Tips How to Overcome Writer’s Block

Chillfrost

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#1
No matter the topic, language or ‘imminent deadline’, every writer has encountered a dry spell. In case you’re wondering if this applies to you, let me assure you, it does. In my case, I’ve gotten stuck on plenty of articles and even emails (yes, emails can be tough nuts to crack too). I often felt like banging my head on something to see if a nugget of inspiration would shake loose, but the thought of physical pain was definitely a deterrent.

I’ve been given plenty of advice over the years and I will list them down here. It won’t be in order of efficacy as I believe some solutions will work better only with certain individuals. If you’re familiar with some of the items below, just take it as a refresher or reminder course that even the simplest solutions can sometimes elude us.

Seek Randomness

This is definitely not a call to literally go wandering down an unfamiliar path. Sometimes our train of thought gets halted at an annoying station (or point). Instead of acting the irate passenger and demanding our brains to move on, this is probably the best time to divert our attention to something else other than what we were focusing on before.

Examples of randomness could be taking a book and just randomly picking a sentence of a page to start a story or writing of your own. If you have someone else to partner with, you could also start by writing the starting sentence to a story with one or two words ending on the next line. You can then fold the paper so that only the last one or two words remain for your partner to continue the story in the same fashion. Since both of you will not know what the previous line was about, you’ll definitely be amazed at the coincidences and randomness once the story is read out loud. If laughter ensues (and it usually does), all the better.

Mind Mapping

I’ll admit that I’m partial to this method of visually listing down my ideas and thoughts. It will not be everyone’s cup of tea but you should at least try it once to see if it works for you.

First off, start with a central topic, sentence or idea. Branch out from there to other connected ideas and topics. You don’t have to worry if the branch seems a little shaky or disconnected from the trunk. After all, this is an exploration of ideas and what might seem silly or unrelated might turn out useful in the end. From the branches that sprout out, produce even more small branch-outs (like the example above). Once you’re satisfied that you’ve filled up most of the space available, just take a gander back to see what you’ve got so far.

Another method you could try would be jotting down notes or scribbling and doodling your ideas down. Don’t attempt to be perfect. Initial ideas seldom are. The main thing is that your thoughts are noted down before it disappears into the void forever (Just kidding!).

WIRMI

No, this is not the name of a pet worm. It stands for What I Really Mean Is. This method is effective for getting past conflicting thoughts to just state your idea or a phrase in its rawest form.

It can be used at any stage in the writing process as it is not dependent on topic or sentence structure. Rather, the more important part of this method is “your” stance and thoughts concerning the subject. This will not be the time to worry about punctuation or grammar as that can come later in the revision stage.

If you’ll like to get into the habit of using this method, simply start off by addressing the subject of your writings with WIRMI. There can be several ideas or scenes on a single page and there really is no limit to how many times WIRMI can be used to align your thoughts.

The Start, The Middle, and The End

Any piece of writing can be divided up into several parts. As a writer, I’ve gotten stuck on more sections than I can remember. I used to believe that as long as I could get past the introduction, everything else would flow smoothly. When things didn’t get better even after a couple of sentences in, I would feel a sense of hopelessness descending on me.

It struck me one day that I was particularly insistent on getting the “Start” right. I’ve always had a perfectionist streak and I finally realized that it wasn’t doing me any favors. I realized that a sentence or phrase can be perfected over time (or over several revisions) and I didn’t need to force myself to complete it at the beginning.

If you’re having trouble at the start of your writings, you can always approach the issue sideways. You’ll have to get to the middle or another point at some time or other, so why not at the start? When you feel ready to jump right back into the beginning, you’ll feel more refreshed and focused.

Set Aside Time

There’s really nothing that annoys me more than getting interrupted several times while I’m writing or thinking of how to phrase something. Just imagine trying to enjoy a juicy hamburger and getting constant messages coming into your phone which you have to answer. In the former, I’m left re-picking up whatever stray pieces are left of a thought and in the latter, I just can’t finish eating my burger.

Try to avoid multitasking when you’re in the midst of writing. At the very least, you should cut down on as many external distractions as possible (yes, that means devices, the Internet, and emails). You don’t have to cut yourself off from the world indefinitely. Just set a realistic writing time - say, an hour? - and do your very best to focus for that length of time.

Be Proactive

Go for a walk. Run down to the store to get your favorite snack. Tackle that list of things to do around the house. Take a drive in an unfamiliar neighborhood. The truth is that you should always be doing something, even if it means getting enough rest for your brain to start functioning normally again.

Let’s do a little side-tracking here. Imagine yourself swimming (even if you can’t). The water parts as you slice through it like a torpedo. All of a sudden, a cramp comes on and your legs become a burden instead as you struggle to stay above the waterline. Instead of panicking and pushing your legs to work harder, use your arms to compensate so that your legs have the chance to recover. If you’re able to float, even better.

The example above might not be the best (and can also bring back some bad memories to some, which I’ll apologize for). What I’m trying to convey here is that pushing hard on your writings can sometimes bring about a worse outcome. At the minimum, you can wind up feeling frustrated and irritable and at the other end, you could also burn out.

