Fighting the Block
Updated: Sep 15, 2018
As any writer knows, writer's block is real, and it's probably the biggest thing standing in the way of finishing that draft. Few things can match the frustration of staring at a blinking cursor or blank sheet of notebook paper, waiting for the words to come and getting nothing. Your characters seem to have gone off on vacation without telling you, and you don't know when they'll be back.
I've hit more blocks than I can possibly count, and while I still deal with the struggle as much as any writer, I've built up an arsenal of tricks to beat it. Below are my top 5 ways to fight the block (paired with some awkward stock images, as all good lists must be)--and whether you've been fighting it for years or are facing down your first round, I hope there's something here that will get you back on track.
1. Switch Up Your Setting
We writers tend to be a habitual species. We like our comfy sweats and our caffeine and that perfect writing chair. And while that is absolutely wonderful for the writing mood (seriously, I get it. Ask anybody who knows me where I am and they'll tell you I'm probably in the corner of my bedroom with my laptop and a cup of tea) it's not so great for breaking down your writer's block. So switch it up. If you usually write at home, head over to your favorite coffee shop. Take your notebook to the park. You'll be amazed at what a little change of surroundings can do for your inspiration.
2. Get Out of the House/Coffee Shop/Pile of Blankets/Anti-Apocalypse Bunker
Wherever you're writing, get out. Leave your writing behind and get out into the world. Yes, I know, shocking--where would you be without your computer or favorite note-taking pen?
Leave them. They'll be nice and safe for you when you get back. Go take the dog for a walk. Play a game of your favorite sport. Find a nice spot to watch the sunset. Go to a museum. Sometimes we get so buried in our fictional worlds we forget to appreciate the real one around us, and that's the world that built us. It's the world that gives us so much inspiration.
3. Socialize. You Know, That Thing With Other People
I know, I know. People? Real people?
We'd all rather lock ourselves up at home some days, but humans are a social species--maybe that awful block you're dealing with is your brain's way of saying to drop the fictional people and go talk to some real ones for a change. Call up a friend and chat for a while. Arrange to go out to your favorite ice cream place with someone. Whatever's your jam. Even a short escape from the people in our heads can be enough to get them talking again. If only out of jealousy that we're spending our time with someone else.
4. Talk it Out
Can so easily go along with general socializing! I'm a big fan of this one. But then again, most of my friends are also writers, so they get it. The majority of people would probably think I was crazy if I told them an assassin was giving me the silent treatment after arguing with me about the nature of her relationship with a shapeshifting warrior. But if you've got any writer friends, or even reader friends, try talking your story out with them. Even someone who's just willing to listen--so many times I've figured out exactly what was blocking me and fixed it just by babbling to someone willing to smile and nod.
You might get labeled as the crazy person but hey, who needs sanity, anyway?
5. Take Inspiration from Others' Creativity
Sounds bad, I know, but I'm not telling you to go you rip off someone else's book just so yours works. I'm a huge lover of music and art. I'm forever thinking about what songs fit my characters' relationships, or scenes from my book, or finding some incredible art online that looks just how imagine X character/setting/object/creature. In fact, I have ever-evolving Pinterest boards and Spotify playlists just because of this. (Find my boards and playlists for The Otherworld Trilogy and Arcatraissa here and here) Some of the most effective things to beat down my writer's block have been songs or artwork that just make the gears start turning again.
Music, art, movies, TV, books--anything goes for this. Dig around the Internet for something new. Browse Netflix in your genre of choice. Get into that massive TBR pile of yours and start that book you keep saying you're going to read. Give your brain a break from your world and let it dive into another one. You never know what might make your story start lighting up again.
Alternatively, indulge in a little non-writing creativity. Make some art or music of your own. If you're a crafter, put some work into that project that's probably lying unfinished somewhere. Chances are, pretty soon you'll be ready to jump back into your writing.
A Final Note
Keep in mind that writer's block and writer burnout are different things. All of these things may help if you're suffering some burnout, but probably won't cure it in the long run. The most effective cure for burnout is to take a break from writing until your inspiration comes back.