Ah, writer’s block. The plight of mankind. It’s impacted every writer or creative at some point or another, and if it hasn’t gotten to you yet…well, it will.
Chances are you’ve dealt with writer’s block multiple times and in a variety of different ways. Personally, I’ve been locked in its grips more than once, and I’ve discovered that different bouts of writer’s block often require different strategies to overcome it.
It’s not simply that you can’t write, sometimes there is a reason behind the frustration. A mental blockage can stop you from putting a single word on paper, sure, but so can a whole host of other things.
In the end, there is no one-size-fits-all method to break writer’s block. Otherwise, we’d all own the book about it and be following some writer’s block guru on Twitter right now instead of reading this post.
However, the Internet does provide us with several wonderful ideas for overcoming your particular brand of writer’s block, and here are some of my favorites.
“Do freewriting. Spend 15 minutes or more a day writing whatever comes off the top of your head. Ignore punctuation. Just write freely.”
This advice from Writer’s Digest helped me more than I thought it would. Instead of forcing myself to write about a specific topic (which, yes, that’s worked in the past), I let go of the should-do’s and focused on putting my pen to paper. Literally.
I scratched out nonsense on a piece of paper, but — eventually — that built up enough momentum that I was able to transition into what I needed to write and got it done.
“It may be that learning to do creative work of any kind — not just direct imagery exercises — may help combat writer’s block.”
The New Yorker is no small fry, and this advice shouldn’t be taken lightly. Writing is a creative art, so it can be helpful to step away from the keyboard and focus on creating in some other way. The mental break coupled with flexing your creative muscles might just be the boost you need to break out of a rut.
Just Breathe (Seriously)
“Breathe deeply. Close your eyes; then, fill your chest cavity slowly by taking four of five short deep breaths. Hold each breath until it hurts, and then let it out slowly.”
Never underestimate the power of breathing. Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab has been a resource for writers for ages, and this advice — while simplistic — is still golden. Don’t let stress seep into your edges, grinding away until you feel like you’re unable to write (let alone function) properly. Take a breath, hold it, and let it out.
Listen to Music
“If you’re afflicted with writer’s block, “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda doesn’t want you throwing away your shot — and he’s made a Spotify playlist to help you put pen to paper.”
The LA Times shared Lin-Manuel Miranda’s playlist, and it’s definitely worth checking out. Not a fan of these tunes? Try making your own inspirational playlist to fuel your word flow.
“All through my career I’ve written 1,000 words a day — even if I’ve got a hangover. You’ve got to discipline yourself if you’re professional. There’s no other way.”
Habits make you who you are, as this J.G. Ballard quote demonstrates. Sometimes writer’s block isn’t actually something blocking you from writing — sometimes it’s just a lack of discipline.
Whether it’s fifteen minutes or an hour, commit to writing every single day. Athletes train regularly to keep their muscles strong, so you should be training to keep your brain and your writing sharp.
Switch It Up
“Use a different writing tool.”
It almost seems too easy, but this is my #1 method for breaking writer’s block. Switch from your computer to a notebook or vice-versa, try writing in a different setting. Do something — anything — different to break up the monotony and get out of yourself.
For me? I have a dedicated “writer’s block notebook”. Whenever I’m stuck on a project, I walk away from my desk and take my notebook outside (or to the nearest Starbucks) and start fresh.
When it comes down to it, writer’s block happens. Don’t stress too much about it, but don’t let it keep you from doing what you love (or what you’re paid to do). Take a break, try one of these methods, and report back to me.
Got another method for beating writer’s block? I’d love to hear it! Leave a comment below or tweet me @jandralee.