Top 10 Ways to Beat Writer's Block
There are many ways book coaches help writers, and at the Book Coach Collective, we want to make sure we help solve your most urgent writing issues. That’s one reason we asked what frustrates you most about your writing. One of the answers that came back loud and clear: WRITER’S BLOCK.
Writer’s block is one of those problems that can stifle creativity. If you don’t have a solid plan, or at least a few good tricks to get past it, it can feel cumulative, getting worse each minute and day that passes. As one of the writers, Alden Burgess, told us:
“That cursor keeps on blinking at you. Taunting you. That can be frustrating.”
There has probably been writer’s block as long as there have been stories, and some of the most famous authors are full of advice about how to get beyond it. This post includes some of their quotes and my own Top 10 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block, which you can download by clicking on the link.
The Top 10 list breaks down into four main categories to help you overcome writer’s block, and we’ll delve a little deeper into the preparation, problem-solving, tasks, and tricks that will help you start writing and fuel you to the finish.
You might avoid writer’s block altogether with a little prep work before you start writing. There are two ways to do this, and they help, whether you are just getting started or are already stuck. The first is to start by spending five minutes planning what you want to write for the day. Jot down a scene outline or chapter summary. This helps coalesce the story in your mind and often helps you write faster in addition to getting you started.
"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” Mark Twain
If you still can’t get words on the page, do a little research. Spend five minutes online looking at photos of the town you want to describe or write a sketch of your main character that includes the emotional journey she’ll take through your novel as the plot unfolds. This extra time in pre-writing makes the writing easier.
Sometimes writer’s block happens because we’re stuck in the story and aren’t sure what comes next. Let your subconscious help you resolve these problems. One way to do this is to think about the story problem before you go to sleep at night. Often, by the time you wake up, your mind will have resolved the issue and you’ll be ready to write. Keep a pad and pencil by the bed in case your subconscious solves the problem before morning and wakes you up with the answer.
It has been proven that walking boosts creativity. If you don't want to wait for bedtime and you’ve got a story problem to solve, take a walk in nature. Look around at the world, inspiration may find you.
“I've found the best way to overcome writer's block is to do something – anything - that's not writing. Go for a walk, see a movie...anything that's not you stressing about your writing. Very often, once you relax and stop worrying, the answer will come.” Richelle Mead
When you make writing a habit, it becomes easier. Write every day, every weekday, or whatever schedule works best for you, but set aside the time. This resonated with one writer, Jennifer Metcalf, who said: “I have usually only written when inspiration hit, but I've learned that I need to make writing more of a habit if I really want to make any real progress.”
Set goals for your writing. Goals can be how many minutes you write in a session, how many words you write, or how far you get in your writing project. Find an accountability partner or give yourself a small reward for reaching your goal (stickers have been used by quite a few writers – meet your goal and put a sticker on your physical or electronic calendar).
“I write 2,000 words a day when I write. It sometimes takes three hours, it sometimes takes five.” Nicolas Sparks
Finally, a great way to keep on task is to use a Pomodoro timer – typically twenty-five minutes of work followed by a five-minute break. There are several Zoom writing groups where members time themselves this way. Create your own Pomodoro writing group to add camaraderie and accountability to your writing.
“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.” Jane Yolen
When all else fails, try one of these tricks when the blank page is staring back at you. Think about the emotion you want to convey in the scene you are writing, really feel the love, terror, injustice, pride – whatever makes the scene work. That often is enough to bring the words. Make sure you don’t have distractions. If you need to, write without access to WIFI.
Edit later – don’t let your need for perfection keep you from getting words on the page. You can fix them later. The first writer quoted above liked this tip and said: “Basically give yourself the freedom to suck. Often when you go back later it’s not as bad as you thought.”
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.” Anne Lamont
Finally, there’s the old trick from Hemingway. End your writing session mid-sentence. All you have to do to get started again is finish that one sentence.
Hopefully, some of these methods will help you the next time you face writer's block. We would love to hear which ones you like best and feel free to share your methods of getting past writer’s block that might help others.
Happy writing! We wish you the best in your writing career!
Kathy Dodson, coach at www.NextStepBookCoach.com
A writer herself, Kathy loves helping others at every stage of the writing process. She has a B.A. in English/Creative Writing, an MBA, and a PhD and more than 20 years as an executive. She has written four novels, and combines her business skills and love of the creative process to provide writers with effective strategies to take their books to the next level.
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