There’s one ailment that has undoubtedly hit every writer at some point: Writer’s Block. In this article, Bryan sets out his tips and tricks for overcoming Writer’s Block.
If you write for long enough, you’re going to wake up one day with your mind a blank. All of the people you created will be standing around with their hands in their pockets waiting for you to tell them what to do. And then there’s you: Staring back at them with nothing to say. Welcome to writer’s block.
Let’s take a peek at the things that might help:
Try Different Writing Techniques
Find yourself a notebook and your favourite pen. Put away your laptop and your phone and get down to the basics.
Take a piece of blank paper. I use typing paper, where all I see is a blank page with no lines and no rules. Allow your mind to run free, and just write. Take your memory back to when you were little, running free, with no end in sight. Play music. Find the perfect tune that takes your mind where it needs to be. Don’t worry about time or place or anything. Before you know it, the blank page is covered with ideas. Your mind is empty. One page may turn into two or three. Don’t stop until your mind says so.
I tried this one time and I was surprised how well it worked. I took a scene that I had given up on and wrote an outline. Usually the outline comes before, but in this exercise it comes after.
The reverse outline allowed me to see the structure of the scene the way you and I would see the landscape of a country if we were on a plane. I was able to pinpoint the problem that caused it all and fix it on the spot. Reverse outlining is one of my favourites. Not only do I spot the mess I created, I’m able to avoid future damage by changing things before they happen.
Read more on this topic:
Change Your Environment
Where we write is more important than we realise. I found this out the hard way with my first novel. I was struggling with the direction I wanted to go. I was stuck with writer’s block at a time when I didn’t know it existed.
One day I moved away from my desk and found a different place in the house. I had no idea at the time but somehow my desk was the problem. It created some sort of mental pressure where everything was put to a stop.
By moving around my mind freed up. Images and words returned. It was the damndest thing, but one I won’t question. If it works, it works, right.
Now, if you are the adventurous type, get out of the house and mix it up a bit. If you’re a people person, surround yourself in a busy environment. If that’s too loud for your taste and quiet is what you crave, consider a library. There you will be surrounded by people and books and rules to keep the noise down.
I live near a University. I’ve heard the library on campus is amazing. Something tells me an environment like would kick writer’s block out of town.
Key Point: Writer’s block will end your creativity. It is up to you to break it. But sometimes we become used to a routine where we find ourselves accepting it.
Speaking of routine, one of the worst side effects of routine is the dreaded word stagnant.
People are creatures of habit. For the most part we feel safe with the old and are cautious with the new. When it comes to writer’s block, there are times when we have to face the fact it is not a story problem, it is a me problem. If we find ourselves stuck in a bad place our minds and bodies will follow. By putting on the breaks and giving ourselves a good look around it will help identify where the problem is hiding.
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Take a Break
A few years back I had an idea for a novel. I was drawn to it and I was convinced I had something special. The first draft fell flat and the second draft did the same. I put it aside, convinced it was nothing more than an idea.
It was around this time that I took my first trip to Europe. We were flying out of London, returning home, when something in my mind clicked. I saw the story in a different way. I realised I was telling it wrong. I have no idea if Europe helped but I would like to think touring Switzerland and Austria and hanging out with friends in Germany was the answer.
What I do know is this: By getting away, the story and the frustration that came with it was pushed aside. It became less of a priority, replaced with Paris, London and rushing through airports instead.
I was involved in more important things like teaching a little German boy how to count to ten in English. By relaxing, my mind allowed me to focus on a single problem, minus the anxiety that came with it. By forgetting about it for a while, the frustration and anxiety disappeared. My mind was able to relax and work on it by itself. Sometimes we need to get away and busy ourselves with other things. By doing so, the creative side of our brains take over and build the broken pieces for our return.
Write Something Different
We beat ourselves to death, positive this story of ours will put us over the top. Sometimes it does and other times it falls flat. We do everything right. We bike through Switzerland, we party with the locals in Berlin and we meet the coolest people in a little town outside of Scotland. But nothing works.
By now the temptation of tossing your work in front of a speeding train sounds inviting. Before killing your characters in such an evil way, try your hand at writing something different.
I am not a horror writer, but one day I wrote a horror short story. I have no idea where it came from, but it was a lot of fun. By creating a character’s descent into madness, it allowed the other side of my brain to focus. I rediscovered my motivation. I unlocked the excitement that had been missing. The combination of both kicked writer’s block to the curb.
You’ll notice I didn’t write a novel. It was a 3000 word short story. No long term commitment. Sort of like speed dating while you’re on a break. It allowed me to get away long enough to see what wasn’t working but most of all, I was able to see how special it was.
Join a Writer’s Group
You don’t need to suffer from writer’s block to join a writer’s group, but it helps.
I could write a ton about the benefits of a writer’s group. But since we’re focusing on writer’s block, let’s see what a writers group can do.
- You are surrounded by people with the same goal as you.
- They understand the highs and lows.
- They too have experienced writer’s block, and may be able to knock it down.
- They can give you an outside perspective on your story to help you understand why it’s not working.
Many times writer’s block is created by emotion. We are emotionally invested in our work while the people in the writer’s group are not. They are able to see our work as a reader and by doing so, they are able to point out what they need or what is lacking.
The biggest thing of all: A writer’s group supplies the tools to fix writer’s block. Each member carries something special that can turn your story around. They are able to make you see things you never thought of. They will show you what you’re doing wrong and create ways of doing it right. The hardest part is listening without getting defensive. Once you’ve moved past that, you’re able to learn and fight past whatever it was that was knocking your story down.
A Conclusion on Writers Block:
Writer’s block is a pain. It’s right up there with a kidney stone minus the hospital bill. What you have read are a handful of tools to remove writer’s block. Try a few or try them all. Most of all, try something. Writer’s block is a serious thing. A lot of great stories died because of it. Do not give up. Be stubborn, be determined but most of all, be smart. This is your novel and nothing should get in the way of preventing you from writing it.