From time to time, every writer experiences the misery of writer’s block. Ideas evade you, inspiration is absent, and your work in progress quickly becomes a work with no progress at all.
We get how frustrating it is when your creativity goes AWOL, making you question whether you’re even a writer. Take heart, though—even award-winning authors like Neil Gaiman and Maya Angelou know about writer’s block, so you’re in good company! We have some tips to help you get those words flowing again:
1. Try a new approach or a new project.
2. Carry a notebook to catch ideas.
3. Guard your writing time.
4. Set achievable writing goals.
5. Have fun with creative writing prompts.
Read on to explore these in more detail.
1. Start Something New
If you’ve gotten stuck on a big writing project like a novel, don’t feel you have to keep working right where you stopped. There’s sure to be another scene you could work on instead. It doesn’t matter if you choose something that won’t happen until much later in the story—if you know that your main characters are going to have a sword fight at some point, then start writing it now.
Maybe the storyline is the problem, and you can’t think of another scene to write. If so, you could work on developing your characters. One way of doing this is to pick two characters and write some dialogue for them. It could be relevant to the story, but it doesn’t have to be. This exercise helps you visualize your characters and bring them to life. It works best if you don’t expect it to end up in the final draft.
Sometimes, though, the best option is to start an entirely new project. This doesn’t mean abandoning your work in progress forever. Anxiety about your ability to finish what you’ve started is a common cause of writer’s block, so taking a break from it might be the perfect solution.
2. Always Keep a Notebook Handy
As a writer, you should be ready for inspiration to strike at any time. Taking a notebook (the old-fashioned paper kind) wherever you go means you can jot down ideas whenever you think of them.
Anything that sparks your imagination might grow into a story later, so use your notebook to record:
● Snippets of overheard conversation.
● Intriguing headlines or advertisements.
● People with unusual clothing or mannerisms.
● Dreams (and daydreams).
● Song lyrics.
And, of course, if you suddenly think of a way to breathe life into your original project, you can write that down, too.
3. Prioritize Your Writing Time
When writer’s block sets in, you may easily get distracted. Other activities, like browsing social media, scrolling through blog posts (ahem), and even cleaning the house, compete for your attention and, more often than not, pull you away from writing.
The only way to deal with this is to set aside time for writing and treat it as sacred. That means putting it on the schedule and allowing nothing to budge it. Think of your writing time as a special date that you’d only cancel for a dire emergency.
Even when you’re at your desk, fingers poised over the keyboard, the battle to guard your writing time isn’t over. You can still be tempted to grab a snack, respond to an email, or do any one of a hundred pressing tasks. At this point, you should follow this rule from Neil Gaiman:
All I am allowed to do is absolutely nothing or write.
In other words, make every other activity off-limits except writing. When the alternative is literally staring at a blank screen, you’ll eventually get bored enough to write something!
4. Manage Your Literary Expectations
One common cause of writer’s block is unrealistic expectations of what you should produce. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the brilliance of other authors, who seem to write so much more eloquently or prolifically than you. You might type one sentence, then immediately delete it because it’s not as good as you want it to be.
This is when you should heed the words of American writer Sandra Tsing Loh:
When you face writer’s block, just lower your standards and keep going.
Even famous novelists have to edit their work—they don’t produce perfect paragraphs in the first draft, so you don’t need to, either. It’s better to get something second rate onto the page than nothing at all. After all, as novelist Jodi Picoult says, “you can’t edit a blank page.”
5. Have Fun With These Creative Writing Prompts
How about defying writer’s block right now by having a go at one of these playful prompts? Just grab some paper or open a new document, set a 15-minute timer, and go. You never know; you might end up with the beginnings of your next literary masterpiece!
● Three random words: Open a dictionary or any other book. Pick three words from different pages at random and write them into a story. Try to include all three words in the first paragraph.
● Song lyrics: Take the words from a favorite song and imagine the story behind them.
● Fairytale extension: Think of a fairytale and write about what happens next, e.g., when Cinderella realizes she’s just married a guy who didn’t recognize her without her shoes on…
● Use your senses: Without thinking too hard about it, write about what you can see, hear, taste, feel, and smell. This is a good one to use your notebook for when you’re out and about.
We hope these tips will help you move past your writer’s block. And remember, when you’ve finished your final draft, be sure to have it proofread by a professional before you publish. Our team is available around the clock, and we’ll even proofread the first 500 words for free.