We all deal with writer’s block, and it’s just about the worst thing ever. Writer’s block is annoying and disruptive and often strikes without warning, for no reason at all. (In fact, I experienced writer’s block the moment I started writing this post. I used method #4.)
Until recently, I was struggling through a four-year-long stint of writer’s block. In November 2012, toward the end of my first semester of college, I participated (as I usually do) in NaNoWriMo. I finished my 50,000 word project, edited it once – and never touched it again. (But I’m working on it now, more than four years later. It’s in need of a rewrite to realize its potential.)
That was the theme of my writing in college – unfinished. I had too many essays to write and too many textbooks to read, and sometimes I would write short stories for various creative writing classes, but none of them were ever revisited. I stopped writing for fun, stopped writing for me. And that was the source of a huge creative block.
Anyway, here are the ways I usually get around writer’s block:
1. Writing Prompts
An oldie but a goody. When I was a tot (and by that I mean when I was about fifteen and didn’t have my own computer and wasn’t well-versed in all the glorious-ness of the internet) I bought myself a book. This book, The Pocket Muse, is at least several years old, but it’s still a beautiful thing. It’s full of photographs, quotes, and story starters to give your creativity a kick-start.
Of course, nowadays most writers I know are internet enthusiasts. And, unlike The Pocket Muse, which has a finite number of pages, the internet is endless. Some of my favorite online writing prompt locations include this Tumblr site and this Tumblr site. You can also find a bunch of writing prompts with a quick search on Twitter, or you can download a handful of apps for your phone or tablet. No matter where you find them, writing prompts should start chipping away at that pesky writer’s block.
Some people like to write with music, some people don’t. For those that do, this is a great way to wriggle around writer’s block. Make a playlist inspired by your current project – or make a playlist to inspire a project you haven’t even thought up yet. I’m very visual when it comes to storytelling. (I love movies.) Every song on my playlist becomes a different scene in my head. I imagine my project set to music, and that helps me find the words I need.
When I was a tot, my playlist musicians of choice were many of the great, angsty alternative rock bands of the early 2000s – and that was (and still is) reflected heavily in my writing. Several songs are staples in my playlists. My Chemical Romance’s Ghost of You, Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name, Angels and Airwaves’ Breathe, and, of course, Adele’s Skyfall (possibly my actual favorite song ever). Your playlist might look a bit different than mine.
Reading and writing go together like Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, like Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, like me and my bed on Sunday mornings. Reading and writing belong together – and reading is a great way to study writing. Different genres, different styles, different themes – the more you read, the more exposure you have to the writing craft.
And would you all do me a favor? Don’t let anyone tell you how to read. Reading paper books is okay. Reading ebooks is okay. Reading fan-fiction is okay. Listening to audiobooks is okay. Read what you want to read, and read it in whatever way you want to read it. Just read, and absorb some inspiration from the writers you love (all of whom have probably dealt with writer’s block before).
Yup. To overcome writer’s block, I strongly recommend writing. Just put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and write whatever words come to mind – and don’t stop writing. The words might be terrible. They might be the worst words you’ve ever written in your entire life. But you can’t start fixing anything until you have something to fix.
If you have trouble writing without rushing back to revise on the spot, try some word sprints. Set a timer for a period of time – five, ten, twenty minutes – and don’t stop writing until the timer goes off. If you don’t trust yourself to obey the timer, try Write or Die, or have a writer friend keep you accountable. First drafts aren’t about perfection; they’re about getting words on the page.
We all deal with writer’s block – some of us more often than others – but never fear, because it can be overcome! What are some of your favorite ways to work around writer’s block?