Writer’s Block: This odious scourge has afflicted every writer since books were written. The agony of sitting in front of a blank page or empty computer screen is unparalleled. Fortunately, there is help. Here are my top 11 tips for beating back writer’s block:
- Put the Pen Down: To many writer’s, this almost feels like treason. To put the pen down/shut the laptop is akin to quitting. Trust me: there is a method to the madness. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever stared down at a blank piece of paper with a pen in their hand and suddenly came up with a Pulitzer Prize winning work. As long as you hold the pen in your hand, you’ll feel guilty for not using it.
- Take a Break: Although difficult, especially when facing a deadline, give yourself the freedom to get up and change your environment. Get some fresh air; go for a walk, do some pushups, play with the dog. If you don’t have a dog, play with an imaginary dog. Seriously though, get the blood flowing. You’ll find it “clears the slate” and allows you to take another crack at that essay/novel/term paper.
- Avoid Artificial Stimulus: While it is helpful to take a breather, resist the temptation to watch TV or waste time on social media. Rather than invigorate you, you will find these make you lethargic and even less likely to break through your block.
- Break Chronology: Another tactic that seems to grate against most author’s souls is to break chronology. As an example, when I was writing my book “Like Melvin” (currently available on Amazon) there were many times when I would run into a section I either lacked inspiration for or was simply bored with. Rather than waste hours in frustrated writing and deleting, I would simply work on another section of the book. The same concept can be used for essays, term papers, or any other writing project you may find yourself working on.
- Mental Drafting: So many times authors can write themselves into a corner by finding themselves halfway through writing a section they are either bored with or can’t figure out. Rather than scrap the idea, they feel compelled to salvage what they’ve already written. Spare yourself the aggravation by writing drafts in your head. Trust me: it is much easier to delete an idea in your head than to erase an hour’s worth of writing.
- Get in a Rhythm: While I believe one must be careful with introducing potentially distracting outside stimuli, listening to music can be helpful to provide a rhythm to your writing. Personally, I prefer instrumentals as I find them less distracting than lyrics. Even go so far as to create playlists based on the type of writing you will be composing: professional, poetic, humorous, etc.
- Set-Up Frames: In select instances, a sort of “set-up frame” may be useful. A common “frame” I have seen for fiction writing is: “BLANK is a BLANK who does BLANK until one day BLANK. Now, he must BLANK before BLANK happens.” Now, simply fill in the blanks with whatever pops into your head and voila! You have a plot. Here’s an example: JOE is an UMBRELLA SALESMAN who MAKES SOME MEAN WAFFLES until one day HIS EVIL TWIN BROTHER SHOWS UP. Now he must USE HIS SKILLS AS A WAFFLE CHEF before THE BROTHER RUINS EVERYTHING. While clearly a ridiculous example, this is just one way a writer can create an entire story plot in under a minute.
- Read: A great way to learn to write is to read. Familiarize yourself with what’s out there; pay attention to writer style’s/concepts and see if you can pick up some inspiration.
- Review Your Work: Sometimes, especially when writing something of considerable length, it’s possible to lose momentum. Take some time to go back and review your work. Often, you’ll be reminded of key details you would like to include.
- Pretend it Belongs to Someone Else: This one is going to sound a little strange but bear with me. Often, we can get bottlenecked with one particular idea or set of mental parameters. A great way to “get outside the box” is to pretend you are reviewing someone else’s work. You will often find some unexpected ideas can come this way.
- Ask for Advice: Last but certainly not least, be willing to admit you need help. Bring your work to a trusted friend or fellow writer and see what they think. Remember: don’t be too proud to ask for help. You owe it to yourself and your potential readers to make your writing the best it can be.
And that’s it! Let me know what you think. Did I miss anything? How do you conquer your writer’s block?
Jonathan Vars is a Christian fiction writer from New England, and founder of the writing website voltampsreactive.com. His latest novel “Like Melvin” is currently available on Amazon and Google Books. In addition to writing, Jonathan enjoys running, hiking, and trying not to freeze to death in the winter.