There are two things that terrify writers: running out of caffeine and writer’s block. The first can be solved with a trip to Starbucks; the second is harder to fix. Writer’s block is an insidious disease that seems to strip every ounce of creativity from you body and replace it with the overwhelming urge to play Candy Crush on your phone for five hours (or so I’ve heard…from a friend).
It’s also the one thing that almost all writers experience at some time or another. It can last for days, months for even years – looking at you, George R.R. Martin. So how do we overcome it? There are a hundred tips and tricks, but these are the ones that personally work for me.
Implement a Writing Schedule
Carve out a time to write and then write. Sounds too simple, right? But I find that if I just settle on a time and force myself to be there, words come, even if they’re not the words I want or need. Eventually, some of those words help with the story. Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words, and only 500 words, every morning. Sometimes 500 words feel impossible, other times, they fly by. Find a word count that words for you and stick to it.
Think of Writing as More a Regular Job, and Less an Art
Yeah, yeah…we’re all great artists, architects of literature and lesbian love stories. But like any job, writers are faced with deadlines, commitments and the need for structure. In his book, On Writing (which I highly recommend), Stephen King, uses the metaphor of a toolbox to talk about writing. He says that if we think of ourselves as workers, it’s easier to sit down and write. We’re just putting words on the page, after all, one beside another, as a bricklayer puts down bricks. At the end of the day, we’re just creating things. This sometimes helps to take the pressure off the need to “make art” and alleviates the anxiety that comes with writer’s block.
Reconsider Your Writing Space (it’ll confuse your writer’s block)
There was a post going around recently which encouraged writers to share pictures of their writing spaces. I loved how different everyone’s desks/kitchen tables/local coffee shops looked. Writing spaces are so incredibly important. If your space isn’t working for you, consider changing it up. Think about how you can create or find a space you’ll look forward to being in. It’s amazing what a new, fresh space can do for your writer’s block.
Make Like a Witch and Banish that Writer’s Block!
Part of perfecting your writing space is laying down some sort of ritual. When I start writing, I have to have a cup of coffee. It’s a message to my brain that we’re about to start this process. Author Toni Morrison and many other writers emphasize the importance of writing rituals, a set sequence of actions that you perform before you sit down to write. It could be as simple as making a cup of tea or playing one of your favorite music CDs. A ritual helps you mentally prepare yourself to start writing.
Mess with the Time-Space Continuum and Write Out of Order
Something I learned early on that has saved me countless times, is that you don’t have to start at the beginning. It’s so simple, and I’m sure many writers write out of order, but I find that if you have no idea where to go next, jump ahead a few chapters and write a scene you’re excited about. Pull your characters out of wherever they are in the narrative and drop them in the end. Now work backwards and explain how they got there. It’s a great technique for getting your mind out of a creative rut.
And, if all else fails, take a break, binge-watch a season of something mindless on Netflix, and come back to your work ready to show that manuscript who’s boss! Good luck!
Copyright picture above: unsplash.com
Alex K. Thorne graduated from university in Cape Town, South Africa with a healthy love of the classics and a degree in English Literature. She spent the next few years, teaching across the globe, from Serbia to South Korea, also writing fanfiction, and developing a kimchi addiction. When she’s not picking away at her latest writing project, she’s immersing herself in geek culture, taking too many pictures of cats, and dreaming about where next to travel. Alex published Chasing Stars as part of Ylva’s Superheroine Collection.