Recently I have been facing a bout of writer’s block. REALLY BAD writer’s block. So bad, I hesitate to call it writer’s block. It’s unlike any of the writer’s block I’ve faced since I started writing seriously in 2005.
It’s more like that feeling of scratching your nails on a chalkboard. Only, the chalkboard is blank, and you’re supposed to write an entire novel on it.
But, this drought in one area of my writing has me trying out A LOT of different ways to beat writer’s block. I thought it might be helpful for someone else out there to read about the tools I’ve used (in my 17 years writing) that have helped me defeat writer’s block and get the creativity flowing again. Plus, some skills I’m still using to overcome this specific drought. (It’s funny, because I’m having no trouble writing short articles, but the longer work I’ve been trying to revise/fix/save from the fate of basically being a bunch of copy-pasted scenes from different drafts that make no sense together plot-wise. AAACK.)
No matter what your creative venture–fiction, nonfiction, music, blogging, design–I’m hoping this advice works for you. Here we go!
1. turn off the internet
I mean it. TURN IT OFF. Turn on airplane mode, or better yet, go unplug your router so that it actually requires physical effort to turn it back on, rather than just the push of a button.
Because, let’s face it, this is me when it comes to getting back online when I don’t feel like writing:
2. do something else
Kind of seems like contradictory advice, doesn’t it? But no. That DOESN’T mean going back online. I found this advice in a writing book–not sure which writing book it was though! It said go for a walk, eat ice cream, read a book (as long as it won’t make you feel super jealous of the writer’s voice), watch something that will make you laugh, or do something that inspires you. Take a mental breather, get your mind off those super intense plot questions, and the creativity will flow again.
3. listen to music
Some people always write while listening to music, and some people need absolute silence. I don’t really fall into one camp or the other–but sometimes I find it super inspiring just to take a break to put together a playlist of songs that remind me of my book’s setting, character, or message (if it’s nonfiction). Or sometimes just my favorite pump-up songs.
4. read something else you’ve written
There are so many times I’ve almost given up with the above-mentioned project. Until I reread a part of the project I hadn’t worked on in awhile. I find so many scenes I had forgotten about, that I love, that I usually think, hey, my writing isn’t crap after all. If you have other projects you’ve worked on and set aside, you could also go back to one of those just to get your creative juices flowing again.
5. turn off your self-editor
There are times when it’s good to self-edit. But when you’re trying to get your creative swag back is not that time. Try just writing and let the words flow, without judging them. One tactic I’ve been using to get my writing swag back is reading through my draft of the project in question without allowing myself to make ANY edits or changes–instead, I’m keeping a notebook with me as I go through it. Any changes that need made, or things I want to remember, I write down in the notebook so that I can go back and fix them later. After I’ve finished re-reading the draft. The goal: stop writing to serve your inner self-critic (or imaginary outside critic) and start writing to create.
6. write as soon as you get up in the morning
For a long time, I literally couldn’t write if I didn’t begin the second I got up in the morning–before checking any email or texts (see #1.) When I’m writing fiction, I still find that to be the best way to go. If you’ve never done this before, give it a try. Again, I’m not sure where I read this advice, but I think it was in a writing book by James Scott Bell. Try getting up in the morning and writing 500 words. Then, you can do something else, but your creative muscles will be warmed up, and when you come back to your writing, you’ll find it much easier to get IN THE ZONE on your project.
7. write at the same time every day
If you can possibly find the time to write at the same time every day, make that time sacred. Tell your family members, “hey, this is going to be my writing time.” Writing at the same time is kind of like working those creative muscles until it becomes easy, and the inspiration just flows when you sit down to write. You can also try having a dedicated space just for writing: clean up a desk area, put up some images that inspire you, and call it your author zone.
8. take a mental vacation/day to chill and do nothing else
Okay, true story: I was worrying so much about the fact that I WASN’T writing my project, I didn’t give myself time just to be me. So, one day I just decided to turn off the pressure and decide this was a day just to enjoy life, play video games, hang out with family, and go look at Christmas lights. Literally while I was playing video games, I got super inspired for a writing project that I had been stuck on for months.
9. change something up
Okay, now I really am going to give you contradictory advice: if you normally stick to a routine, try changing that routine up a little bit. If you normally write in one room in your house, try writing a different room. Or outside. If you normally write in the morning, try writing before bed. The idea is to jolt your brain muscles OUT of being in that panic mode. Try a lot of different things, and see what works for you!
10. just brainstorm for awhile
Again, with the goal of turning off your inner self-editor, just sit with a notebook and brainstorm ideas, whether they’re related to the project in question or not. Don’t judge the ideas that come to mind, just write them all down. Just write. Anything. You could also write a monologue from your character’s voice, or a journal entry talking about what you would really like to write about more than anything. You could even do a draft of your project (or just a few chapters) that are completely handwritten–I promise, your inner critic will crawl to you and apologize for being so mean.
11. write something else
For real. My difficulties with my current project began a little before I started writing for Crown of Beauty Magazine and Tirzah Magazine last year. But writing in an entirely different genre than I ever expected to be writing for has caught me by surprise: I LOVE IT. I find myself filled with new ideas every day. Some of my articles I even write in basically one sitting. That never happens.
So, try writing something different to get your creativity flowing again and your confidence back. Here’s the key: DO go back to the original project, whether it be a week or six months later.
12. write as soon as you get an idea
Kind of seems to go against the famous quote.
I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.
– William Faulkner
I’m not saying NOT to be inspired at nine o’clock every morning. But I’ve found that it helps, as soon as I get an idea, to not only write it down, but to flesh it out a little. I can always come back to it, but if I stir up the inspiration while it’s fresh, then I usually feel inspired when I come back.
13. figure out what you’re most excited about
There’s this one scene in one of my projects that I absolutely cannot wait to write. Every day I tell myself if I write every day, in 30 days I can write MY FAVORITE SCENE. Thinking about those scenes, and the people I hope to inspire, keeps me going even when it feels like I’m Lara Croft climbing a cliffside.
The important thing to remember is that you are capable of anything. Just persevere, have patience, and get those great ideas you have up your sleeve to the world.