We all encounter it. It’s the monster every writer, new and old, dreads: writer’s block. Learning how to overcome writer’s block is one of the more frustrating things you have to tackle during your writing career. It’s all too easy to get discouraged as the challenge presents itself, but hopefully, with these tips, you’ll find yourself back to writing in no time.
1. Don’t start at the beginning
You already know you need to immediately draw a reader in with a kick-ass opening to your story, but that can be a stressful thought. Stress leads to writer’s block. If you’re struggling, jump further into the narrative to a plot point you thought of that really excites you.
2. Write for yourself, not for anyone else
Sometimes, you just have to write to write. Disregard what you think future readers want from you. Getting wrapped up in your own head about what others want is a surefire way to encounter writer’s block. Instead, try writing something short you wouldn’t usually write. Who knows? You might very well stumble onto an exciting idea for a new story in the process.
3. Set a schedule
One thing I found incredibly useful is to set a strict writing schedule. Pick a time of day when you know you’ll have few interruptions and force yourself to write at that time every day.
4. Get rid of distractions
Turn off your phone. Turn off the television. Focus solely on writing during your allotted time. Even if you only write something which you later find you have to cut from your manuscript, at least you have accomplished something.
5. Think of writing not as an art but a craft
Overcome the idea in the back of your mind you are creating a literary masterpiece that will someday change the world as we know it. While there’s always a chance that could happen, constantly having that in your mind is a lot of pressure to put on yourself!
In his book On Writing, Stephen King likens writing not to art, but to physical labor. He creates a hierarchy of tools in a toolbox as a metaphor for the tools we use as writers. Just like a mason, we build things with our tools, but instead of bricks, we lay word after word to create.
6. Lying to yourself works
Forget what your therapist told you. Lie. Tell yourself you are only going to write for five minutes. Sometimes, that five minutes is all you need to get a jumpstart into writing several pages of content.
7. Try a different writing application
It might sound odd, but if you go from your normal word processor to a different one, it can help jump-start your creativity. Use Microsoft Word? Try giving Google Docs a try. Personally, I use Adobe InDesign even for my drafts. Seeing an approximation of what the printed book will look like puts me in a different mindset than if I’m typing in a simple word processor.
Of course, don’t rule out writing by hand. You might find writing longhand in a spiral-bound notebook or yellow legal pad gets the juices flowing. You can always type it later.
Whether a physical notebook like a Moleskine or any number of mobile apps like Google Keep, you should always have some way to jot down ideas.
Inspiration can come at the most random of times, and—if you’re anything like me—you probably won’t remember it when you finally sit down at your computer later.
9. Stop trying to be so perfect
One of the more famous quotes about how to write is Ernest Hemingway’s “Write drunk; edit sober.”—whether he actually said it or not. I’m not saying you have to drink to write, but I am saying you need to loosen up.
At the end of the day, writer’s block is a culmination of all the pressure we put on ourselves. Your first draft is where you cut yourself open and bleed all over the page. Vomit the words out. It should be bloated with imperfections when you’ve finished. The important thing is you finished. Editing comes later.
10. Write about what you love
After everything is said and done, writing is far too hard to do for reasons other than love. When you find yourself experiencing a bout of writer’s block, it can be hard to remember why you started writing in the first place. It’s your job to remind yourself of that initial spark of inspiration. That enthusiasm and delight you found when you started writing will carry you through the hard times.