I was once sitting in a panel and the speaker made the statement that writer’s block doesn’t exist. I, and everyone else in that room, almost went samurai on his ass. He eventually clarified the statement, saying that writer’s block only exists when you, the writer, allows it to. Or some sort of meditative BS like that.
Personally, there are some days that no matter HOW hard I try to push beyond my writer’s block, no amount of any tip will help. Therefore, Mr. Panel Man, I say you are wrong!
Myself and many of my writer friends have experienced ‘the block’ to almost debilitating lengths. Sometimes it comes on days when I just didn’t feel like writing in the first place. Other times, it comes when my deadline is at 5pm and it is currently 4:45pm. Regardless, writer’s block is here and it’s a thing. I thought some people were maybe interested in reading a few of my personal tactics for pushing through.
1) I work on more than one story at a time.
Sometimes, for me, the block is less about me and more about the story. Maybe I’m tired of the character. Or they are in a situation that I’m not exactly sure how they’ll get out of yet. Having another piece to focus on is, at times, refreshing enough to get me started so that when I return to the other book, I’m looking on with a fresh set of eyes.
2) I set word goals daily.
Everyone is different. Because I am self-employed, my days are a bit more flexible than many with a 9-5 job. I set myself a goal weekly that I will write 2,000 words a day (If I’m revising, the goal changes, but there’s always a goal). And I set a weekly goal of 8k words a week. This goal gives me a day to focus on photography instead as well allowing lots of breathing room for me. Some days, I manage to write upwards of 4-5k words, whereas other days, despite my best efforts, I only get out 600. It happens. But as long as I try and I get close to that weekly goal, I am happy. If I have a particularly good day with 4k, and then the following day, I have writer’s block, I’m not as likely to beat myself up about it.
3) I find inspiration.
For me, I sometimes need a quick bit of inspiration to get the creative juices flowing. So, I’ll set a timer for 30 minutes or an hour and I’ll either read or watch a tv show I love. Sometimes laughing or getting caught in a poignant moment will be enough for me to step back to my laptop ready to go.
4) I challenge myself.
When I’m having a really hard time focusing, I set an egg timer for 20 minutes. For those 20 minutes, I am not allowed to go on my email, twitter, facebook, pinterest, etc. For those 20 minutes, I challenge myself to write 400 words. Because I am a competitive person by nature, this usually works for me to get my blood rushing. I’m not saying those words are always brilliant. But at least I pushed past that blockage.
5) I turn off my internet.
This one, I usually have to check with my husband first…since we both work from home. If he’s working and needs the internet, then I have him change the password and he’s not allowed to give it back to me until I complete a specified word count.
6) I get a little ‘first sentence’ help.
I keep in a jar, a bunch of popsicle sticks. Written on every stick is a sentence. A random sentence that I come up with on the subway or when I’m walking around the park with a notebook. When I get home, I jot them onto a stick with a sharpie and stick them in the jar. When I have writer’s block, I choose a stick at random and begin my day using that sentence. It’s weird…and it doesn’t always work, but it’s fun and a challenge. And I’ve sometimes gotten some great starts from them.
7) I get fresh air.
This one is pretty simple and likely most of you have tried it when blocked. But, it works. Going outside or to the gym and simply stepping away and getting some fresh air almost always works for me. When I get back and sit down, I usually accomplish something.
8) I make a warm (or iced) beverage.
Again, pretty simple. But for me, it usually works. When I’m blocked, having specialty coffee, like a caramel mocha latte or a matcha iced green tea latte…something that I don’t allow myself to have often, always helps me focus. After I have that in hand, I sit and am relaxed and ready to focus. Basically, I’m giving myself the reward before the goal is accomplished as a motivator.
9) I take a shower, put on makeup and do my hair.
I’ll repeat it once more so you don’t think less of me: I work from home. This typically means, I don’t put on real clothes until…well, hell. Some days I never change out of yoga pants and a t-shirt. So, if I’m having a rough writing day, doing my hair and makeup is sometimes enough of a change that I can sit down more confidently. If you have a normal job, showering probably isn’t what you need, but taking 30 minutes to style your hair or perfect that smokey eye shadow…that could help.
10) I tell myself, my first draft doesn’t need to be perfect.
The first draft is meant to be rough. Getting the words down is the first step–and they’re not usually eloquent. That’s what revisions and edits are for.
11) I write a blog instead.
If after all these tactics, things are still just not coming to me, I put my WIP aside and write a blog post instead. It’s almost like the ‘journaling’ tactic, since I treat my blog as a journal a lot of times.