Writer’s block. That familiar frustrating feeling of putting your pen to the page just to find out the words aren’t flowing. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to only battle it for a day, while other times it can plague you for a week or longer.
If you need help getting out of a persistent blockage, check out these few strategies you can test out to get the pencil back into your hand and the words back on to the page.
Take a Break
This piece of advice may seem the most obvious, but not all writers take a break when the ideas stop flowing.
Put the pencil down and do something else for a moment. Sometimes writer’s block can creep in because you’ve been working for too long. Your brain might simply be out of ideas. If you’ve been writing for five hours, chances are your imagination is just out of gas.
Go out and run some errands for the rest of the afternoon or take a break to focus on one of your hobbies. While you’re on your break, focus on relaxing, not getting back to the word processor. Push the writer’s block out of your mind and enjoy yourself until you feel recharged and ready to approach the desk again.
Before you take off on your break, however, mentally plan out when you’ll return to work. Without planning, your weekend break can turn into a week-long break which can turn into a month-long hiatus from writing. Tell yourself that you’re taking the evening off and will be back to work tomorrow, or that you’re going to take a week’s vacation and return on a certain date. Make sure your break is just a break, and not the end of your writing career.
If the break isn’t working for you, don’t panic yet! There are a few more strategies you can employ to get that inspiration back.
Cut Distractions out of Your Writing Space
Sometimes the creativity can’t flow due to constant interruptions from your environment.
Your writing space could be filled to the brim with distractions without you even noticing. That open window that lets you birdwatch instead of write, your pesky cell phone dinging with constant reminders and text messages, or your background music could all be pulling you away from that writing headspace, causing you to focus on anything but your novel.
Obviously you can’t remove every extraneous sound from your environment, but tackle the distractions you do have control of. Start with experimenting with the noise level in your writing space. Cut out the background music entirely, or switch to something that is only instrumental. Will you work better with earplugs or headphones? Does white noise help you focus better than music? Don’t be afraid to try some new options to heighten your focus.
Try moving and removing other devices, like electronics, in your space also. Is your cell phone a helpful pocket thesaurus or a constant distraction? Is the TV on in the background? Are your Facebook notifications turned on and capturing your attention every five minutes?
If the ideas just aren’t coming to you, take this time to perfect your writing space, whether that means crafting a new inspirational playlist, changing up the natural light in your office, or swapping out your current chair for a comfier alternative. Once you’ve re-arranged your area, sit down and see if the new look can help you with some new ideas.
Find a Fresh Writing Space
While you try to eliminate distractions from your current writing room, consider how you could also give yourself a change of scenery. New areas can give you fresh ideas or eliminate existing distractions that you struggle with at your current writing territory.
Take a short trip to a park and scribble down some ideas on a park bench. Go out for a short break at your favorite local coffee shop and bring along your laptop. You might even try the library for a quiet work environment.
If you find something that works better than your home writing space, try to schedule a few sessions per week at your newfound location. If you like multiple places, craft your schedule so you can go to a new place every day. Maybe Wednesdays become your library mornings and Fridays become your coffee shop evenings. You might even find that different settings help you with different writing elements.
Get the Blood – and Ideas – Flowing
If you’re a frequent writer, chances are long portions of your day are spent sitting at a desk. If you are battling a mental blockage, force yourself to get out of the chair and get a move on.
Build some physical exercise into your day as part of your writing routine. Even if it feels like you don’t have time, a little bit of physical activity can boost your brain into thinking up some fresh ideas. Go for a run, take your dog out to the park, or go for a dip in the pool to get your body out of your writing chair.
Physical activities can relieve stress and cause you to focus in more. Relieving that stress and focusing in on your “big picture” writing ideas can help melt away that writing block plaguing you.
If you have deadlines looming, it might be hard to allow yourself to take a break from your current novel. However, if you can’t find the energy to push out more words, let yourself take a break from the novel and focus on just writing anything.
If you haven’t tried journaling, pick up a notebook and give it a go. Journal about your struggling to get out of writer’s block, journal about your daily activities, or try writing a diary from your character’s point of view.
You can even keep a journal next to your bed and become an avid dream diarist. Sometimes the best ideas come to us in sleep, but are gone before we have the chance to write them down. Store a small notebook next to your bed and write down anything that comes to you in your sleep, even if it seems unrelated to your main goal. You might find that new ideas emerge from unexplored crevices in your subconscious.
Free-writing activities might also boost your creativity. There are loads of prompt generators online where you can randomly generate some inspiration. You might find that some of your free writes even transform into novel ideas.
If the words aren’t forming the picture you want, try drawing it out yourself using more visual methods.
What should you draw? Start by focusing in on the section of your novel where you are feeling your writer’s block kick in. Then try sketching what your next move is.
You could sketch a variety of things to help the creativity flow too. Maybe try your hand at drawing out a scene to experiment with detail. You could sketch out a full storyboard for your novel to help piece together your timeline. You could even take the time to sketch out maps for your various settings.
Drawing can help you see your story in a new light, but it can also be relaxing. Even if you aren’t the best visual artist, try sketching to help paint a clearer picture of your story.
Seek the Root of Your Writer’s Block
Take out a journal and free write with the goal of coming up with why you are suffering from writer’s block.
Are you putting too much stress on yourself to succeed? Are you hesitating to write because you fear you’ll fail? Are you lacking confidence in your writing?
Write down a few ideas about what could be causing your lack of drive to write. Once you have some ideas down, brainstorm about what you can do about them. How can you take the pressure off? How can you build confidence?
If you discover what is causing your block, you are taking the first steps to overcome it.
Don’t Wait for Inspiration
Sometimes we impose a writer’s block on ourselves with the idea that we can wait around for some inspiration. We may be in a slump, but some day a miraculous idea is going to fly down from the sky and smack us in the face. While this seems ideal, you can’t guarantee that it will be the case.
Instead of waiting around for the inspiration, do some things to seek that inspiration for yourself. Pick up a few new books and read what other writers are putting out there. Take a trip to the theater. Pour through some old writings of yours to find something interesting.
Consciously seek out inspiration instead of waiting for it to come. That’s the best way you can find some new inspiration.
No matter the cause of your writer’s block, there are always things you can do to overcome it. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are consciously trying to resolve your block instead of just hoping it will resolve itself. Try new activities, try new planning and writing methods, and take structured breaks to help yourself get over that block. Whatever you do, remember that you always have the power to get out of the writer’s block yourself.