How To: Beat Writer’s Block

You sit down, open up your current project and….

Nothing happens.

You try to re-read the previous night’s work, working your way into the scene. But no ideas spark, and the words you try and write just feel boring. Dull.

Ever had this? Then, like all writers you’ve had writer’s block! The topic of today’s How To, is all about what writer’s block is, and how to defeat it.

What is it?

Like anything creative, writing is an activity that requires a lot from the writer. Not only in terms of imagination, but in terms of digging deep into the creative well and creating something out of nothing.

Writer’s block, in my opinion, is when that well gets dry. It’s not that your imagination or ideas have gone, but there is just something in the way of putting words on the page that day. An invisible barrier between what’s lying between your mind’s eye and the words you type on the page.

Sometimes it’s because you’ve worked too long on one project. Sometimes it’s other stressors in life eating up your creative energy and leaving you nothing left to create. And sometimes it’s something as simple as not being inspired that day.

And you know what – that’s fine too.

So I’ve gone away and done some thinking about what works for me when beating writer’s block. Each writer will have their own techniques, and some of these might work, some might not! But do know that writer’s block is just your creativity taking a pause – it will come back, promise!

Tip 1 – What’s the problem?

The first thing to know about writer’s block is that it is trying to tell you something about your creative piece. There is part of the puzzle that’s not working, and maybe it’s not even in the scene you’re focussing on right now.

I tend to find my “problem” sections are actually a few chapters back. Maybe it was a conversation between two characters that didn’t sit right, or some exposition that told the reader too much too early.

To identify your problem, I suggest taking a step back from the scene you’re writing, and reflect on what you’ve just written or plotted. Why did you make the decisions you made in your plot? Why did you choose this ending to a conversation instead of that one? Is there something you could adjust to help the pieces fall into place better?

My ongoing WIP “Assassins 1” had this very problem – but I found that my “problem” was not a mere few chapters before, but the very start of the piece. The whole prologue was setting up a particular journey that the story never went on. It introduced ideas that I now wanted to reveal in the scene I was struggling with, and dealt with characters that I wanted to introduce different facets of.

Once I’d understood what was wrong, I could work out a plan to fix it. Now I’ve realised my beginning isn’t aligned to the “middle” of my story, I can go through an edit it to align it better. My hope is, once I’ve done that, I can go back to those later scenes and then continue my story.

Tip 2 – Get a Notebook

Another good tip to dealing with writers block is to get a notebook. My personal favourite is the journalist flip notebooks that you can scribble anything on.

Once you have a notebook, flip to an empty page, and start putting down your thoughts onto the page. Frustrated with your scene? Why are you frustrated? Not sure what a character’s motivations are? Start jotting down some verbs and give the character a reason to feel them.

Getting the ideas down on a page, especially another medium to your normal prose writing technique, could help open up new ideas that you hadn’t considered. Plus, it’s a great way to keep “working” on your novel without beating yourself up about a particular scene.

Tip 3 – Try something else

Tip three is to try something else.

If this particular project is not working for you – try writing some other scenes for another project. I particularly like using my Teacup Stories or 100 Word Stories for this – short pieces of writing on random scenes to get my imagination working. Sometimes, by writing something else, you can then come back to your problem scene and write like there was no problem at all!

Another thing I like to try is skipping the scene entirely. If you’re having trouble writing a travelling scene you can write the instructions in square brackets (e.g. “[Mae travelled from here to the forests]”) and then continue with the bit of the scene that does interest you. I particularly like using this method when there is something in the scene that I really want to write, but I can’t quite seem to get there with the liner prose.

Keep trying!

Whatever your method is, the main thing to remember about writer’s block is that it is temporary. Like all creative things, sometimes you have good creative days, other times you don’t. Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not meeting your goals or targets – see if you can understand and learn from the experience so you can apply it next time.

What are your favourite ways of beating writers block?

Photo Credit: Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

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