I spend a lot of time around writers, and we all share one commonality, we occasionally get stuck. However, why we run face first into the brick wall of writer’s block often differs. I believe there are three main types of writer’s block, they are: Courage Collapse, Story Cave In and Content Vacuum. And I believe you need to know which kind of writer’s block you have if you want to find a cure.
Every writer has bad days. There are negative critiques and bad feedback. These experiences can trigger some self-confidence issues. I’m routinely blindsided by my aggressive internal editor. It gives me an unhealthy relationship with the delete key.
To ease this kind of block try these tips:
Walk away from the computer for a few hours.
Pamper yourself, take a hot bath, enjoy a glass of wine with friends.
Get some fresh air and exercise, maybe take a walk in the woods.
Find your writing cheerleaders and load up on positive comments.
Laugh so hard you hold your sides and cry!
Do anything that helps put you in a great mood. Dealing with your inner demons is easier when you’re in a happy, relaxed emotional state.
I think this one is the hardest type of writer block to cure. Be kind to yourself, but never give in to that little voice.
Story Cave In:
Every writer has had a story start to fall apart. The characters are too much alike and seem dull. There are too many subplots. All the sentences start sounding alike. All of a sudden it hits, you have a block and no flipping clue what comes next in the story.
For a derailed story leaving you blocked, try these tips:
Reread old outlines and project notes.
Talk with a friend about the story to try to rekindle the old passion.
Back track to the place the story took a left turn and reassess.
Decide if you want to go back to the first idea, or if you want to replot your story to include the new material.
Switch to a different project for a while. This is my go-to solution, and one of the reasons I always have at least two projects going at once.
Freewrite or do some story prompts.
Sleep on it. If you go to sleep thinking about your story just before falling asleep, your brain will often supply a solution, or some inspiration.
There will be a day in every writer’s life when it seems like all the ideas are gone. If you can’t start anything new, it’s likely a form of exhaustion block. Watching a blank screen flicker at you for hours on end is not going to help. You must recharge your brain bank to cure this block.
To refuel your creativity try these tips:
Read everything you can get your hands on. Read outside your comfort zone.
Reread favorites and think about how they could be retold from another perspective.
Listen to music, go to concerts, take up an instrument.
Watch a movies, TV and go see plays.
Visit museums, take trips, enroll in a class.
Do things with your hands: cooking, sewing or drawing.
Play with your kids, join a board game group, or just play with toys at a store.
Content Vacuum is disheartening, but it’s also normal. Writing is a long and involved evolution, it takes massive amounts of brain power. Hitting a wall once in a while is all part of the process.
When the words are not flowing every writer feels like garbage. Instead of chucking your story and your laptop into the nearest trash bin, consider trying some of these ideas.
What about you? Do you have a great tip for banishing writer’s block?
10 thoughts on “Chipping Away at Writer’s Block”
For some reason my best ideas come to me in the shower. No idea why. It’s the one place I don’t keep a pen. These are excellent tips, Robin. When I get stuck I go back to my original outline to see where I went wrong (one of your tips).
The shower is one of those time tested ones, it always works for me too. : )
These are all wonderful tips, Robin. And I agree that self-confidence blocks can be crippling. It’s important to be fair and kind to ourselves not only as writers, but as human beings.
I can’t think of anything specific I do if I have writer’s block… Although when I was drafting my WIP, I would skip around as opposed to writing chronologically from start to finish. If I was stuck on a scene, I’d work on a different one. (Which made me very glad that I had created an outline before starting!)
I’m also the kind of person who needs positive reinforcement when I’m struggling with confidence. Though I’m also the kind of person who hates to seem like I’m complaining… Then again, I always try to boost my writings pals’ esteem if they Tweet about it, so maybe I should remember that I’m allowed to receive as well as give.
I skip around too. I never want to invest too much time into any project until I’ve written the end. Even if the ending changes over time, it’s nice to know I have a big finish (sort of) figured out. Supporting friend writers is critical, but I’m happy you’re going to make time to enjoy receiving your own support. Great advice!
I take about a month off between major projects and read/watch television or do art. I also have a few hours at night that are just for reading or TV. Helps a lot. For a complete story cave in I’ve learned to table the project and let my subconscious work it out.
I love to take time off! I think it keeps the writing flowing for me. Sleeping on things always helps me. And I never edit fresh projects. I need a long time between drafts to see them with fresh eyes.
I learned this year that I do a lot better if I leave a draft for 6 months or more before I try revisions. I can do it faster if I have to, but that’s best.
Is it Writer’s Block when I can write whenever I sit down and try, but still I allow days and weeks to go by without writing anything? I want to write but too often “Not now.”
I’d say that’s just trusting your process. Not every writer can/should follow the advice to “write every day.” Some people binge-write.
It’s about choice. If you can write when you want, you are not blocked. If you just sit at a blank page for hours on end wanting to write something, but nothing comes you are blocked. I’m a binge writer, I find sleep, stress or having too many other things on my mind makes creative writing hard for me. But I also have great days when I’m filling napkins and any scrap of paper I can get my hands on with prose. When I get one of those moods I try to stockpile work for the slow days. It sounds like you’re fine.