Friday, June 13, 2014

Getting Over Writer's Block

On a blog named Writer's Blocks, eventually I was going to address writer's block.  Although many people out there claim there is no such thing, to me the term refers to times when my creative juices seem blocked and writing seems frustrating.  It happens sometimes.  There are as many different causes as there are writers, and often new writers give up on their project when they get stuck. Don't let that happen to you! Like many writers, I have developed my own set of solutions for writer's block. These are my top five tips:

1. Spend some time outside.

Nature is one of my favorite inspirations. Whether you have access to a wilderness area or just head into your own garden, spending time outdoors can be a great way to reinvigorate your creativity. Take a notebook with you and simply describe what you see. What sounds, smells, and colors surround you? Try to use all five senses when you paint the scene.

Also, getting your body moving can help relieve the stress associated with writers block. Go for a hike, ride your bike, or meet a friend for a swim. Raising your heart rate not only is good for your cardiovascular system, it also elevates your mood. This can be a huge help when writer's block has you down in the dumps.

2. Work on a different project.

If I get stuck on my novel, I switch gears and work on a short story, poem, or non-fiction article for a while. I like to have multiple works-in-progress (WIPs) for just this reason. When something isn't flowing, I can set it aside and work on something different instead of wasting my time staring at a blank page.

When I focus too long on a project that has me stumped, I just end up frustrated, which further blocks my ability to write. Moving on to a new project allows me to keep my hands moving across the page. Meanwhile, while my brain is distracted on a different project, I often stumble across the solution to the problematic scene!

3. Read something.

Pick up the book you are currently reading, regardless of genre, and sink into it for a few chapters. Forcing yourself to stare at a project that is frustrating can be counterproductive. Let yourself take a break and reread one of your old favorites.

I have quite a few books on the subject of writing, and the ones that I reach for the most are the ones that inspire me to pick up a pen, such as "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg. Also, there are books entirely devoted to writing exercises, like "The 3 A.M. Epiphany" by Brian Kiteley, which can give you a topic to write about or help you decide on where your WIP needs to go next.

4. Jump to a different part of the story.

Are you stuck on a particular scene? Try writing what happens immediately afterwards, or even jumping further forward and writing the ending of your story. Many writers find themselves blocked when they are not sure what the current scene is supposed to accomplish. By writing whatever comes next, you now have a beginning and ending for the section that is causing the block. This can make it much easier to sit down and write.

Often, I get stuck when my mood doesn't fit the scene I am writing. If I am very mellow and quiet, then writing a frantic battle scene just won't work (and visa versa). So I will leave a note in all capital letters in my manuscript, such as "INSERT BATTLE SCENE HERE," and move on to the next chapter or scene that fits my frame of mind. This way I am not procrastinating on my story, and I can come back when I feel prepared to write the scene I skipped.

5. Switch from a word processor to pen and paper.

A change in mediums can often help the artist regain their creative vision. If you always write on a computer, grab a few sheets of paper and compose the next scene longhand. If you always write in a favorite journal, switch it up and type your story directly.

Changing locations can have the same positive effect. If you always write in a particular room of your house, try sitting outside or going to your local coffee shop. Meet up with a fellow writer at a restaurant, and challenge each other to see who can write more in a set period of time.

Every writer has a different solution to writers block. When you start having trouble, the most important thing is to not panic. Take a deep breath and remember that you are in good company and you can get through this!

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