“Overcome” is usually used in the instance of one foe versus the other on the field of battle. “The hero overcame the villain.” Odd or not, this is also how a writer must approach writer’s block. In the end, writing must always triumph over the forces of evil, and just as the protagonist of a story must learn how to overcome the villain, so too must the writer learn how to overcome the writing blues, those periods where their keyboard seems to rebel against them.
You’ve tried everything you can think of, including locking yourself in a dark closet with nothing but your laptop and a granola bar. You’ve tried using pen and paper (maybe you even started that way). The point is, nothing seems to be working. When this happens, you, the hero writer, need a little guidance (tips and tricks, really) that can make the art of writing less like a battlefield and more like a walk in the park
Here are a few suggestions that you may not yet have tried to shake off the writing blues.
Read a Book
Yes, you might be in a rush to write, but there is always room to read one section, one poem, or one chapter of anything. And if you already aren’t writing, what’s the harm? You’ll quickly find that reading someone else’s story is the perfect way to unlock your creative side that currently seems inaccessible. The book you read can be on any subject, with the sole condition that you enjoy what you’re reading.
After all, the reason you probably want to be a writer in the first place is because of those times you were reading a page-turner and stopped to say, “Wow. This is what I want to do. This is exactly the kind of thing I’d like to write.” Reading does that. It inspires not only the will to write but also gives you ideas for your own stories. When stuck in a rut, this little method is likely to propel you out of your funk.
Set a Regular Writing Time
For some writers, a strict schedule can seem the bane of creativity. Usually, this is because while outlining a writing schedule—perhaps it’s so many words or so many chapters during such and such hours of the day—the level of goals set may actually exceed your natural temperament as a writer. Often, past encounters with laying out a writing plan have failed so dramatically that many writers are left feeling dejected at the impossibility of reaching those goals. What this leads to is the idea that a person should toss off all writing schedules and only write when the creative mood hits them.
This. Is. False.
Do not let early experiences with scheduling keep you from future writing goals.
Find a new way to schedule and start small. At first you might limit yourself to writing every Saturday. This is a great start, especially seeing as you have the entire week before Saturday to think about what you want to write and how you want to write it. Over time, force yourself to add more time, even if this involves juggling your day a little more. Add Monday morning to your schedule and ask your spouse to get the kids ready for school that morning. Or better yet, teach your kids to get themselves ready and out the door.
Make the time to write, and you’ll be writing when inspiration does strike.
Choose the Location of Your Story
Choosing your story location can help combat the writing blues. This doesn’t mean picking a setting for your characters. Instead, it means choosing the setting in which you write your characters. Where do you sit when you write? On a couch or at a desk? Where do you go to do your writing? The public library or back to your closet with the granola bar? Do you prefer music in the background? Chopin or Eminem?
Writers who are having trouble writing may want to consider a change of scene. Find a place where you feel most able to write—notice I didn’t say most comfortable: comfort leads to sleeping—and once you’re in this location, don’t let yourself leave until you at least have a page. Why a whole page? Because just as you’d test out a mattress before buying it, going location to location and attempting to write a page will help you “test” the location before making it your permanent writing home. Short on ideas about where to write? Check out our post on inspirational writing nooks.
Once you decide on a place, make this fortress impregnable to distraction. If you prefer music while writing, then make sure headphones and a pre-made playlist are available. Don’t leave for food. Instead, have food and water already on hand. It’s unbelievable how many times in history a writer’s creative flow has been stoppered by the sudden urge to make a sandwich.
Write a Random Sentence
Many would call this “free writing,” which means writing several paragraphs or pages of whatever pops into your head. For some, free writing works. But another way to spark creativity is to write one totally random sentence and then create a page around that sentence. You’ll be surprised how well this can work.
For example, you’ve had the writing blues for a day, wondering how to start a new chapter. Your last chapter ended with a character plummeting into a dark pit and somehow never hitting bottom. Now, what to do?
Instead of worrying about what to write, write whatever sentence pops into your head. For example, “The sun didn’t seem to rise that day.” Now apply the sentence you just wrote and make it the beginning of your next chapter. Proceed from there, ask yourself, “In what way does my random sentence apply to what I’m writing?”
You may be able to connect back into what you were writing. Even if you can’t, it’s likely that by finding out what you don’t want to write will lead you to what you do want to write. You can always toss that page and start with a new sentence.
In the end, adding any one of these suggestions to overcome the writing blues to your current methods may be what you need to climb both your characters and yourself out the endless black hole of writer’s block.
Remember, no one else is going to write the work of art that only you can write, and if you don’t get to work on it, it will never exist. Imagine an empty space on a bookshelf; as a writer, it’s your job to fill that space.