So you can finally get back on schedule
At some point in many writers’ careers, they face an annoying phenomenon: writer’s block. It’s a frustrating concoction consisting of a lack of words coming to mind with an undeniable yearning to let all of your thoughts and ideas out for the entire world to enjoy. But, never fear! I have a few tips that have helped me with this pesky little problem and hope it helps you too.
Determine Which Type of Writer’s Block You Have
Usually, when I see articles on this topic the type of writer’s block is assumed to be that you have no ideas for your next article. However, there’s another type: one where you have a topic in mind, but can’t find the words to express your ideas.
Determining which type of writer’s block you are dealing with will dictate which methods you should use to resolve your problem. While some solutions may overlap, you may find that deciphering which type you are dealing with will help you overcome your writer’s block a little faster.
Of course, there is a third type of writer’s block that comes with writing longer fictional works, where you may not know which direction to take your story. While this article doesn’t focus on that one, some of these tips might still be helpful if this is your situation.
Type 0: General Writer’s Block
No matter which type of writer’s block you’re suffering from these general tips can help you get your words flowing again.
- Make sure you are in the right headspace to write.
Mental and emotional health are important considerations when dealing with writer’s block. If there are other stressors that are splitting your concentration then you will be less effective and creative when writing. Try to find a method or activity that will help alleviate some of your stress. These methods from the National Youth Mental Health Foundation may help you create a healthier headspace so you can get back to writing.
2. Remember that creativity cannot be forced
The quality of your work will suffer if you try to force creativity or inspiration. Try not to disparage yourself if you miss a personal deadline because of this. No one is perfect. Instead, try using your creativity and critical thinking skills for another activity, like with lateral thinking exercises.
Lateral thinking connects seemingly dissimilar things. You can use this resource to find lateral thinking exercises. You can also try doing a few creativity exercises, like the ones found on Indeed.com’s blog or Artwork Archive to help inspire your creativity. Interdisciplinary thinking can lead to new discoveries and connections, which may get your creativity flowing again.
3. Change your writing location
If you don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration and can’t miss a deadline, try finding another location to work. This can be another location in your home or even try working in a park, library, coffee shop, a coworking office, or anywhere else that might help your feel inspired again.
4. Take a break
When you work on something for too long you will inevitably run out of steam. Instead of forcing yourself to keep trying to work unsuccessfully, take a break. Go for a walk and get lost in nature or your neighborhood. Take a nap, watch a favorite show, or read a book. Giving your mind a moment to rest can help get your words flowing again, plus this alleviates the eye strain you might have from staring at your writing all day.
5. Switch to another topic or activity
Sometimes when you can’t write about one thing, that doesn’t mean you don’t have the inspiration to write about something else. Is there anything else on your mind currently that has piqued your interest? Try working on that instead. Or is there an equally productive activity that you need to get done? Try to work on that. When you’ve completed that other activity, you can go back to the original writing project and see if your words start flowing again.
6. Minimize your distractions
Sometimes it can be very hard to get into a workflow of steady concentration. So when you’re finally on a productive streak, distractions can really make you forget what you intended to write. Don’t risk it and turn off your notifications or silence your devices to help minimize distractions. If you are in a noisy place, you can try using earplugs or listening to music to help keep your mind on the task at hand.
If your writer’s block is particularly stubborn, then here are a few more suggestions, based on the type of writer’s block you may be experiencing, to help you.
Type 1: When You Have No Idea What To Write About
1. Leisure with purpose
Instead of just taking a break to go for a walk or watch a favorite show, find a subject or hobby that interests you to research or learn. I find that when I take time to learn something new that sparks my creativity. I make new connections to things I’ve already learned with what I am currently learning and get a ton of topic ideas.
One of my favorite ways to learn something new is to watch a documentary or informative video like VSauce on Youtube or pretty much anything on Curiosity Stream (affiliate link). Whatever activity you choose, make sure that it’s something that really makes you think.
2. Just start writing
Looking at a blank page can be intimidating, so instead of overthinking it, just start writing. Anything that wanders into your mind, write it down. Even if you think something might be too mundane or unrelatable. Sometimes we just think we don’t have anything to write about because of doubts about our audience enjoying the content, but that most likely isn’t the case.
And even if it’s just a few people who can relate, they will appreciate it. Besides you never know, it might be something a lot of people relate to but have never talked about. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David have created very successful careers out of overanalyzing the mundane aspects of life.
3. Find a writing prompt online to help get your creativity flowing
If nothing still comes to mind try finding a writing prompt online. This will help you just focus on writing instead of worrying about what to write about. Especially if you are being particularly indecisive about a writing topic. Here are two writing prompt resources that I’ve found, one from Free Write and another from Think Written to help get you started.
4. Keep a list of ideas as they come to mind
Sometimes inspiration will come at the worst possible time. When that happens, write it down in as much detail as you can so you can refer to it later. You can use a notepad app on your phone or the old-fashioned pen and paper method to keep track of your ideas. Either way, it will be a great resource for you when you need something to write about later.
Type 2: When You Have A Writing Topic, But Can’t Seem To Find The Words
- Narrow down your scope
When I have this problem my ideas are usually too broad. I have a general idea of what I’d like to write about, but I don’t have a specific thesis for my writing. I find that making an outline or a list helps me figure out what exactly my thesis for your work is going to be and guides me through the writing process.
2. Do more research
Sometimes when I don’t know what to write, I just don’t have enough backup information to write about a topic. I might have just heard it quickly discussed and was interested in writing about it, but don’t actually know much about that particular topic. No one knows everything, take the time to make sure you actually know what you’re talking about and do some research. The information you find might surprise you and give you a few ideas to write about.
3. Re-read what you’ve already written
It can be easy to get so caught up in your thoughts that you lose track of what you’re even writing. I am constantly re-reading my work as I write. This is especially helpful if you took a break from writing and started again. I find that this helps to keep my writing’s tone consistent and helps propel my creativity. Somehow re-reading my work inspires me to keep writing, just like when I’m inspired by another writer’s work.
When I really need to concentrate or edit my work I read my work aloud or use an online reader like Natural Readers to help catch mistakes in my writing and make sure my words flow smoothly when read. If something is hard to read, I reword that section. Re-wording section’s I’ve already written sometimes gives me ideas for future sections I haven’t written yet.
Writing is the art of connecting ideas and stories into new and fascinating information for others to enjoy. It’s an important method of passing along knowledge for current and future generations. With such an important task on your hands as a writer, it’s of the utmost importance that you have strategies to help you overcome the hindrance of writer’s block. I hope that at least one of the tips mentioned in this article is helpful to you. Happy writing!
Here’s a bonus tip as thanks for reading until the end
When all else fails write about writer’s block. It can be helpful to have a list of methods that you can refer to when you might need it.