If you have been a writer for any length of time you know how it goes: that moment you reach for the keyboard (or pen) and your fingers pause. Your mind is blank. What was that masterful line you thought of in the shower? Where were you going to artfully take your characters? What’s happening to you? Why can’t you think of anything?
Welcome to the living hell of writer’s block, the condition in which a writer simply cannot write. It particularly plagues the pantser, a writer who writes by the seat of his or her proverbial pants rather than following an outline. However, it can hit anyone. Here are some tips I have for battling through the mud and mire, pulling out of the quicksand of words, and getting back on track.
- Listen to music. Absolutely my favorite thing to do, even if I’m not experiencing writer’s block. I pick out a song that really hits me in the feels, close my eyes, and envision a scene to match it. For example, while writing The Vu, I wasn’t sure where I was going with the ending until I heard The Fray’s Hold My Hand. It clicked, then, that I needed to, as William Faulkner put it, “kill my darlings.” So, I did. Music is a strong force that can be essential not only in pulling a writer out of their funk, but also continually fueling their creativity. Some of my personal favorites include Two Steps from Hell, Audiomachine, and Celldweller. Thank me later.
- Read something. Make it within the genre you write in, or, something different. Try both and see which works better. Taking a break from writing to read can be the refreshing change you needed. It can also give you inspiration.
- Go do something non-literary. Take a walk, play dinosaurs with your kids (if you have them), attend a festival. The breath of fresh air will most likely do you some good and you can come back to your WIP with a brand-new outlook.
- Write something different. Dragging yourself through 60k of writing? Try something shorter, like flash fiction or a poem. One of my favorite things to do is pick four random words and creating a poem out of them. It’s how I have written some of my best poetry, to be honest.
- Seek out others. You are certainly not alone, so don’t try to be. Join a writer’s group, or pal up with a local writer through online groups. Find genre-specific clubs, even. The sky is the limit, and the socialization is a necessity. Yes, I said necessity. Writing is a lonely trade, and you need to be around like-minded individuals. Everyone knows writers are a tad bit (or a lot) crazy. Be in good company.
- Look at pictures. Stock images, deviantart.com, even just a simply Google Image search can render countless possibilities for inspiration. When I wanted to envision what my shapeshifting unicorn lady might look like, I googled it. Oh, the possibilities.
- Get away from social media. This is called virtual clutter. While I have already mentioned joining clubs/groups on the Internet, there is a time and place for online surfing. When you get too much electronic time, your brain starts to…you guessed it…clutter up. Get out in the real world and experience the smell of the barbecue pit or the wind in your headphone-pressed hair.
- Write at different times and places. Switch it up. If you normally write at your dining room table at ten o’clock at night (as I am currently doing), try going to a coffee shop in the morning. Write in bed after your nightcap. This can turn the gears in your brilliant mind to create all-new brilliancy for your…well you get the idea.
- Go for blocks of time rather than a word count. I know, I know. I’m a huge proponent of NaNoWriMo, the masterpiece of an event that pushes writers to write 50k in 30 days. I get it. Words. However, if this is hanging you up rather than helping you, shoot for an hour of uninterrupted writing time, instead. You’d be surprised how many words you find yourself with at the ding of the microwave timer.
- Do a mindless chore. Shut your brain off, don’t try to brainstorm, don’t actively participate in an effort to kick your character into the next scene. Wash those dishes, sweep that floor, check out for awhile.
- Jump scenes. If a scene is bogging you down and you’ve inadvertently written yourself into a corner, write a separate scene. It can be from a different part in your book, and it can even run the risk of not actually being included in the story. It’s fine. Just change up the line of communication from your inner muse to your writing fingers. Again, you don’t have to keep what you wrote. Then again, you might want to.
- Destroy your inner editor. NaNoWriMo gets this. If you’re busy worrying about whether or not the sentence is properly structured or conveys the right message to the reader in the first draft, then you’re going to grind yourself to a halt. Lock that bad boy in the closet and don’t let the stinkin’ Grammar Nazi out until you’ve finished. You can fix it later. That’s what editing is for.
- Cut yourself a break. Seriously. Don’t down on yourself for getting hung up. It happens to the best writers. Just dig yourself out and get back on the horse.
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