I get this question frequently: What do you do when writer's block strikes and you don't know what to write?
Many writers define writer's block as their imaginary friends refusing to talk to them. Thankfully, mine haven't stopped talking to me for too long - knock on wood! Writer’s block can happen to any of us at any time, but usually, it strikes just as you sit down in front of the computer to type your epic masterpiece. It doesn’t matter if you are working on a short story, an essay or 400-page novel, the words you wish to put down simply won’t come together. That’s when it might be time to take a strategic look at how to overcome your writer’s block.
Here are some helpful tips, tricks and techniques to help you get those creative juices flowing again that have worked for me in the past:
Set a time and stick to it every day, no matter what that time of the day it happens to be. Whether you sit at your desk or wherever you like to write, set yourself up to write at the same time of day, whether it be first thing in the morning, in the middle of the day or late at night. Most people who love routines will easily get into a groove.
Create a realistic deadline in order to trick your brain into a sense of urgency. Set a goal of so many words in an hour, set an alarm clock or the kitchen timer, and start writing. Many people work well under pressure, and this will help you figure out if you’re that kind of person.
Engage in an activity that has nothing to do with reading or writing. Go for a walk around the neighbourhood, clean the kitchen, do some gardening, play with your pet or some other mundane task. Instead of staring at a computer screen or the page of a book, give your body something to focus on and get your blood pumping. Afterwards, sit back down and try to write.
Unwind for a While
Instead of getting distracted by social media or watching TV, unplug from your computer for a bit. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and start writing the old-fashioned way. Oddly enough, putting words to paper actually increases brain power by making more neuronal connections within your brain, which can foster a more efficient thinking process.
Subject your senses something new inspirations. Set up your writing utensils on the terrace, go to your favorite cafe or the bookstore around the corner (once the COVID-19 crisis has abated and it's safe to socialize again). See if new ideas hit you along the way as you contemplate what to write.
Many times a simple conversation with a good friend, a co-worker, or your spouse, can help gain some perspective. Discuss any topic, do not restrict yourself to the subject matter you’re writing about. Another person’s perspective often leads to a breakthrough that clears your writer’s block.
Read something for half an hour before you begin to write. It doesn’t matter what you read, but other writer's concepts may get you an idea or two. Ensure you enjoy the topic you read, whether you dive into the latest newspaper, the newest historical fiction novel or Shakespeare’s sonnets. Inspiration can jump out at you from everywhere.
Begin writing your piece from in the middle or at the end instead of the beginning and work your way forward. Go back to your table of contents to see what jumps out at you. Start with the most fascinating aspect first, and go from there. Everything else will eventually follow.
What about you? How do you overcome writer's block? Feel free to share your tips and tricks in the comment section!
Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added six historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her Majesty , The Country Girl Empress, A Life in the Shadow of the Crown, The Perpetual Traveler, Excerpts from the Imperial Diary, and At the Castle of Dreams.. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Goodreads.
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