of being unable to proceed with writing, and/or the inability to start writing something new. Some believe it's a genuine disorder, while others believe it's “all in your head.” Regardless, we can all agree writer's block is a painful condition that's often difficult to overcome.
If you have ever been afflicted with writer's block, you'll know it's no laughing matter and it can impede your writing for days, weeks, or even months. And while it is tempting to just ignore the problem and hope that it goes away, writer's block is one of those pests that requires active extermination. Some ideas that may help are contained in this article.
1. Exercise your creative muscles
Any skill requires practice if you want to improve, and writing is no different! So if you’re feeling stuck, perhaps it’s time for a strengthening scribble-session to bolster your abilities. Look for creative writing prompts, writing strategies and writing exercises to get you started.
2. Map out your story
If your story has stopped chugging along, help it pick up steam by taking a more structured approach. For example, by writing an outline. Figuring out your story's trajectory will not only solve your current block, but also prevent more blocks in the future. What happens when you start outlining is that the information you need to write the following chapter has an uncanny way of just showing up. Basically your brain tunes in to what you need to write and, hopefully, the chapter just flows.
13. Write something else
Though it's important to try and push through writer's block with what you are actually working on, sometimes it is simply impossible. If you have been banging your head against your story for ages, feel free to push your current piece to the side for now and write something new.
This will maintain your writing routine and allow your thoughts to subconsciously simmer. That way, even if you are not actually writing what you should be writing, you can still make some conceptual progress.
14. Work on your characters
At their core, most stories are really about characters. It follows that if your characters are not clearly defined, you are more likely to run into writer’s block. But if this sounds like you, do not despair there are some great resources for getting your characters up to code:
Work through character development exercises that you can find online. These will help you flesh out your characters into three-dimensional people with strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, fears, and more.
Create character profiles because these will allow you to work out how to create a detailed character background. It also comes with a handy template you can use to really get to know your cast.
Learn your character motivations as these are a crucial part of every character and how to implement realistic motivations in your own characters.
15. Stop writing for readers
If you're an experienced author, you have probably come across the advice to “write to market.” And while this is important if you are looking to publish, the pressure of other people's expectations can be a huge inhibitor that can manifest as a major block.
So throw the market out the window for now and write for yourself, not your potential readers. This will help you reclaim the joy of being creative and get you back in touch with what matters: the story.
Disregarding what readers expect, especially if your genre is particularly “literary,” often loosens your prose into sounding less pretentious and more real.
16. Try a more visual process
When words fail you, forget them and get visual. Create mind maps, drawings, Lego structures. These should ideally be related to your story, but use whatever unblocks your mind.
17. Look for the root of it
Writer’s block often comes from a problem deeper than simple “lack of inspiration.” So let's dig deep: why are you really blocked? Ask yourself the following questions:
Do I feel pressure to succeed and/or competition with other writers?
Have I lost sight of what my story is about, or interest in where it's going?
Do I lack confidence in my own abilities, even if I've written plenty before?
Have I not written for so long that I feel intimidated by the mere act?
Am I simply feeling tired and run-down?
Each of these problems has a different solution, of course. For example, if you feel pressure to succeed, you should remind yourself that writing anything is an enormous accomplishment, and literary recognition isn't the end-all be-all of success. Or if you are feeling tired and drained, you should take a few days off from writing but remember that you have to get to the root of the block first: once you identify what is wrong, it will be easier to fix.
18. Quit the Internet
It is a small miracle that writers can get ANYTHING done on machines designed to access a world of distraction. If willpower is not your strong suit and your biggest challenge is staying focused, try a site blocker like Freedom or an app like Cold Turkey. The latter is a particularly cool solution to writer's block because it turns your computer into a typewriter until you reach your writing goal, so you literally cannot do anything else.
19. Let the words find you
When you cannot find the words, let them find you by meditating, going for a walk or take a shower. Even though these tools result in mostly nonsense, they are still a fun reminder not to take writing too seriously. That, again, is a major cause of writer's block.
20. Write like Hemingway
And if your biggest block is your own self-doubt about your prose the app Hemmingway offers suggestions to improve your writing as you go. The advice includes things like: “too verbose,” "Use a forceful verb" or "use the active voice instead of the passive".
Of course, there's no magic trick or formula when it comes to overcoming writer's block. But if you add these tips to your creative arsenal, you will be well on your way to kicking it to the curb. Good luck and may the muse be with you