The curse of the blank page and the blinking cursor: every writer’s worst nightmare! (Actually my worst nightmare is all my teeth fall out and the brakes go out in my car as I’m driving down a hill). Let’s talk about writer’s block and how to work through it.
tip 1: Identify the Root Cause of Writer’s Block
There are tons of reasons why your writing might be all clammed up and not flowing like it usually does. If you have patterns that tend to cause you to get blocked, pay attention and notice them. Just be casually observant, you don’t have to try and dissect your own brain to find the exact thought that made your brain take a detour.
Lack of Inspiration: If you’re not getting any ideas for your work, it might be because you’re not giving yourself enough time to relax and let your mind wander. Take regular breaks to do something unrelated to writing for a while to refresh your mind.
There’s a reason great ideas come to you in the shower or while you’re driving. When your mind is occupied with a routine task, your subconscious can play around and come up with new connections and inspired ideas. So… if you’re not feeling inspired, maybe go for a drive. Or a walk, in this economy.
Fear of Failure: This is perfectionism stopping you before you even start! If you’re afraid of messing up, you’ll likely have trouble getting started. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and remember that the more you write, the better you’ll get.
PS. Your first draft is basically SUPPOSED to be bad. Get it out on the page and then refine when it’s all out of your head!
Conflicting Goals: On the surface you “just want to develop a writing practice.” But underneath, you’re hoping to write your life’s masterpiece. This is going to cause some serious dissonance and freak your brain out. Get clear on your goals when it comes to your writing, and break them down into tiny pieces you can focus on for 90 days at a time. Then, keep moving forward.
2: Remove All Distractions From Your Writing Environment
Easier said than done, right?
Writer’s block can absolutely be impacted by distractions. There are all sorts of distractions in your environment that can take away from your focus. For me, it’s my dog barking whenever she hears a noise, the destructive odor of my cat’s truly heinous poops, and… social media.
Try to remove distractions from your writing environment and see if that helps you get back into the flow of writing. If you can’t eliminate them, try reducing them. Set your phone to airplane mode or Do Not Disturb and keep it on the other side of the room, away from arm’s reach. Use dog interruptions to get up and take a stretch break while you soothe her wounded honor.
3: Create a Writing Schedule That Feels Achievable
My favorite way to fight writer’s block!
If you’re finding it difficult to get started on your writing project, start by creating a schedule that feels achievable. Break your project down into smaller goals that you can achieve one at a time to motivate you and keep you on track.
My itty-bitty goal and unbeatable writing schedule tip is Novel Day. This year, starting on the first Wednesday of 2022, I sat down to work on my novel every Wednesday morning. I have missed two, and used another two to work on a poetry book, but otherwise, Wednesday is for writing.
The results? I finished the first book in June and am on schedule to wrap book two by the end of November. It works for my ADHD mind to put all the writing focus on this one morning a week.
4: Schedule Breaks From Writing
When you’re not making as much progress as you want, you might try to write even more to make up for lost time. But the opposite is true. If you’re feeling blocked, taking a total break from your project – whether it’s for a few hours, days, or even weeks – can help you return to it with fresh eyes and inspiration.
Rest and recovery are so important, even from things you like doing.
5: shift perspective or tense
When you are stuck and can’t seem to write anything, it can be helpful to approach the writing process in a different way. Do some experiments related to your story where you write from a different character’s point of view, or switch from past tense to present and experience the story that way. These experiments don’t have to become part of your final draft, they’re just a way to get out of the weeds of your story and look at it from a different angle.
My first novel has a few vignettes written in present tense, and they do a great job of pulling the reader in due to the difference in style. It can be really fun to play with tense like this!
Which tip is most helpful for you?
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