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Breaking Writer's Block

You stare at the blank screen or page and long for words, profound words, mundane words, any words to appear. Perhaps it’s a thesis that you’ve been researching for months or the first words of the novel that will revolutionize literature. Maybe you’ve been writing fluidly for months and now you're stuck. So what can you do? Get a cup of coffee. Organize your sock drawer. Make a to-do list of home improvement projects. Still no words.

Causes

The number one cause of writer’s block, or any kink in the flow of creativity, is the brain. The key to all understanding, all memory, all ideas is also the source of all misery. Your mind either races with too many ideas that can’t be sorted or nothing at all. You agonize over anyone ever reading the drivel that you write, or worse- no one ever reading the drivel that you write. The what-ifs, the comparisons, the endless mind games. Competing responsibilities. Anxiety. It’s all in the head.

Cures

Just kidding. There is no cure. But there are activities that can help.

  • Stream of Consciousness Writing

  • Consistent writing

  • Lists

  • Stepping away

  • Insert (something happens here) and move on

  • Write a different scene or project

  • Meditate

Stream of Consciousness

Stream of consciousness writing is great for generating ideas. There are two ways to use this technique. Just write every word that comes into your head, or pick a subject and write every word that comes into your head. Ignore grammar, spelling, and coherence. Just write. If you have a subject in mind, most words will relate to it but if not, still write.

An example for the prompt “agenda”

Timeline hidden not ebook lost agenda meeting plotting bad handwriting brainstorming blocked black agenda BUJU organized meetings work no work quarantine agenda items agenda no one follows my agenda structure blackberry online spreadsheet planning

Consistency

Writing consistently every day will strengthen your writing muscles. Some authors set a word count goal, others set a time limit. Both work; just make sure you are writing if you set a timer. Do not use the time to procrastinate, research, review, revise or make a Pinterest vision board. Write.

If you have the luxury of a quiet space and dedicated, daily time, make use of it. If not, see when you can fit a few minutes of writing. Lunch break? Commute (on public transit!)? While sipping coffee in the morning? Before bed (instead of blue light, social media scrolling)? You will never have time, but you can find time.

Lists

Top ten list making can be a fun endeavor to clear the mind of cobwebs. Here's my top ten list ideas

  1. Top ten worst romance titles (real or imaginary)

  2. Top ten horrible story ideas

  3. Top ten worst antagonist names

  4. Top ten best dragon names

  5. Top ten worst recipes

  6. Top ten worst words

  7. Top ten crappy sidekicks

  8. Top ten worst imaginary Hallmark movies

  9. Top ten best fake band names

  10. Top ten reasons my cat sleeps on my keyboard

Stepping away

Yes, organizing your stock drawer or attending to another responsibility can break the spell of writer's block. Something mindless, like washing dishes or showering, can let your mind wander and allow your subconscious to work things out without you getting in the way. Just make sure you return to write.

Insert _______

If you've been writing fluidly for a while and suddenly get stuck on a word or dialogue or scene, inserting a blank will prevent the development of hyper focus on what words won't come. You simply make an indication that will remind you to come back, for instance (fight scene here). This is particularly useful if you have a clear idea of what comes before and after the scene in question. It helps you maintain writing momentum when you're in the groove.

Work on a different WIP

Just like stepping away to fold sheets can loosen the mind, switching gears in what you write can help. If you reach an impasse in your current work, opening a different project or focusing on a different scene can jolt your gears into turning.

Meditate

Pick your subject or scene and find a quiet place to sit and just be. Focus your breathing, relax your muscles by flexing them individually. Hold your subject in your mind, but let your thoughts wander. You might find yourself napping, or you might see the story unfold before your mind’s eye.

Research

If you have a kernel of a story idea, perhaps a prompt or a fragment of a dream, but you can’t quite pull a tale together, start researching. A quick Google search can give you some facts to add an element of realism. Head to the library to peruse related books- both fiction and non-fiction. Plan a trip to a museum to view artifacts from the relevant time period. Just remember to take notes.


Writer's block triggers anxiety in authors. It can start a flow of negative what ifs- what if I've written my best work already, what if I can never create again, what if my writing really sucks? Anything that can help move past the depressing stage of self doubt is worth trying. Sometimes one of these suggestions can pull you from the rut, sometimes you may need a combination of exercises.


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Expose yourself Put yourself out there. Be vulnerable. Expose yourself to criticism. Brave words from someone that hid herself for forty plus years. I stopped writing, drawing, and creating for my ent