If you have spent time writing anything at all, you have probably had that moment when you stare at the “page,” and nothing comes to mind to put there – the dreaded writer’s block.
In the end, I don’t think writer’s block is real.
It is more of a combination of fears, pre-filtering, and lack of tools. In short, we put too much pressure on the first draft and don’t have the tools to get to work despite a lack of direction.
Here are seven tricks I use to kick writer’s block to the curb:
- Start writing anyway, aka lower your standards.
- Write down ideas at any place and time they come.
- Move locations.
- Eavesdrop a little.
- Know where you’re going.
- Phone a friend.
Start writing anyway, aka lower your standards.
It doesn’t have to be perfect – and it isn’t going to be. Starting can be the hardest part. When I was growing up, I wanted to write so badly that I could never start. The words just didn’t come out in the way I wanted to, and my sentences fumbled over each other.
The truth is, I still can edit everything I have written for style and clarity every time I re-read it. Perfection isn’t possible, but improvement is. The key is to start. When I am staring at a blank page with nothing to say, I start writing.
If you experience this regularly, sit down and write for ten minutes about whatever you think of. At the end of the time, you will be ready to write more or hone in on your idea.
Tip: Write for ten minutes about anything and everything.
Write down ideas at any place and time they come.
You probably think of little things all day long that you would like to write about or pertain to a topic you are writing about – jot it down as soon as possible.
I keep a note on my phone for ideas that strike me throughout the day. I also am thinking of carrying a mini-notebook for the times when my phone isn’t nearby. It is incredible how this habit becomes an idea bank you can draw from regularly.
Tip: Use your phone or Moleskine notebook to jot down ideas any place and time they pop into your head.
Whether you are suffering from writer’s block, or need a change of scene to keep pushing forward, moving locations can jumpstart your creativity.
Right now, I am sitting against the Western wall of my kitchen on the floor. Sometimes, when I need to kick my writing into a higher gear moving to an unusual or atypical spot brings a new wave of ideas and energy to my writing.
Tip: Move your body to a new location, whether it is a different room or a different building.
Eavesdrop a little.
While you are moving locations, think of picking a place where people are active and chatty. If you sit to write in a coffee shop or bookstore, you will overhear conversations in passing, listen in. Please don’t be weird about it. Please leave sensitive conversations to the parties speaking them, but hearing other people’s experiences, wants, desires, and frustrations can be an excellent catalyst for new ideas in your writing.
Tip: Find a place to sit where you get a window into the world around you. Other people’s conversations might be the catalyst you need.
Know where you’re going.
If you have an idea for what you are writing about, but the words just aren’t coming, write a summary and goal for the piece. Don’t overthink it, but try to tell yourself what you are writing about and why in 2-3 short sentences.
For example, “I’d like to teach my readers six tricks about fighting writer’s block. I will use tools that work for me to help them get unstuck when writing. I want to keep it short and summarize each tip as I write.”
Once you have your little summary at the top of your page of what you are writing about and where it is going, it may be easier to start writing. If someone said, “here, write a movie script,” you would be wholly lost, but if they say, “write a film noir set in the 1930s,” you will have a far easier time getting started.
Tip: Create a construct of your own to work from – include style, topic, and anything else that will help you move forward as you go.
Phone a friend.
Who didn’t love “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”? The lights, the music cues, the gambles, and the lifelines. In real life, don’t be afraid to phone a friend. Ask someone you trust to interview you verbally about the topic you are writing on. It is incredible how moving off the paper and into a conversation can bring out a flow of ideas.
Even better is if you can find someone skilled at asking follow-up questions. You will be surprised how much you have to say when you can say it to someone instead of a piece of paper or a keyboard.
Tip: Have someone you trust interview you about your topic and jot any notes down as you talk that will help later.
I hope these tips help you beat your writer’s block and inspire you to keep on writing!