SEVEN TIPS FOR BEATING WRITER’S BLOCK
This is the third in a series of posts drawn from recent author interviews I’ve done about the craft of writing.
Does writer’s block keep you pacing the floor for days? Tossing and turning at night?
Here are a few tricks to overcome it.
Writer’s block (sometimes called creative block) may be the most dreaded phrase authors use. The one they fear. After all, plot holes can be filled. Tension can be added. Character flaws can be addressed. But writer’s block? That you have to suffer through.
Well, there are ways to face it. Maybe ease the pain or even overcome it, though some of these techniques may cause you to suffer too. Fortunately, the disease still remains far worse than the cure.
7 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block
- Write through it. Easier said than done, but this is my personal favorite. If the words aren’t coming the way you like, remind yourself that that’s okay, they never do. How many times have you had to rewrite your first draft? So, to beat writer’s block, write something, anything because, quite frankly, you’ll have to rewrite it later anyway. All writing is essentially rewriting, and it’s much easier to work with something than nothing. At least you’ll have the terrible draft out of the way, even if you scrap every word. Whatever you come up with on the second go-round is bound to be better.
- Revise the previous chapter. I know, I know, this is a big no-no. Don’t revise your work before moving on, but if you’re truly stuck, revise the previous chapter. See if that helps you focus on where the story is headed. That just might give you a jumping-off point to keep going.
- Find an alternate way to start your creativity. A good friend of mine starts every writing session by creating a limerick. He says it gets his overall creative juices flowing so he can start writing what he wants. I suggest if you’re stuck, try it. It doesn’t have to be a limerick, of course. It can be a haiku, song lyrics, a greeting card… maybe even a photo caption or meme. Feeling creative after one endeavor might carry over to another.
- Read something you admire. Whether it’s your own work or someone else’s, read a story or passage of something you truly like. If it’s someone else’s, remember what it is about their work that inspired you to write in the first place. If it’s your own, tell yourself that you can get through writer’s block because you’ve written great stuff before.
- Figure out where you’re stuck. Are you stuck developing a character? On a particular plot point? Go back and look at your character sheet. Is there something there that shows you how to push this character forward, or should you develop a new character trait? If you’re stuck on plot, review your outline. Can you connect your plot points in the most basic way, or add additional details before you start writing? Or maybe you should scrap the outline and improve the next few pages. See where your imagination takes you!
- Write a string of words about your story. Sum up your story in a series of descriptive words. Maybe create an elevator pitch. Figure out where your story is going or what it’s about and see if you can’t write to that. That added depth (which normally occurs after the first draft is finished) might actually inspire you to finish that first draft.
- Take a power nap. Since I started with my favorite technique for beating writer’s block, I’ll end with my least favorite, though I’ve known people who swear by it—take a power nap. Sleep off your frustration for an hour or two and see if you wake up refreshed, ready to face that blank page with renewed energy, vigor and creativity.
None of these methods is guaranteed to work, though one or two should let you make headway on your work-in-progress. I hope that at least one helps you break through your creative block, but if none of them do, well, just tell yourself that the longer you sit in that chair, the more likely it is that something will come to you. You might end up writing out of sheer anger or frustration, but maybe that’s what your story needed at that moment. I bet it ramps up the tension!
There’s a saying in journalism that the reason editors created deadlines is so that writers write. That doesn’t always work if you creating a novel, but then 100,000 words is harder to put together than a 1,000-word article. Remind yourself of that. You’re in this for the long haul, on a project that could take months, or even years to finish—and writer’s block never lasts that long.
Good luck! And if you have any techniques for overcoming writer’s block, leave them in the comments below. Thanks!
This post was inspired by an interview with NF Reads. Check out the full interview here!
I too subscribe to the idea of writing through writer’s block (also something I’d picked up from my journalism days when deadlines were tight). Thanks for this helpful post!