I never used to believe in writer’s block when I wrote only for myself. But when I started writing for others, when I began getting paid for my words I encountered my first bouts of the syndrome. Most often my writer’s block is caused by the pressures I put on myself to create. Luckily I’ve found 10 dynamite ways to blow up the barrier to my creativity.
I talk about freewriting a lot. I pretty much mention it in every post. But that’s because I believe it’s the best way to write.
Freewriting allows you to directly connect with your creative subconscious. It helps you trust what intuitively comes through you and keeps you three steps ahead of your inner critic. For me, most cases ‘writer’s block’ develop when I give in to self-doubt.Freewriting allows you to directly connect with your creative subconscious. Click To Tweet
I’ve spoken and listened to a lot of writers and for most of them, writer’s block materialises at the point where they start listening to the negative voice inside their heads. The point where writers lose perspective of what it means to write a first draft. The point where writers expect the words to come out perfectly first go.
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Forcing yourself to freewrite means you (often reluctantly) accept it’s ok to write rubbish. You can work with rubbish but you can’t work with a blank page. Freewriting allows you to change topic and explore thoughts that are completely new and different. Sometimes you’ll find yourself writing nonsense. Sometimes that nonsense will hold the seeds of an idea you can nurture into something amazing.You can work with rubbish but you can’t work with a blank page Click To Tweet
#2 Have a break
Recently I was giving a writer some feedback on a short story she’d written. She also happens to be a freelance editor and when she read my comments she said, “I smiled when I read some of your comments on the manuscript as they sound like comments I make on other writers’ manuscripts. Why can’t I see it in my own writing? So frustrating.”
And it is frustrating. But also pretty normal. It’s a writer’s curse not to see their own work clearly even if they pick up the same mistakes in someone else’s writing. That’s because writers are too close to what they’re working on. They are within it.It’s a writer’s curse not to see your own work clearly Click To Tweet
When you’re struck with writer’s block sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away from your work. It could just be for an hour or two – have coffee with a friend, get outside and take the dog for a walk.
It could also mean shutting your work away in the bottom drawer for a few months to let it stew. Either way when you come back to your writing with fresh eyes you might see it from a different perspective. You’ll come up with a creative solution to your problem. You might find you’ve written the rest of it in your head during the time you’ve spent away from it.
#3 Consult another writer or your writing group
This ties in with #2 and not being able to see our own work clearly.
Recently I was working on a short story of my own and when I reached the ending I became stuck. I thought I knew what was going to happen but the most severe case of writer’s block gripped me and I couldn’t move forward. I took the unfinished story to the next meeting I had with my writing group and told them my proposed ending. All of them agreed it was too complicated for the story – that I was more concerned about creating a good twist rather than seeing the narrative reach it’s natural point of conclusion. We brainstormed some ideas and by the end of the meeting I had a new idea for my ending. I went home and it flowed out of me. The story was complete and it felt right.
Often times when I get stuck with a case of writer’s block I get out my scrapbook and mindmap ideas.
Mindmaps, spider or cluster diagrams are a way of visually organising thoughts and can be used at any stage of the writing process. These diagrams help you think about topics in a different way – from an article angle, to a blog post idea, to a subplot in a 1000 page novel to the development of a character. When you think you’ve exhausted all your ideas keep going – this is when your light bulb moment is bound to happen and you’ll break free from writer’s block.
This is something you should be doing even if you don’t have writer’s block. Reading is the best way to improve your writing. Stuck on a blog about interior design? Pick up a home magazine. The plot of your novel not really moving forward? Find a book with a plot driven storyline – like a crime novel – and highlight ways the author keeps the story going. Struggling with a song? Read poetry. Need help with dialogue? Watch a movie or a play. Read something completely different to what you’re working on. Learn from those who came before you.
Audible is a great resource to help you consume more books as you can listen to them on the go.
#6 Get out of your comfort zone
Usually write at home? Go to a café. Write at the library? Try penning words on the train or in an airport. It’s often when we do something different that we come up with the best ideas. Write lying down, write in the bath, write standing in the nude.
#7 Write with another tool
Similar to getting out of your comfort zone, writing with something different can help unlock different aspects of your creativity. Most writers work on a computer but why not try some alternatives like:
- Pen and Paper
- A typewriter
- Audio recorder (then transcribe)
- Voice recognition software such as Dragon Dictate or Dragon Naturally Speaking.
#8 Conquer your clutter
Sometimes writer’s block is purely a product of distraction and clutter has been proven to overload the senses. Clean up physical congestion around your writing space. Prevent digital clutter by turning off your phone, email notifications, and social media platforms so you can focus on creating.
#9 Keep asking questions
This one often helps me when I’m on a deadline. Rather than completely removing myself from the project I ask specific questions of myself and what I’m working on. Questions like:
- Do I need to engage in more research
- What happens next? (particularly helpful when writing a story of any kind)
- Why is this article important?
- What’s my angle?
- What messages am I trying to convey?
- Who is my audience?
#10 Don’t give up
See writer’s block as a period of growth – a time for your creativity to actively rest. A time for you to experience new techniques like the ones suggested above so you can come back from it even more productive than before.
Have you got any of your own tips for getting rid of writer’s block? Have you tried any of the ideas above? Did they work for you? Let me know in the comments.