Writer’s block can feel paralyzing. It may make your mind feel like an empty cavern with the wind whistling through it, or that your creative thoughts have slammed into a stone wall. But the situation is not without hope!
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What is writer’s block?
Writing is important for everyone as a communication skill and a way to clear your mind, understand difficult things, and make you a better reader. So, getting past writer’s block is very important.
Writer’s block is a situation in which you are unable to proceed with current writing or to begin new writing. While some believe writer’s block is “all in your head,” others believe it to be a genuine disorder. Regardless, it is a frustrating condition, and it is often difficult to overcome it.
If you’re unable to get past writer’s block, it can prevent you from communicating effectively, completing school assignments or, if writing is your livelihood, from earning your income if it persists for any length of time.
Writer’s block is inevitable and virtually all writers deal with it at some point, so if you’ve had it, you are not alone.
In fact, some of the most famous writers throughout history struggled with how to cure writer’s block, including Herman Melville, author of “Moby Dick,” Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Leo Tolstoy, author of “War and Peace.”
While the exact cause of writer’s block is still unknown, many writers have indicated that these reasons may cause it:
- Fear of putting your ideas out there for everyone to see and critique
- The timing isn’t right, and your ideas may need to stew a bit longer
- You want everything to be “just right” before you begin, and if you don’t feel you have it perfect in your head, you never get those first words out
Ways to overcome writer’s block
Despite the challenge that it presents, you can overcome writer’s block. Keep in mind that every writer begins with excitement and a sense of purpose, and conquering writer’s block involves reclaiming those feelings. Some of the causes of writer’s block described above can give clues on ways to beat move past it.
Here are some tips and tactics on how to get your pen or keyboard moving again. While every writer is different and has their own preferred approaches, these tips are worth trying to help you get past writer’s block.
Develop a writing routine
Author Twyla Tharp once wrote, “Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits.”
We tend to think of creativity as something that should just happen naturally. While this may often be the case, writing only when you feel creative may dry up that creativity. Instead, develop a discipline to creatively write on a regular schedule. Whether it be daily, or on weekends, setting a routing and sticking to it can help you get past writer’s block.
Map out your writing
Another way to get past writer’s block is to write an outline. Getting your brain ready in advance by taking a structured approach can not only stop writer’s block, but it can also help prevent it in the future.
When you outline your writing, the information you need for the next part of your writing often forms in your mind. Your brain essentially focuses on what you need to write, and the creativity begins to flow.
We’re all subjected to more distractions than we may even realize. Each of these distractions steals your focus from writing.
Another way to get past writer’s block is to eliminate as many distractions as you can before you begin writing. Mute messages and social media notifications (or better yet, turn off your phone or tablet) and put noisy pets in another room.
If you use your computer to write, disconnect it from the internet or try one of several specialized writing programs to help reduce distractions. Every interruption is a thief of progress and avoiding them can help stop writer’s block.
Put on some music
Listening to music while writing can help your mind focus and get into a flow. While any type of music may work for you, genres without lyrics, such as jazz or classical, may be a good start.
In addition, music at 432Hz, commonly found in ambient or meditation music, can help relax your brain, allow room for creativity, and help you get past writer’s block.
Change your environment
Sometimes writing in the same location can contribute to writer’s block. Working in a different location than usual, such as different room in your house, a coffee shop, or an outdoor café can help you get past writer’s block.
The new location can initiate creativity as your senses detect and your brain absorbs your new writing location.
Get your blood pumping
It’s known that exercise that increases your blood flow transports more oxygen to your brain, stimulating mental processes. In addition, exercise creates endorphins which stimulate feelings of euphoria.
You could go for a brisk walk, take out the dog, go to the gym, or any activity that works for you. Picking an exercise that gets your blood pumping can help get past writer’s block by pumping up your brain activity and good, positive feelings.
Take a shower
Have you ever noticed that you often have new ideas just pop into your head when you are in the shower, or doing other “mindless” tasks like mowing the lawn? There is scientific evidence for this.
Monotonous tasks cause your conscious mind to go on autopilot, so your unconscious mind can flex its muscles, wandering without logic-driven constraints. It opens your thoughts up to daydreaming and otherwise hidden creative connections, which can help you cure writer’s block.
Don’t get stuck at the start
You may tend to feel most intimidated at the start of your writing, as you stare at an empty page or screen with the realization that you need to fill it with coherent words.
Rather than starting with the chronological beginning of your writing, dive headfirst into the middle, or wherever you feel the strongest creative pull. This will lower the pressure to have everything be “perfect” at the start, allowing the words to flow and get past writer’s block.
When you later come back to write the beginning, you’ll not only be warmed up, but you’ll also have a better idea of the direction your writing will go.
Mind map it
Getting visual is another way to overcome writer’s block. Thinking about things in more visual way can help you connect the dots on various creative ideas, allowing you to utilize them in your writing.
Try making a mind map of ideas, creating some sketches, or even buildings with Legos!
If you can do it with a pen and paper, rather than using mind mapping software, even better. Research indicates that writing is better than typing, because it activate a different part of your brain.
Anything that changes your perspective and unlocks your mind can help you get past writer’s block.
Read something else
By now you’ve probably picked up on one of the themes to get past writer’s block: doing something different.
Another way to do this is to stop writing and read something, preferably something in a different genre than the one in which you’re writing. If you’re writing fiction, read some non-fiction, or vice-versa.
This lets your mind go somewhere else, allowing creativity to blossom.
Write about your day
Many writers utilize a habit of journaling. A daily “Dear Diary” session in which you write about not only what happened during our day but how you felt about it can be valuable. You can also jot down any new ideas that come to you.
This can spark creativity and give you much-needed writing material.
Try another day
If you’ve tried a few of the above tactics but still can’t seem to get your writing moving, try letting go for a bit. Don’t force it!
Set your writing aside until your next scheduled writing time. Giving your mind a rest can be as important as giving your body a rest when you are fatigued.
This can help you get past writer’s block and restart your writing again when you return to it.
Writing is an important skill and suffering from writer’s block can feel paralyzing.
Even famous authors can deal with writer’s block. While its causes are not always clear, writer’s block is often related to our fears and self-doubts. Knowing these causes can help us use some tips to get past writer’s block.
Many of our recommendations for curing writer’s block center around helping your mind to focus, putting you in a creative mood, and changing your current situation.
Try a few of the tips above and if they don’t seem to work for you, remember this: Don’t overthink it. Start somewhere. Write a few lines and see where it takes you.
You overcome writer’s block by simply writing!