Writer’s block. Who hasn’t experienced that ominous feeling of staring at a blank screen waiting for the words to pour out through our fingers? Even prolific writers like Leo Tolstoy got stuck from time to time! It’s important to look at writer’s block not as a virus that you catch, but as something that will occur and can be overcome. Since writer’s block can stem from a place of fear and uncertainty you need to stop that tape playing in your head and block the circuit of self-doubt. Here are nine ideas that might work for you based on a presentation given by Meredith Maslich of Eaton Press at a recent Writer’s Group meeting sponsored by Launch Workplaces.
Be Set Up for Success – Make sure your writing environment is conducive for how you like to write. Pay attention to things like noise level, temperature, and location. If you like to play music, what type of music? What do you like to drink or wear when you are writing? Make sure these things are in place when you sit down to write. And then if you do get stuck, try mixing these things up! If you always play classical music to write, try something more up-tempo. If you are always sitting in a certain desk and chair, try standing up at a counter.
Review Your Outline and Original Purpose – It’s easy to get lost when you are writing or go off in tangents. When this happens, try to remember why you were writing in the first place! What was your purpose? What was in the outline? Review it again and again to keep yourself focused and on- track.
Edit Something You Already Wrote – If you get stuck, go back about 5 pages and edit what you already wrote. This may help you produce what naturally will come next. You just don’t want to edit too far back, because that might be too much of a distraction, and you are not ready for full-edit mode yet.
Have a Smaller Goal—It’s important to set goals for your writing time, but if you get writer’s block one thing you can do is set a smaller goal for yourself for that particular writing session. Tell yourself you are just going to write 1,000 words this time, not 5,000 like you may usually do. Or you are just going to write one section or develop one character.
Write Anything – Words bring words so just start typing! Write your personal diary for the day, write up a menu – anything that will help words develop in your brain and get out on paper. This is something that poet Maya Angelou tries.
Move Around –Sometimes you need to get physically active to get the blood flowing and unblock your brain. Take a short walk around the block, water your flowers, take a shower or dance to a song so your subconscious brain has a chance to work in the background. These ideas work for Launch Writer’s Club participant Sharon Lina Pearce, a communications expert. “Just be sure to have your cell phone with you to record your new ideas!” she adds.
Write Something Different – If what you want to write doesn’t come, try writing what you don’t want to write or write the opposite. If you are writing a fictional story, try a non- fiction piece. If all your work is in the first person, try writing in the third. Working with the opposite is a common problem solving and brain storming technique so it can work for writer’s block, too.
Create Rewards—Tell yourself that if you write so many words or finish a certain task you’ll be able to eat that cookie! Or drink that glass of wine – anything will work as long as you look forward to having it when you are done.
Clear Your Mind – Sometimes life gets in the way of writing. Whether it’s your kids, another obligation or a family illness, identifying what is bothering you can help you set it aside for a short time. Tell yourself you will worry about XYZ after your writing session. You can also try yoga, meditation, or aromatherapy. More serious issues affecting your mental health could warrant a visit with a therapist, and that’s OK if it helps you get where you need to be.
If you are ever struck with writer’s block, hopefully one of these tips will work for you. And if you have other ideas, leave them in the comments below!
Launch Workplaces is a shared office environment for small businesses with locations in Gaithersburg, MD, Rockville, MD and Tysons Corner, VA. The Launch Workplaces Writer’s Club meets every Friday in June from 12 noon – 2 PM in Gaithersburg, MD. The sessions are open to the public but reservations are required. Please visit www.launchworkplaces.com for more information.