If you’ve been writing long, you likely know that dreaded moment when the words that once flowed from your fingertips suddenly dry up. All your ideas seem foolish or ill-conceived. What you wrote is disappointing, even embarrassing. Maybe this awful feeling lasts a day or two. Or maybe it’s a dry spell that stretches into weeks and then months. But somehow, the writing spigot has been shut off and the message you wanted to get out to the world seems like it will never materialize. Most writers recognize this as writer’s block. It’s not a fun experience, but it’s not insurmountable, either. Here are 5 ways you can kick writer’s block and get back to business.
Change your writing environment.
An important part of your writing routine is keeping your physical writing space. Psychologically, it’s key to have a dedicated space where you write. But if you’re stuck in the writing doldrums, it can be very beneficial to change locations and sensory environments. Fresh surroundings can inspire and invigorate your writer’s brain. If you usually work indoors, try sitting on a park bench. If you’re used to being huddled away in a library, try working at a coffee shop. A time or two of radically altering your writing environment can give you traction to get out of a writing slump.
Yep, that right’s. Exercise is one of the most effective, proven ways to “wake up” the creative brain. There’s a reason most bestselling authors go for walks (sometimes for miles and hours) each day. Brain research by Stanford University has shown that walking increased creative output by 60%. So go for a 30-minute walk and let your brain mull what’s next in your writing.
Skip to the next chapter.
Often, less-experienced writers expect that the first words they put down will match the eloquent, visionary writing they imagined. And they’re harshly disappointed. The reality is much less lovely. Writers must just get the words down, awkward and disjointed as they may be, and then refine, refine, refine. If you find you’re stuck — really stuck — on a chapter and you just can’t seem to move forward, try skipping to the next chapter. Put a note in your manuscript saying, “Come back to this.” Then move on so you can make progress, unlovely as it may be. Many times, when you come back to the place that’s derailed you, you’ll be able to easily write the missing piece, and you may even find your writing isn’t as bad as you originally thought.
Realize that writing isn’t always writing.
Writing isn’t only the act of putting words on the page. It’s also researching, reading, interviewing, taking notes, outlining, editing, and thinking. Do you best to meet your daily word count goal. If you don’t, there are other ways to work on your writing. Divert your energy to those places, and know that as long as what you’re doing relates to your writing project, you are building toward it. And a bonus: Often going back and editing what you’ve already written will open the creative floodgates and push you through that next, daunting chapter.
Power through it.
Many seasoned writers will tell you there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Every writer stares at the blank page, sometimes for hours, but the work of writing requires you to push through the doldrums. This means not allowing yourself to sit and wallow in losing inspiration or decide you’re just not “feeling it.” Writing is hard work, and it’s easy to give up. But when you stick with a project day after day, then every day it gets easier to pick up where you left off and keep going. There will always be edits. There will always be patches of awful writing. And what you do get down may not be Pulitzer-prize worthy. But get it down you must. And you can. Even if it’s just a sentence or two.
These tips can help you break through writer’s block and keep moving on your manuscript. Don’t let the dreaded blank page derail you — or your message.