What is writer’s block? Well, according to the world it’s when you absolutely hit a wall with your writing. Nothing comes out, nothing makes sense, just nothing. But honestly (and as crazy as this sounds) I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think that we build this idea in our heads that we a) aren’t good enough, or b) can’t create, so then we trick our minds into thinking in that direction.
If you’re telling yourself you can’t do something—well how can you?
Our ability to achieve, complete, or master something is largely based on our mindset. And when we tell ourselves we can’t write, well, we’re probably not going to be able to.
Writer’s block, to me, has always seemed like an excuse when we’re afraid to face our fears, or when we’ve had a bad few pieces and feel discouraged, or when we just aren’t creating what we want. (Obviously if there are reasons related to trauma then this doesn’t apply—I’m just talking about the day-to-day creative person here.)
But the truth is, writer’s block is defeated when we face it head on.
It’s defeated when, instead of giving ourselves reasons why writing is impossible, we just put our pens to the paper, our fingers to the keyboard and let whatever comes, come.
A fellow creative and writer I admire, Brianna Wiest, expressed this perfectly: “Creativity is not a non-renewable resource, it’s a muscle that strengthens with time.” And so if we want to overcome writer’s block, well, first don’t acknowledge it as real and second, get writing.
Here are 9 little ways to begin.
1. Identify what it is that’s making you feel uninspired.
In my opinion, this is the single greatest way to remove ‘blockage’—in order to know how to fix what’s going on, you have to identify the problem! Look back to a time when you were writing/creating consistently, or feeling very excited about what you were doing. What was going on in your life at that point? Were you less stressed? Did you have more time? Was there a person pushing you to meet your goals? Were you spending more of your days alone?
Personal Story: One of the moments of greatest creativity I’ve had was when I had just gotten out of a serious relationship and devoted all of my time and attention to my craft. I was so inspired because a) I was busy, and b) because I was pouring all my energy into writing for the first time in months.
This was a wakeup call for me because it made me realize how important it is to prioritize my passion just as much as my relationships. From that point forward, I changed how I approached my writing and made sure to always set aside time—time to just think creatively, brainstorm, and jot down ideas until I got back to my normal self.
2. Write a list of things that interest you.
Most often we feel like we’re facing writer’s block when we’re not motivated or inspired. As I said in point #1, it’s important to identify what’s making you feel bothered, annoyed, or defeated in writing. Then it’s equally important to try to focus on the things that do inspire you.
Create a list: Hobbies, games, sports, foods, colors, etc. The more options you give yourself, the more potential topics you have to write about. (Ex: If you wrote down your favorite board game as Sorry, you could share a story about a time you played with friends, or a significant relationship based upon that game, or a childhood memory etc.)
3. Refocus your attention.
Sometimes putting pressure on yourself or making deadlines is helpful…and sometimes it causes unneeded stress that actually inhibits your creativity. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by writing, refocus your mind by taking 5-10 minutes to do something else.
Go for a walk. Read a short story. Meditate. Listen to music with your eyes closed. Run. Do something small to just get your mind away from the page so that you can return refreshed.
4. Pick a phrase/sentence/word from a book and write from there.
One of the best ways to spark creativity is to borrow a beginning. (Let’s be clear I am NOT advocating for plagiarism here!) What I mean by that is look for a poem/article/essay etc. that you admire and pull out your favorite line (crediting the author, of course, even if it’s in your own notebook so you don’t forget!). Then build a draft around that line.
Ex: If the line was “the flowers bent in the wind” you could build that into a poem about spring and mother nature’s ways, or a story about a little girl playing in a field, or a reflection of an older character on his/her younger days, etc. (PS: If this does become something publishable, make sure to credit the original author for the opening line and inspiration!)
5. Write what’s present.
Look around where you’re sitting. Describe the place in detail. Think about your senses—what do you smell, see, hear, taste, touch. Can you branch off and describe that space to someone who hasn’t been there? To someone who is blind? Can you write as if this is your favorite place? Can you tell the story of how this place came to be?
6. Write what you feel.
Start by describing your internal mindset. If you’re discouraged, write that. Hell, even start the passage off with, “I don’t know what to write.” Or “I’m so angry with myself.” Explain the physical feelings you are having—the dull thud of your heartbeat, the sweatiness of your hands, etc.
See if you can show the reader what you’re feeling through vivid detail. Then try to describe yourself from the perspective of someone else, from the fly on the wall, etc.. Tell the story of how and why you’re feeling the way you are or about human emotion.
7. Try a reflection prompt.
Start a piece with the line, “I remember when…” Don’t worry about creating something beautiful or even a narrative—just write down moments from your past that you can remember. If it helps, maybe even make a small timeline and see if you can pull memories from every few years.
Think about what you’ve learned recently or how you’ve grown (physically, mentally, spiritually). Can you articulate this to someone? Can you write a letter to your younger self?
Find a book from a poet you admire, from an author a friend has recommended, or be adventurous and pull a random book off a library shelf. See if anything in their work inspires you. Jot down some of the things you love about their style and would like to emulate in your own. Ex: short stanzas, lyrical sentences, vivid detail, strong dialogue.
If you’re feeling motivated, see if you can create a piece of your own on a similar topic, or take the opposite side of their argument to challenge yourself.
9. Speak your thoughts aloud and record them.
If you’re feeling stuck with the actual act of writing, see if you can still get your mind rolling on a topic. Google writing prompts, download my thirty free prompts worksheet, or pick a memory from your childhood at random and talk about it—what do you remember, what’s a lesson you learned, how did a specific moment make you feel, or change you for years to come.
Sometimes talking is easier to express our thoughts without restriction—record yourself and listen to the things you described. Can you use any of this content to build a piece? Are you really as ‘blocked’ as you think?
Any other tips/tricks suggestions?
Featured Image Credit: Jessica Lewis