We’ve all experienced writer’s block at some point in our lives. While it may not be possible to avoid it forever, if it does happen to you, luckily there are some great defenses against writer’s block. Below we’ll discuss a wide range of these defenses in detail, so you can keep your creativity flowing.
Stay on a Schedule
This is easily the most common tip you’ll find to avoid writer’s block. Discern when you have consistent free time throughout the week. Then, devote that time to writing, even if it’s just an hour a day, Monday and Wednesday afternoons, or only Sunday mornings. What’s important is training your brain to keep a consistent creative pattern.
Try to follow closely the time limits you set for yourself. It’s great to get into a routine of sitting down and writing, but time frames also keep you from over-extending those literary muscles. Stopping a bit before you normally would, can be a good exercise. Even though you’ve stopped, throughout the day you’ll still kick ideas around in your head, giving you more fuel for the next session.
Don’t Worry About Being Perfect
As writers, we want every word to be “perfect.” The books that inspire us seem to be perfect, so we strive for that in our own writing. Remember, our favorite passages were probably rewritten over a series of weeks or even months. Sweating over whether to use this word or that word in a particular sentence isn’t going to help much in the long run.
It’s important to think about what you’re writing, but take note of when you find yourself spending too much time trying to think of a single word. Laboring over one word will ultimately slow your progress. Write the first word that comes to your mind, even if you just used it in a previous sentence. It’s okay for an early draft to sound repetitive. Get the basic story down—that framework is very important early on. Save the serious tweaks for editing and proofreading.
One of my favorite tricks to defeat writer’s block I picked up from a writing professor. His tip was to stop writing mid-sentence. If you reach the end of one sentence and feel like you can’t write anymore, just write the beginning of the next sentence and leave it unfinished. When you come back to the manuscript later, that unfinished sentence can help jumpstart your creativity.
Write Out of Order
It isn’t necessary to write your book in order from start to finish. If you run out of steam in one section of your book, skip ahead to something that you’ve been thinking about lately and ARE inspired to write about. It’s possible that writing that section a few chapters ahead will motivate you to fill in some blanks, or help you see a better path to connecting the story.
You’ll want to make sure you don’t jump around too much, though. Writing too many separate sections without a plan to connect them can lead to a disjointed feeling within your manuscript. Be sure to give those in-between sections special attention to smooth over the transitions and connect one scene to the next.
Take Some Time for Activities
One of my favorite things to do when I feel my creative flow slow is go for a walk around the neighborhood. Perhaps you could go for a bike ride, take a scenic drive, or visit your local art museum. Taking a little time for some new experiences can help to inform your writing.
The internet is a wonderful research tool for writers, but we are all susceptible to falling down the rabbit-hole. You may stop writing for a moment to ask, “What was that name/date again?” Then, you open Google to look it up. At the top of the Search Results you see a relevant video, which you click on before being whisked away to YouTube. Before you know it, instead of finding out what year the Norman Conquest began, you’re watching cat videos.
If you’re feeling unfocused while typing on the computer, consider picking up your notebook/pencil and writing sections out long hand. You can even combine this with the previous defense and go outside to a local park. Limiting distractions, changing scenery, and writing by hand might be just the spark you need to keep going.
Take a Break
If all else fails, try taking a break. As much as we may want to get the book down and get all we have to say out, sometimes it can help to take a break. There are a lot of metaphors throughout this blog comparing the brain to a muscle. If you pull a muscle, it’s important to relax and let it heal - I think a writer’s brain works similarly.
But remember, halting your writing can be disruptive to your routine. So, be aware that extended breaks can lead to abandoned projects. Give yourself a timetable for your hiatus, so you know when you’re going to return to your writing schedule.
There isn’t always one obvious solution to writer’s block, but by combining one, two, or three or more of the defenses we’ve discussed above, you should be able keep even the worst case of writer’s block at-bay.
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