I’ve struggled with writer’s block for almost as long as I’ve been writing. Lately I’ve struggled with it less and less. Why? Because I’ve followed these tips on how to cure writer’s block.
Stop Telling Yourself You Have Writer’s Block
This might sound silly, but it’s psychological—the more you tell yourself that you’re stuck, the more stuck you’ll be. It’s like fidgeting when stuck in quicksand.
Instead of saying, ‘I’m so stuck. I can’t write anything’, put your fingers to keyboard or pen to paper and write something. Anything. It could be a description of your day, a character outline, or a letter. What you write isn’t what’s important, it’s getting into the process, the mood, for writing. Once you’ve broken down that first barrier, the rest becomes a lot easier.
This is one of the best ways I’ve found to overcome writer’s block. Sit down. Close your eyes. Block out the world, and write. One of the magical things about writing is when you train yourself to access your subconscious; we come up with our best ideas when we’re trying to sleep or dreaming because our mind is more relaxed. This makes it easier to access our subconscious thoughts. Free writing allows us to do this because we’re not consciously thinking or editing, just writing. It’s a hard skill, but done on a regular basis it’s incredibly useful, and can be fruitful. It can also be full of crap, but the point is that you’ve written something. The quality isn’t what’s important.
Don’t Expect Everything to be Perfect
This is probably the biggest excuse I’ve heard for people who say they’ve got writer’s block. ‘It’s sucks. I can’t write anything decent.’ But that’s the thing—even if you’re writing something bad, at least you’re writing something. Many writers have a routine of writing but don’t publish everything they write. They know when a piece is good, and they know when it’s not. They also know that you have to write the good to find the bad. Most of us won’t hit the jackpot when looking for a partner first time; we’ll date lots of people before we find the right person for us. Why should writing be any different?
Do a Writing Exercise or Prompt
There are plenty of writing exercises and prompts out there. There’s also plenty of books out there filled with them. Pick one at random, and write whatever comes to mind. It helps to time yourself, but don’t worry about it if you run over. There’s no point interrupting your flow if you’ve got time and you’re finally in The Zone.
It doesn’t matter what you read. JUST READ. You wouldn’t bake a cake without trying a similar one first, or checking out recipes. It’s a similar idea. You want to write fantasy? See what your peers are doing. You want to write poetry? See what other poets are trying.
Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
I’m not talking food. If you’re a poet, write a short story. If you’re a scriptwriter, write a poem. If you’re a—you get the idea. Force yourself outside of your comfort zone. You never know—you may discover a skill you never knew you had. One of my friends had never written poetry before starting our postgraduate course, and it turns out she has a natural aptitude for it. You never know until you try.
Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself
I can see you. You’re sitting there, reading this, head resting in your hands, sulking. You’ve been sitting on your arse for days, hardly left the house, and you keep whinging to your friends you can’t write. Well, stop it. Stop with all that negative energy. It doesn’t do you any good, and the longer you dwell on/in it, the harder it will be to get out of it. It also rubs off on other people. Drag some of the friends you’ve been whinging to out, and go do something fun. Go to a new restaurant, go on a road trip, visit a book store, take some photographs…whatever it is, make it something you enjoy that doesn’t put the sole focus on conversation: if you’re in a coffee shop drinking coffee, its primary purpose is to catch up with friends. That’s no good if you’re trying to distract yourself from a funk unless one of your friends has BIG news.
Talk to a Friend
One of my best friends doesn’t know it, but she and those around her are great sources of inspiration. Two of my assignments have come from real life stories that she’s told me about her family. Some of your relatives could be full of interesting stories, too. You never know what secrets your family are hiding (and every family has them)…
If there’s something in particular that you want to write about but don’t know where to start, do your research. For example, I’m working on a historical novel for my dissertation, and had no idea how to approach it, so I did as much research on the relevant areas—and some around it—as possible. Now I can’t get the characters out of my head. (Go away, Minna, I have other assignments to write first.)
Schedule it in and Build a Routine
If you decide to write at 6am everyday, you’ll eventually be geared up at 6am everyday to write. Your brain will associate this time with writing and eventually start coming up with ideas accordingly. Building a routine has worked for successful writers including Jeff Goins and Joanna Penn (who are both on six-figure salaries), and it can work for you too if you stick to it. Stopping for a day because of this or that makes it easier for you to break your routine and a day turns into two, then three, then four…and eventually your routine has gone. Even if it’s just five minutes a day, it’s a start. I aim for 1000 words a night, which usually takes me about half an hour.
We all struggle to write sometimes, but it’s how we think about it when we start to struggle that becomes to problem. Developing a fear of writing something bad is what stops many of us from writing more. This can backfire, though, and mean that in the fear of writing something bad, we end up writing nothing. Jodi Picoult once said, ‘You can’t edit a blank page.’ She’s written over 20 books and been on the New York Time’s Bestseller list: she knows what she’s talking about.