Yesterday, I was at my local Starbucks, enjoying my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season and getting some work done on Awakenings. At about the midway point in my work, I ended up engaging one of the senior barristas in conversation for a few moments. She asked me if I was working or doing homework, and I laughed and told her (with a pang of self-consciousness) that I was a writer and I was out getting a change of scenery. I told her about what I was working on, and she said, “I’m a writer, too. But I have writer’s block!” I don’t know if she was being serious or not, and I didn’t get a chance to reengage her subsequently. If I had gotten to reengage her, I would have told her that ‘writer’s block’ is just another excuse not to write.
Crazy, right? But the more I think about it, the more I realize how true that statement is. Yes, we all need a break from our writing sometimes–I know that as well as the next person. This having been said, there’s no reason why anyone should ever be completely blocked. Occasionally, walls do arise, yes. But that’s just a signal that you need to take a break.
But while you’re taking a break, you also need to think. Sometimes getting away from the keyboard is exactly what you need to get the ideas flowing, too.
Over the past few years, I’ve developed a few tricks to beating writer’s block.
- Getting up and taking a walk
Doing this can not only get the blood flowing, but you never know when or where inspiration will strike while you’re out and about. Sometimes when I need to get away from the keyboard and what I’m working on, I grab the dog and go for a once around the block. Usually about halfway through, I’ve come up with a solution to whatever sticky situation I’ve written myself into.
- Reassess old projects
It sounds like a weird tip, but it actually works. If you’re like me, who has dozens of half-started projects floating around, you might find inspiration in one of these fragments–even something you can rework and insert into your current project (that’s what happening with me and Awakenings right now–I found an old short story that I wrote that’s gotten me all inspired).
- When in doubt, work on something else.
Just get up and work on something else–writing or otherwise. Work on one of those aforementioned other projects, just to clear your head, or go and do something crafty and otherwise creative. Failing that, clean your room, vacuum your living room, or bake some cookies. Believe me, it helps.
- Grab your computer (or your notebook) and head somewhere else.
Your local library or coffee shop can be great venues for this. I personally prefer my local Starbucks or Panera Bread, but a lot of authors (Caitlin Kittredge comes to mind) write at their local libraries. Sometimes, people-watching in those locations, coupled with the change in scenery, can really help the creative process.
- Try writing longhand.
I went for months having a hard time writing anything. I finally snapped that streak by sitting down at my desk with my computer turned off and writing longhand on notebook paper. Yes, it’s killing a few trees, but the creative process sometimes requires pen (or pencil) on paper. Mother Nature will understand.
- Just sit down and write.
Just do it. Make words come, put them down on paper, and stop caring whether or not it’s good. This is something Chris Baty of Nanowrimo advocates. Turn off the inner editor, ignore personal recriminations, and just pour your brain out onto the page/screen. Some of it won’t be good, but sometimes you’d be surprised by what comes out.
Those are just a few ways I use to combat writer’s block, and I’m sure they’re not the only ways to do it.
So if you’re suffering…try a few of these things and see if they help. Good luck!