How to Overcome Writer’s Block

Writers block

Most writers face the dreaded writer’s block at some point in their writing journey. What could be scarier than sitting in front of a blank screen and thinking, ‘What now?’ Here are 17 tips to help you overcome it.

Writer’s block most often hits those writing novels and scripts, but it can affect any writer. The fear can be paralysing if you have a deadline looming and you’re feeling uninspired and at a literal loss for words. Writers of short assignments such as magazine articles don’t face this problem as often as fiction writers, as they do research and then arrange the facts into a cohesive text. However, with fiction, you’re coming up with the story yourself – and can easily hit a blank on what happens next.

Don’t despair – read on for essential tips on overcoming the hurdle of writer’s block.

  • Try to step out of your writing routine. Write at a different time of the day, or change the venue. Head to a coffee shop. People watching may inspire you.
  • Create a reward system for yourself: after a certain amount of writing time, treat yourself with a snack, a break, or an activity you enjoy. Move away from your desk, and stretch your legs.
  • If your block is with the particular book or article you’re stuck on – write something else. Just the act of writing may get your momentum going. Use a writing prompt if you can’t think of any ideas to get you going.
  • Don’t overthink it – just write. That’s what first drafts are all about – you can come back and edit later. Don’t put pressure on yourself to write it perfectly the first time.
  • Don’t worry about the order. Work on a different chapter. You can use a timeline and writers’ apps to piece them together later. Sometimes, moving on to a later chapter will help you figure out what happens in between. No rule says you have to work on your chapters in chronological order.
  • Enhance your workspace. Declutter, move your desk to a window with a view, add a diffuser or bunch of flowers, remove distractions and ensure you have a comfortable chair. Make your writing zone a place in which you want to spend time.
  • Read. The more you read, the more you get inspired and in the writing zone. Just 15 minutes of reading before you sit down to write can get you in the right (write) mindset.
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  • Be honest with yourself as to why you are stuck. Are you afraid of criticism? Are you a perfectionist? Fear is a major reason why many want-to-be writers never become writers.
  • Brainstorm ideas – use post-its, pinboards, highlighters, timelines, vision boards or whatever works for you. Keep a notebook on hand or use your phone’s recorder to make notes when you do find inspiration – as it can happen when you least expect it – while waiting to pick up your kids from school, in the middle of the night, while out for a walk. If you don’t take note of the idea immediately, you may forget it later.
  • Don’t feel sorry for yourself or wait to be inspired to write. Like with everything, writing takes practice, and the more you do it, the better you become at it – so just write. Anything.
  • Ask yourself when you are most creative. Are you a night owl or an early bird? Do you feel inspired after a walk in nature? Schedule writing times around this.
  • Get out there and meet new people. Most book characters are inspired by real people – their character traits, quirks, style, life stories or physical appearance.
  • Think back to what inspired you to write in the first place – perhaps you’ve lost track of your goals. Rediscover your love of writing and of being a writer.
  • If you’re stuck with the main storyline, then perhaps instead work on your characters’ development (who they are, their backstories, what do they contribute to the main story), and maybe this will inspire you with what happens next.
  • If you’re stuck staring at the keyboard – try going ‘old school’ and write with pen and paper for a day.
  • Join a writers’ circle or group. Being around like-minded people often generates enough inspiration to get the creativity flowing.

Most of all, be kind to yourself. Accept that some days will be less creative or productive than other days. But on days when you are on a roll, try to work a little longer and enjoy going with the flow.

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