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Quick Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

Though the notorious writer’s block is feared and dreaded widely, many writers admit they don’t really believe in it. This may be because it takes many forms––all of which are conquerable!

If you are struggling to get started…

Take notes to spark ideas. Try becoming an old-school newspaper clipper or a Harriet-the-Spy-type eavesdropper. Even ideas that may seem outrageous or clichéd or banal can take a promising shape once you start playing with them.

Try writing exercises. Writing prompts, available in craft books, all over the Internet, and even right here at BookFuel, are great for both generating new ideas and providing a different arena for the ideas you already have to grow in.

Write longhand. Most writers today do all their work on computers rather than writing by hand, but the two methods are not interchangeable––they actually use different parts of your brain. Writing by hand can really unlock the creative process, and many writers find that their messy handwriting actually takes the pressure off the endeavor.

If the words are flowing but you have a feeling they sound terrible…

Mine your draft. Don’t expect your first time to be perfect; an unpromising start or disappointing draft doesn’t mean you should scrap the whole project. Set it aside for a time and look for salvageable ideas or passages, instead of assessing the draft as a whole, when you come back.

Try emulating another writer or style. While you don’t want your final product to be anything less than original, trying to write outside of your own box in a draft will shake up your expectations and expand your story’s possibilities.

Isolate the problem. Is the tone not evocative enough? Are the characters unbelievable? Is the story clichéd? Sometimes the best way to get out of writer’s block is to allow yourself to start revising mid-draft. If something doesn’t feel right when you’re writing it, it’s probably not going to get better without serious analysis.

If you are stuck at a particular point…

Freewrite. It’s okay to take your nose from the grindstone. Many writers find it helpful to take ten minutes, or even a whole writing session, to write something completely different—whether it takes the shape of a new story or stream-of-consciousness journaling. The point is more to ease your brain back into creativity than to produce ideas you’ll use for your current project—though that can be an unexpected benefit! You can also apply the freewriting method more deliberately by allowing yourself to write backstory you won’t use.

Set small goals. Anne Lamott, the well-known novelist and nonfiction author of Bird by Bird, discovered that the pressure to write eased considerably when she set herself the task of just writing as much as would fit in the small picture frame she keeps on her desk—so about a paragraph. Setting easily attainable goals means you will meet those goals—and meeting goals nearly always leads to more writing.

Get outside. Commitment is good. Diligence is good. But writers can’t work, and certainly shouldn’t live, in a vacuum. Often, a brisk walk with your dog or an evening out can rejuvenate your tired brain and offer up fresh ideas. And keep in mind that if you’re not experiencing the world, chances are you won’t find many readers willing to sit through your version of it.

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