“Is writer’s block a real thing?” my daughter asked. It seemed an odd question. She explained how two artists she follows on Twitter were having an argument about it. One said it didn’t exist, and the other said of course it did and she was seriously blocked in that moment.
It appears these two quarrelsome people were talking semantics. Literally arguing over the word “block”. But one also suggested it’s just a convenient excuse for not writing. I told my daughter I don’t care what you call it, it exists.
It can strike any time you’re looking at a blank screen or piece of paper. It’s a hopeless feeling when words and ideas just disappear as if they were never there. But it doesn’t have to be a permanent, or even a long-term problem. Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for it, and techniques to use to get out of it.
Prepare for writer’s block
One of the best remedies for writer’s block is to never let it get hold of you in the first place. Or at least if it does, the moment is fleeting because you’ve put practices in place to prevent it from stopping you. The ideas below are easy to do and don’t take much time.
Keep a list of topics and ideas
Inspiration hits at the most inconvenient times: in the shower, at the grocery store, while driving or in the middle of the night in a dream. Don’t let all those good ideas slip away!
Keep a notebook, or use an app on your phone, to record the ideas when they come. If you can’t write it down right away, do it as soon as possible. If you’re using your phone, you can even try to use Siri, or the equivalent on your device, to make a voice recording of your ideas.
However you capture your ideas, keep them handy. Next time you can’t think of anything to write, pull out the list, pick a topic and write.
Feed your soul
In Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way, she suggests many ways to help fuel creativity. One of my favorite suggestions is to go on an Artist’s Date. Don’t worry, you don’t need to find a date. In fact, it’s required you “go” on this date alone.
She proposes that once a week you take part in a creative activity outside your normal practice. That means if you’re a writer, do something creative that isn’t writing. You can paint, draw, sing, build a birdhouse, or dance. Don’t stress about not knowing how to do that activity. Here’s how The Artist’s Way website puts it:
The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery.
Mischief. Now that’s something to get excited about!
Create the habit
Have you ever tried to quit a habit? It’s a hard thing to do because most of us are creatures of habit. Thankfully creating a new habit isn’t as hard as quitting. It only takes a little planning and time.
When it comes to your writing, plan out what you want to do:
- Where will you write?
- When will you write?
- How will you write?
- What do you need to write?
For example, I usually write at night after everyone has gone to sleep. I sit at my computer with the room lights off. I have a glass of water and my phone I use to play music that helps me focus. This is when I do my most productive writing. Setting up these conditions triggers my brain and body to know now is the time – and I just do it. I rarely have any trouble getting words out unless there are unusual circumstances that day.
Think about a routine, ritual or habit – whatever you want to call it – that you can put in place to train yourself into the habit of writing. It might take some trial and error, but you’ll find a combination that works.
Work your way out of writer’s block
When all your preparation fails, and you find you’re still staring at a blank page, don’t give up! Here are a couple ideas to help you get the words flowing again.
Writer’s prompts are little snippets designed to get you thinking and writing. They might be just one word or a phrase. They can be completely crazy, or simple and reflective. For example:
- What is your favorite memory from before the age of 12?
- Write about your favorite food and the first time you ever ate it
- A purple and white panda bear snuck up on the blue and white tiger…(finish the story)
- Party – a one word prompt
You read a prompt and start writing about it. This takes the pressure off because you don’t have to come up with the idea usually, just follow the directions for the prompt. You can find zillions of prompts online by googling “writing prompts”.
Use discipline to write through writer’s block
So you have a blank page? All you have to do is fill it up. I mean that literally. It doesn’t matter what you put on the page, just start filling it.
Even if you’re not inspired, or motivated, you’re still having thoughts right? Write those down. Just write your thoughts as fast as you can type them and don’t stop. Whatever you’re thinking just put it down. Even if you’re repeating “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write,” over and over, keep doing it. Eventually you’ll get to “This is really stupid. I know what to write. I want to write about…”
And you’re there. Or at least you’ll be somewhere. The persistence of writing like this eventually opens the floodgates to your creativity whether you realize it or not. It might not be where you wanted your writing to go, but you’ll be going somewhere.
Now that I think about it, maybe the Twitter argument was half-right. Writer’s block doesn’t have to exist. If you use the tips above, you’ll always be able to keep writing.
How do you deal with writer’s block? Let me know in the comments.
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This post originally appeared on hyperfundit.com. It has been updated and represented here.
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