Any writer, at some point in their lives, will encounter their worst enemy – writer’s block. For some, it may be an obstacle that only appears once in a while. But for many, it will be a persistent and recurring challenge that presents itself time and time again.
However often it occurs, every writer must confront writer’s block, even famous literary figures like Coleridge. But, more importantly, any successful writer must overcome it.
So, while it’s important to know how to characterise protagonists, effectively use a range of punctuation, and structure a story to engage a reader, all writer’s need to have an additional skill set in their arsenal: a range of methods on how to defeat writer’s block.
This blog will detail these techniques – from the obvious to the more experimental – so that you too can continue writing even when a new blockage appears.
1. Take a Walk
Getting out into nature is one of the go-to ways that many writers use to defeat writer’s block. Not only does the fresh air do you good, but the act of walking can stimulate your creativity much better than remaining at a desk.
Additionally, there’s much more in the outside world that can act as a stimulus for more ideas. As you walk, you can explore new locations and observe other people going about their life. All these things can act as inspiration to help with your writing.
2. Write from a different location
Like with taking a walk, any change of scenery can work wonders for any creative mind. But that doesn’t have to mean being outside and active. Simply changing the location where you’re working can be effective.
Getting out of your house and spending a few hours in a coffee shop provide a new environment that can be very conducive to your writing (just make sure to buy a coffee first!) You could even try a public library as another free option, or even a shared workspace.
You don’t even need to leave the house. Even changing the room you’re working in could do the trick, or have a routine where you rotate where you work. Anything that prevents you from staring at the same wall could be just what you need to defeat writer’s block.
3. Try a Different Writing Technique
Getting out of your comfort zone doesn’t have to mean skydiving or going to a party by yourself. As a writer, this may simply mean writing in a different way.
Every writer has a different way they go about things. You may like to plan out your story in every minute detail, or you might be someone who simply writes and sees where the narrative takes you. Whichever way you do things, writer’s block will throw a spanner in the works.
If following your usual method isn’t successful at overcoming this barrier, then it might be time to try another approach. For example, if you don’t like to heavily plan, then you can try mapping out other parts of your story. Or if you prefer to write sequentially from start to end, then you can try a scattershot technique to ensure that you keep upping your word count, even if that means working from the end backwards.
4. Chat with friends and family
Whatever stage you’re at with your project, talking with friends and family is another way to overcome obstacles in your process. Discuss the challenge you’re currently facing, and you might be surprised how useful it can be to talk it through. Even if they can’t provide a solution to your problem, the act of explaining it can provide a new perspective which helps you unlock your own answer.
Even if you don’t want to talk in detail about your writing, just spending time with others can provide new ideas. The stories of people you know well can act as a catalyst for your own stories.
5. Discuss with other writers
While family and friends can provide a useful perspective, sometimes it’s best to talk with people who have been, or may still be, going through the same experiences and challenges as you.
Join a writing group or discuss with other creatives online and you might find suggestions and hints that you’ve never considered before. After all, many people have suffered from writer’s block, but many have also defeated it. Seek those people out and they may provide some of the most valuable insights that you’ve ever received.
6. Do other productive chores
Sometimes finding any other task to preoccupy your mind can be the best way to defeat writer’s block. Whatever they may be – from ironing and washing dishes to cleaning your house and mowing the lawn – any menial chore provides a chance for you to have a refresh and refocus yourself.
Having your attention centred on something else that you can do relatively thoughtlessly can provide a surprising amount of stimulation for the creative part of your mind. Before you even realise it, you may have discovered the key to your problem.
7. Focus on other parts of your project
As a writer, it’s natural to put pressure on yourself to get words on the page. After all, increasing the word count of your project is the only way it’s ever going to be completed.
However, when you’re suffering from writer’s block, it’s okay to put that part of the project on pause. But that doesn’t mean you have to turn your attention away completely. There’s plenty else you can work on instead.
Try being productive in other ways: do research about your setting or other aspects of the story; try planning out your character arcs in more details; or you could spend time working on the characterisation of more minor characters who you haven’t developed yet.
You could even dedicate a session on world building, or even try making sketches of your characters and locations. Perhaps you keep a journal or commonplace book that could be reviewed in relation with your project. Anything that has you engaging with your stories in different ways will mean you’re better equipped to overcome writer’s block once you return to writing.
8. Write anything (and everything)
If you’re struggling to up your word count and other methods aren’t working, it can be disheartening to see a seemingly permanent blank page in front of you. In that case, writer’s can employ psychological tricks to overcome that sense of defeat. The most effective one is to simply write.
It doesn’t need to be related to your story in any way. You should just get words on the page. It could be a new short story, or a diary of your day, or fanfiction about your favourite videogame. You could even spend time transcribing a conversation you overheard that day. Anything that gets your fingers typing and words added to the page can be effective.
For some writers, the simple act of constructing sentences and feeling that you have achieved something can give you the confidence to return to your story and write unimpeded.
9. Reread and redraft
While it can be a painful experience if you’re only on your first draft, rereading the progress you’ve made so far can be the most straightforward way to decide what to write next. There may be details that you’ve not thought deeply about before which could provide a new way forward.
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10. Accept writer’s block
At the end of the day, writer’s block is simply something you have to live with as a writer. Very few people can pour words onto a page unendingly without having some sort of stumbling block to slow the process, so don’t beat yourself up about it when you’re struggling.
Writer’s block should therefore be treated as an integral part of the creative process, and even if you beat it once you’ll still have to face it again in the future. But just like everything else, it’s a challenge to overcome, and once you are successfully in getting past it your progress will feel even sweeter.
So take all these suggestions onboard, try out the different techniques, and explore other writing tips. They won’t all work, but you’ll find something that will suit you best. Then, once you’ve defeated writer’s block the first time, you’ll know what works for you. Plus, you’ll be able to share your tips with others and help new writers overcome this common obstacle.