Writing Tips

What To Do When You Have Writer’s Block

Sometimes you sit down and you just. Can’t. Write. Maybe you’ve got ideas in your head, but for some reason you can’t figure out how to put those into words. Or maybe those ideas aren’t coming at all. Either way, writer’s block can be a very annoying obstacle to finishing a draft or manuscript.

Here are a couple ways, tried and tested, for getting over that writer’s block and finishing what you started.

1. Work on something else.

When you’re focused too hard on one project, you might end up overthinking your work and be unable to add to it. Take a step back and work on a different project, whether that’s for work, school, or another manuscript. If you’ve run dry on ideas, I’ve found that inspiration jumps up when you’re looking the other way.

The key is that you’ve got to step out of Writing Mode for a moment to give your brain a chance to relax. If you can’t bring yourself to work on something else, try a more different activity like reading or going for a walk. Some of my best ideas I’ve had I thought of in the shower, not while writing at all.

2. Change locations.

Moving to a different area to work refreshes your state of mind. I usually write at my desk in my room, but every now and then it becomes difficult to do so because I’m so used to it. There’s a small major-related library in the building of the college I attend, and it’s a great place for a change in scenery to write.

Recommended places: libraries, coffee shops, quiet study spaces (if you’re near a college), and outdoor tables. Being outdoors might kill your laptop battery with no outlets nearby, but it’s definitely more refreshing than hanging out indoors.

3. Write a journal entry.

Sometimes the issue is inertia. It’s easy to write when you’re already in the groove, but starting out or switching to Writing Mode can be difficult. Pull out a notebook or spare sheet of paper and write a journal entry about what happened today, just to get yourself back into writing. Once you’ve got that momentum going, it’s easier to go back to your draft or manuscript.

4. Find new inspiration.

The current draft I’m working on is set in a steampunk-inspired fantasy world. Sometimes browsing the steampunk tag on Pinterest has landed me on an image I can’t get out of my head, and that image spurred a new scene in the draft.

Be careful with mindlessly browsing the internet, however. Social media can be a black hole where time speeds up and before you know it, you’re neck-deep sifting through hashtag posts and two hours have blown by.

5. Plow on anyway.

Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, says she never gets writer’s block for this reason:

“I haven’t had trouble with writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly. My first drafts are filled with lurching, clichéd writing, outright flailing around. Writing that doesn’t have a good voice or any voice. But then there will be good moments. It seems writer’s block is often a dislike of writing badly and waiting for writing better to happen.”

Sometimes you do have to force yourself to carry on, even when the inspiration isn’t there. The thing about motivation is that it’s fleeting, but discipline gets things done even when you don’t want to. You can plow on by doing things like setting goals, such as writing at least two pages a day or setting a timer and writing until it goes off.

The good news is that writer’s block itself can be as fleeting as inspiration. Keep going.



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