Sunday, December 15, 2013
7 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block
Sometimes the hardest thing to overcome in writing is the inability to write. You may have all these great ideas swimming around in your head, but they’re meaningless if you can’t get them down on paper. Nothing is more frustrating than staring at the screen, waiting for something to come pouring out of your fingertips, only to be left with nothing more than a blank page. It can be disheartening, frustrating and even leave you feeling hopeless. This inability to write, known as writer’s block, is a mental block that keeps you from being productive as a writer. Whether you write for your profession or for a hobby, writer’s block will be something you will face at some point. However, you can overcome it. Here are a few ways that you can beat the infamous writer’s block and get back to work:
1. Start Writing –This sounds deceptively simple. Just write! Easier said than done, isn’t it? However, I don’t mean you can just start being creative when you have writer’s block. What I mean is that you need to go through the actions. Our bodies and minds have connections that we are not consciously aware of, so even though your mind may not be cooperating, you can force your body to go through the action of writing. Write about how much you hate writer’s block. Write about what is on your desk or what you can see from your window. Write one word over and over again. Just write. The act of writing itself is often a trigger for creativity. Keep in mind where and how you are writing as well. If you usually write at your computer in your office with your headphones on, then go through the whole experience. Do not just think you can plop down in the living room and write the same way you would in your office space. To get the full effect, the entire atmosphere must be prepared for you to do some serious writing. If you always write in the mornings, then sit down at the same time and write. You can actually fool your body and mind into believing you are being creative BEFORE you start being creative. I am not saying that this always works, but many times you’ll find yourself writing for real before you are even consciously aware something has changed. Habits do matter.
2. Do Something New – If the first way didn’t work for you or you don’t want to try it or you just can’t do that right now, then try this next way. Sometimes writer’s block is not due merely to uncooperative minds. Sometimes you are just burnt out or out of new ideas. When you write every day or very frequently you can easily run out of fresh things to talk about. This is compounded if you do not have anything new coming in. Routine is great, but you need to shake things up once in a while. Do something new. Try out a new hobby or sport or activity. Check out a play or a new band. Join a club, volunteer at a food bank, eat at an ethnic restaurant. Everything new you do adds to your experiences, and that means you have more to write about. If you can’t get out and do something new then go online. Invest yourself in a new group. Cat people, gamers, sports fans – they all have forums, groups and websites online. Most groups love new members and are more than willing to introduce you to their passion. New genres of books, new types of art, and even new television shows can open up your mind to new ideas and get your creativity flowing again.
3. Change Your Perspective – Related to doing something new, try viewing your writing in a new way. Look at what you want to write from a different perspective. For fiction writers, if you are writing from the hero’s perspective, try being the villain for a while. How do things change? How do characters look from the other side? You may get insight into a whole different world within your writing, which can help you want to write again. For non-fiction writers, you know you have an internal bias. You are for or against whatever you are writing about, no matter how balanced you try to be. Instead of being balanced, why not play Devil’s Advocate and be vehemently opposed to your natural viewpoint? Writing as your own critic can open you up to flaws in your argument that can actually enhance your viewpoints and make them stronger. Or you could change your own mind! Both fiction and non-fiction writers can also look at their idea from the reader’s point of view. What if a teenage boy read your writing? A retired lawyer? A police officer? A factory worker? A parent? Looking at your writing from a new point of view is sure to open your mind to new possibilities.
4. Find Inspiration –Another way to open up your creativity is to find inspiration. Inspiration can come in many forms. Many of us are inspired by other writers. Reading something by our favorite author can often stimulate our own creativity. Or something by a new author can spark an idea we may not have imagined. Some people find inspiration in nature. Like Walden, getting out into nature and back in touch with the Earth can inspire new ideas and concepts. Being out in the woods alone, by the sea shore or at a calm lake can be both relaxing and invigorating to the mind. Other writer’s find inspiration in people. People watching at a park or gathering place can fill your mind with new characters. Talking to people about their lives can spark inspiration. Although many writers are not going to invest in a biography, the stories people tell become part of your memories and can inspire future writing. Visual art and beauty can also open the mind to new ideas. From sculptures to abstract art to photography, the visual aspects can inspire ideas.
5. Get Active –Sometimes writer’s block can be more physical than mental. You are just plain tired. The human body was not meant to sit in one place for long periods of time. After a while you get knotted up, achy, sleepy and distracted. Instead of fighting to be productive in these circumstances you should get active!Do some jumping jacks and stretches at your desk, go for a walk outside, take the stairs up and down, turn on your favorite song and sing and dance along with it. Getting your blood pumping gets your mind moving and prevents those pesky aches and pains. When you do sit down again you will feel full of energy and ready to get started.
6. Make an Outline – One thing that often happens to writers that makes it hard to write is that they have too many ideas at once. Sometimes your head gets filled up with all these great ideas and you can be scared to pick one in fear of forgetting the others. Get around this by writing everything down. Take quick notes on your ideas, fleshing them out briefly so that you don’t forget them. Once you figure out which one you want to focus on, create an outline. This does not mean you have to write according to your outline. You can still go with the flow and let your writing shine. However, having an outline available helps keep you on track when you get bogged down. You can easily look over and see what was coming next without having to keep it all in your head. It is much easier to focus on the now without having to keep track of the future as well. Writing down your ideas and creating an outline frees up your mind to concentrate more on what you are doing and can help you overcome a block.
7. Turn Off Distractions – Last but not least, distractions can be a huge reason behind writer’s block. You may not even be aware you are being distracted sometimes. Things like construction noise, people talking, movements and even the climate can affect your concentration. Not to mention phone calls, texts and social media. The constant barrage of sensory information can overload your brain, making it impossible to focus on writing. Help your brain regain its calm by turning off the distractions. Shut down your phone, unplug the internet, shut the door or window and turn on some white noise. Many times you can control the distractions around you. White noise, nature sounds, and instrumental music can all help you block out disturbing sounds and keep you focused on your writing. People can also be a distraction, especially if you work in an open office or from home. Try to set strong boundaries with your co-workers or family. Let them know that you are not to be disturbed during set hours when you are writing. Having a set time to write frees you up to not answer emails, phone calls, or even open your door. It is not wrong to make time to concentrate, and if you make it a regular thing then you will be disturbed less and less frequently.
Writer’s block can be hard, but it is not insurmountable. Don’t give in to the feeling of hopelessness and frustration; instead, act to overcome it. There is always something you can do. From getting away to getting focused, you can overcome writer’s block and be productive once again.
About the Author:
Ken Myers is a father, husband, and entrepreneur. He has combined his passion for helping families find in-home care with his experience to build a business. Learn more about him by visiting @KenneyMyers on Twitter.
MORE ON WRITING
How to Write Satisfying Endings
Preserving the Old in a Digital World
Writing Murder Mysteries – Understanding Profiling
Since I'm a freelance writer and a writing coach, people are always asking me, "How long should it take before I get my first big w...
You may be an author or writer who takes the time to comment on other websites. This is an effective online marketing strategy. It builds br...
by Valerie Allen When naming your characters it’s tempting to give your friends, family, or coworkers a chance for their 15 minutes o...
I sometimes run Q and A a la Ann Landers columns in my SharingwithWriters newsletter using questions that my clients ask me or that subsc...