If you haven’t experienced writer’s block, then perhaps you just don’t write a lot, if at all, and then you probably would not even be reading this blog or this post. Every writer, at some point, suffers the mind-numbing and discouraging affliction called writer’s block. What is it? It is when you sit down in front of your keyboard fully intending to write the next chapter of your book, and . . . nothing, nada. Not a word or even a half-baked idea comes to mind. It can strike at any time, but usually when you least expect it.
What can we do? Besides crying, staring blankly at the screen, or pounding something in frustration, there are fortunately many things that can clear writer’s block. Maybe not all of them all of the time, but keep at it, and eventually you’ll hit upon something that does the trick.
- I stop trying to write. “Trying to” only makes it worse. It’s like pushing a wet noodle, so stop. Get up and get a drink or a snack. Go for a walk. Pet the dog, or the cat. Talk to a plant. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as it has nothing to do with your writing project or book. Don’t linger here too long though. Now, go back and sit in front of that keyboard again.
- Read what you’ve already written. If it’s a book, start from the beginning and read it through to where you got to in your last session. If it’s not yet a book but a compilation of ideas, or a rough outline, read that too. As you’re reading, keep a pen and paper handy and jot down any thoughts that come to you, no matter how silly they may sound. Read what you have written as if it is someone else’s project or book, not yours. Pretend that a friend asked you for writing advice and presented you with what is in front of you. When we stop pressuring ourselves to be perfect, we open up our creative mind to fresh ideas that don’t have to be perfect to pass the mind-police road block in your head.
- Talk to other writers. This is not too difficult if you belong to a writer’s group, whether on-line or in person. We all go through this at some point and we’ve all discovered ways that might work for us. It’s good to share your feelings with others who might be able to help.
- Go read another book in your genre. Read what inspires you. If Tolkien is your inspiration, or Stephen King, find a book of their’s that you really enjoyed. Read a chapter or two. By the time you have finished you will understand more of what your own goals are for your book. Notice how they write and ask yourself if a certain passage inspires you to write in a similar style or gives you any ideas. We are not copy-cats, but we can find a lot of inspiration from other authors. Sometimes, even an author you don’t like. Why don’t you like them? What is it about their books that you feel you can do better? This may help you realize that you are able to do much better, and that might help clear the block too.
- If you don’t know how to meditate and have never done it, don’t worry—it’s easy. Go sit somewhere quiet and close your eyes. Make your mind as blank as it can get, but if you are having trouble doing this, imagine you are sitting in a place that you love and feel at peace. For example, I would choose a beach. I would hear the waves breaking on the shore and feel the warm sun on my body. I would hear sea-gulls cries around me. Engage all your senses. Do this for as long as it feels real to you, and if you happen to fall asleep, that’s okay too. Your mind block will clear itself out of the way as you snooze. Or maybe a sea-gull will sit down next to you and tell you how to proceed. Don’t laugh, it can happen!
By now you have probably gathered that the solution to writer’s block is not to resist it. Fear causes writer’s block. A deep-rooted fear that we’re not good enough and ideas are limited. We live in an unlimited universe, and there are more ways of saying things out there than there are people currently writing. Allow your mind to explore without fear attached and it will find the most creative things to say! If it doesn’t happen in five minutes, it is not a tragedy. It will happen, and you will know that all you were doing was waiting for the right thing to come along. Sometimes, the longer we spend away from our book, the more able we are to come at it again with a fresh mind. If you can’t write that day, not at all, then try again the next day.