Over the last six months, I’ve been dealing with the worst writer’s block I’ve ever experienced. At times it’s gotten so bad that I’ve considered quitting writing all together. I’ve thought that maybe the universe was trying to tell me something, that it was time to give up on old dreams and find some new ones. But it’s just no good – no matter how many times I try to walk away from writing, I always come back to it. I think writing and I are stuck with each other, even if we’re not on the best of terms at the moment.
I’m still struggling, but things have gotten better during the past few weeks. The road to recovery has been long and painful, and I’m far from done treading it, but I thought I would share a few of the things that have helped me out along the way.
10 Tricks to Try – Writer’s Block
- When you don’t feel like writing, be kind to yourself.
Don’t beat yourself up for having writer’s block. It’s not some personal failing, it’s not some punishment from God, it’s just something crappy that’s happening to you right now. Do you beat yourself up every time something bad happens to you? If you’re me, the answer is yes, and you need to knock that off right now.
If you’re not me, the answer should be NO. When something bad happens to you, you should try and be kind to yourself. Do something for you that makes you feel good. Whether it’s watching your favorite flick, playing with your dog, indulging in a bubble bath, talking with a friend, doing some meditation, whatever – just take care of yourself first before becoming obsessed with the problem. Because you’re the most important tool you have in your quest to becoming a good writer – don’t run yourself ragged.
- When you don’t feel like writing, write anyway.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King dishes a lot of great advice about being an author and about being a human being. One thing he expounds upon is the importance of a daily writing routine. “Don’t wait for the muse,” King writes. “As I’ve said, he’s a hard headed guy…Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ‘til noon. Or seven ‘til three.”
Now, this act of writing daily is something that I’m still struggling to master. I think it must be like exercising daily. When you first start out it’s the hardest thing to do in the world. You’re going to ‘fail’ a lot – miss a lot of days, start over a bunch, etc. Right now, I’m not focusing so much on sitting down and writing from a set time to a set time or even writing a certain amount of words; I’m focusing on every day, whether I feel like it or not, sitting down and writing something. Anything. It can be a sentence. It can be a sentence of absolute, unconnected to anything, weirdness. Just as long as another day doesn’t pass with me having written nothing, I consider that a win.
- When you don’t feel like writing, go for a walk.
I hate exercise. With a fiery passion. But even I know that my body needs it. And if my body isn’t in a good place, my brain certainly won’t be. If you’re suffering from writer’s block, your body might need some re-calibrating. Take it for a walk around the block – get your blood pumping, some sweat flowing, breath in some fresh air and remember that you are a beautiful mind inside a beautiful body. Regain some perspective.
- When you don’t feel like writing, read.
This can be painful. Like looking through a candy shop window while you’re on a diet. I’d recommend not going to your go to favorite books, the ones that made you want to be a writer in the first place – put those to one side. Chances are you’ve already read them a hundred times anyway and reading them again isn’t going to help. Pick-up something new. Pick-up something weird. Pick-up something you’re pretty sure you’re not even going to like. Give it a read. Like #2 above, I’m trying to make sure I read at least one new thing a day. It doesn’t have to be a whole book, or a full hour of reading, it can just be a page or a quote from something, as long as it’s never entered my brain before. Read widely and weirdly.
- When you don’t feel like writing, don’t isolate yourself – seek others out.
A lot of these tricks are hard for me, but this one might just take the cake. As an introvert, my instinct is to retreat into a personal bubble when I’m having a hard time. But with writer’s block, you’ll want to do the opposite. Getting outside of yourself is a difficult process and it’s almost impossible to do alone. You’re going to need help from others if you want to get out of this hole that you’ve found yourself in.
- When you don’t feel like writing, critique others work.
You know that old adage, “Those who can’t do, teach”? Well I like to think that “Those who can’t write, critique”. If you’re finding putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) particularly difficult at the moment, take the pressure off yourself by reading someone else’s work and offering feedback. Just because you can’t currently write doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten what makes good writing and doesn’t mean you can’t help someone else hit their writing peak. You’ll feel productive and be reading some interesting new work, both of which will help start to shake the cobwebs out of your head.
- When you don’t feel like writing, talk about what you would be writing.
This gave me a lot of relief in my darkest moments of writers block. My husband would sit at one end of the couch as I was stewing, waiting for me to quite literally toss the computer away and tell him, “I can’t write anything.”
“Well,” he’d say to me, “what are you trying to write?”
And I’d tell him. It’s amazing how good it feels to talk out your ideas to somebody you trust; to give your thoughts life, even if it’s not on paper, but at least in words. If you don’t know where to go next, talking through the last thing you wrote can help generate ideas, and asking somebody else for help is never weakness, only a strength. Often times, others will think of some avenue you’ve yet to explore, or pose a question you hadn’t thought to ask that takes the story in a new direction.
- When you don’t feel like writing, do everything up until writing.
We all have our writing routines. Me, I make myself a cup of tea, put on some KT Tunstall, get cozy on the couch and then get to it. Try doing everything you’d usually do up until the moment you’d write. Sometimes just going through the motions of the routine can help shake something loose. Sometimes not. If it doesn’t work, but only frustrates you, try varying a part of the routine; make yourself a cup of tea but put on some totally different music, or work in silence; choose a different location to write in; etc.
- When you don’t feel like writing, create something new.
Lately, when I haven’t felt like writing, I’ve turned to adult coloring books for a creative outlet. I still get to exercise certain artistic decision making skills, but without using the same ‘muscles’ that I do when I write. I end up with something unique, something that only I could’ve made. Often times, the meditative state of coloring is a great place for ideas to pop up as well!
- When you don’t feel like writing, WRITE ANYWAY.
That’s right, I’m putting this one on the list twice. It’s one of the first things you should do when you have writer’s block and the last thing you should do when you have writer’s block. It’ll hurt like hell. You’ll want to curse. You’ll want to throw things. You’ll wish you could quit and never do this again. After you write a little, maybe you’ll tell yourself you have quit. But this is the job. It’s every day and it sucks. But if you’re like me, you’re writing because you have no other choice – to not write would be to be someone else, someone who you don’t know and don’t want to know. So if you’re going to write, damn it, be serious about it and write every day. Even when you don’t feel like it. Slowly, very slowly sometimes, it’ll get easier.