No one who works with words is immune to writer’s block. It has afflicted scribes from Shakespeare’s time to modern best-selling writers like Stephen King.
If the blank page is overwhelming, don’t worry. We’ve outlined some simple solutions on how to beat writer’s block that will bring the muse back into your life.
1. Break your project into smaller pieces.
Mark Twain believed in this method. By breaking down the assignment one piece at a time, the task becomes manageable.
There’s nothing worse than struggling to come up with 300 words obsessing over the fact that you have 5,000 more to go. Working on these smaller chunks ensures your inkwell doesn’t run dry.
2. Do something physical.
Stand up. Walk down a flight of stairs. Often, doing something physically—especially if it involves working with your hands—is a perfect way to clear the cobwebs.
Bonus points if the task involves creativity like painting, but fixing a squeaky hinge or dusting the ceiling fan also helps.
If you work in an office, you can’t drop everything for an extracurricular activity, but even something as simple as walking around the block can get the creative juices flowing.
3. Write ANYTHING – even if it’s junk.
It’s the classic Catch-22: polished writing demands perfectionism, yet perfectionism often stands in the way of the actual writing.
“Polished writing demands perfectionism, yet perfectionism often stands in the way of the actual writing.” Click to tweet
That blank page is a curse, and the longer you stare at it, the more intimidating it becomes. Often, it’s because we want our words to be just perfect the first time we place them on the page.
Maybe we’re waiting for an award-winning introduction to come to us. Perhaps you’re nervous that your writing is going to be terrible.
Forget it. The only thing that matters about a first draft is that you do it.
“The only thing that matters about a first draft is that you do it.” click to tweet
These words aren’t carved on stone tablets brought down from Mount Sinai. You’re going to rewrite it, and rewriting is a vital part of the craft.
I actually dated a fellow writer who told me that he never did rewrites because everything he wrote was perfect the first time. I told him if Hemingway did rewrites, he needed to do rewrites.
Shortly thereafter, the relationship went downhill.
Put something on that blank page with the comfort that you’re going to revise it and make it better.
4. Quit while you’re ahead.
When you’re on a roll, that’s a good time to stop, particularly if you’re working on a large project. Why? If you know what comes next, then you’ll return to the keyboard full speed ahead and ready to go.
If you’ve just completed that inspired section, you return to your computer feeling empty. You may be overwhelmed at having to start fresh.
5. Sleep on it (if you can).
Journalists and other writing professionals often don’t have the luxury to walk away from a project and then start fresh on it the next day.
However, if it’s all possible, I highly recommend it. Coming back to a project with a fresh set of eyes makes a huge difference.
6. Write longhand.
Yes, pencil and paper still exist, and many writers prefer them to composing on a computer.
If you’ve been pounding the keyboard and feel like you’re getting nowhere, consider pulling out a yellow legal pad and your favorite pen.
Sometimes, the mere change in methodology tweaks something in the brain to start the creative juices flowing.
7. Take three minutes before starting your daily assignments.
In her book The Artists Way, Julia Cameron proposes spending time every morning to write at least three pages of whatever comes to your mind.
This “stream of consciousness” can include anything from what you had to eat last night to your grocery list. The key is to go through it quickly without giving much thought and writing the first thing that comes to mind.
So how does that help?
“Our minds are like computers—ever so often they need a good reboot.” click to tweet
By doing these morning pages, we’re clearing “junk.” Small intruding thoughts block us from being productive.
Confess: how many times have you been working on an article and stopped to think, “I have to pick up the dry cleaning today”?
I’ve found that by taking three minutes to do these pages, I actually gain 15 minutes in productivity.
Give it a try.
8. Gain inspiration from others.
Who are your favorite writers?
It’s a good idea to review some of their work to see what works for them. Of course, you should never steal material, but getting a feel for the style, writing and rhythm of someone you admire prompts you to implement your own stylistic touches.
9. Eat chocolate.
I have no idea if this beats writer’s block, but I’m going to try it anyway.
10. Watch funny cats.
While the internet can be a huge distraction, funny cat videos can actually boost your mood and, consequently, your productivity.
A study at the University of Indiana demonstrated that not only do these hilarious felines produce a good chuckle, but they can actually enhance energy and positive feelings.
This energy boost can recharge your creativity.
We’ve saved you the trouble of a Google search:
That’s how to beat writer’s block
There are some who say that they wait for the “muse” to come and deliver them from the blank page.
Maybe my muse is sleeping on the job, but every professional writer I know says the same thing:
“If you only write when inspiration comes, you’ll rarely write anything.”
Writers love to tell you that what we do is a mystical process that requires well-guarded methods and mysterious secret societies (At least, that’s what I’ve told my supervisors.)
The bottom line is that writing is a skill like any other, and the more you write, the better you become.
So use these ten tips to break through your writer’s block and start composing!
Interested in more writing tips? Check out:
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