Make time to seek inspiration from other sources. You’ll be surprised what can actually inspire your writings sometimes. For this article, I was actually listening to songs in another language (a language which I don’t understand). There’s really no telling what your brain will latch on to.
 

dawndgolden

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#2
Thank you so much for this! I've always struggled with writer's block. In fact I had a small bout of it while I was getting started on my work this morning. I tried the WIRMI method and it definitely helped a bit. I used to do the 'proactive' method- but found that rather than actually getting over writer's block, it usually just caused me to get side tracked and begin procrastinating.
 
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Chillfrost

Chillfrost

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#3
I'm glad this has been of some help. :)

I definitely understand what it's like to procrastinate, especially when I'm feeling uninspired. Another thing I usually end up doing is pacing back and forth in a certain pattern while saying my thoughts out loud. I find that this actually helps the creative thinking process, but can be a bit cumbersome in a more public setting. However, you can try this at home without saying things out loud (if you feel a bit crazy doing so).
 

dawndgolden

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#4
That actually sounds like a really good idea, Chillfrost. I've heard of similar techniques before- a kind of 'get your mind back on track' exercise. The physical activity can also promote better circulatory movement, which has been scientifically proven to aid in concentration, so that makes a lot of sense. I'll definitely try that idea as well. Thanks for sharing!
 
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Chillfrost

Chillfrost

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#5
No problem dawndgolden! :laughing: I'm currently in the midst of writing (or attempting to), and my feet itches to walk. :sticktongueout:
 

meganrclark

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#7
Thank you for this! I never thought to set aside specific time to write. I usually just write when I feel like it. Maybe I'll feel more productive if I have a specific time to do it!
 

revel

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#8
Hey all.

Actually, my take on "writer's block" is perhaps very different from others'. I've seen many articles, blog postings and the like that seem to make the assumption, as @Chillfrost has suggested, that every writer will experience this at one time or another. I'll be the first to raise my hand when asked "who has never suffered from writer's block?" Anyone else want to raise their hand?

That's not to say that this "writer's block" doesn't exist. Evidently it does, and many writers do assert that they have experienced it. Why, then, do I assert that I have not?

How about an anecdote?

My 12-year-old niece, Aroa, got a WhatsApp message from a friend with this terrifying picture:

9640584514_ee6217681f_b.jpg


At dinner that evening, Aroa announced that she suffered from Trypophobia and showed us this horrific picture. The real moral to this story should be something like

“12-year-old girls should not have hand-held electronic devices that don't filter useless information to someone who hasn't developed their own personal filters.”

However, the moral of this story for my purpose here is that it's all too easy to jump onto a bandwagon when everyone else who shares your group characteristics is already on that wagon reaching down to you with an inviting hand.

“Writer's block” needs to be taken apart and seen for what it is. That will naturally be something different for each person. I can only offer my breakdown, which will clearly demonstrate why I don't ride on this wagon.

First, a writer (the person suffering the “block”) is a craftsperson. This means that he or she has a particular interest in the craft of writing, knows its ins and outs, the techniques and tricks that help turn out the final product, whatever that product may be. Like any craftsperson, a writer will be open to new tricks of the trade and will constantly be improving upon the old tricks.

Like wrighting a wheel (yeah, not a verb, a noun, but bear with me!), some craftspersons may be better or worse at producing the final product. If the wheel is for a simple cart, a hub with spokes and a rim that doesn't wobble might just be enough and the average wheelwright will do. On the other hand, if that wheel is meant for a golden carriage for a king, the client will probably look for an experienced worker who is able to add inspiration and creativity to the task.

(fun fact: a person who writes plays is a playwright, not a playwrite, check out the meaning of wright)

Now, let's turn to the second part, “block”. That is, something that is between you and the practice of your craft. If you take a moment and consider that wheelwright, can you imagine him saying to the farmer, or the king's steward:

“Sorry, I'm afraid I can't deliver your wheel today, I'm suffering from “wrighter's block”, you know, every wheelwright suffers from this from time to time.”

What you, as a writer, may be experiencing may be a lack of inspiration, a cramp in your creativity. That's fine and it is something that the exercises offered above may help you get around or over.

If you stop and reconsider that you can write because you know how, then you may find that you can simply write without needing that inspiration to drive you. You can do a crossword puzzle to play with letters forming words. You can play Mad-Lib with your partner or kids to spark some silly sentences. You may just sit on the throne every morning and try to put into words, without worrying about the end result, what happened to you while you were dreaming.

Putting it back together, I often see that writers who say they have “writer's block” are actually stopping themselves because they worry that what they may write while they feel “uninspired” or “not particularly creative” won't be worth the ink on the paper. These writers are those (at times) who believe that every word that flows from their fingertips is golden, should represent the absolute best they can produce. Finding that that last sentence they wrote is recognizably just not the best, might lead them to jump onto the “writer's block” bandwagon with all those others who at times experience this.

My suggestion, then, is to separate writing (or wrighting!) from inspiration, from creativity. If you are uninspired or feel blazé creatively, don't let that stop you from improving the craftspersonship of your craft. Like playing the guitar or building those wheels, you will need to keep the basics fine-tuned for when that inspiration or creative muse drops back in.

Write whatever comes to mind, don't worry about the “quality” – we all have to edit, leave that aside, just grind out the words, lay them aside, go have a cup of coffee, look at them the next day, follow your writing habits, listen to your favorite song, take a walk with the dog.

Don't label it. At least in my own little writer's world, “writer's block” is a fantasy that others experience. Never happens to me. Try asserting that to yourself, it might just be true.

peace,
revel.
 
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