Ten Ways to Work through Writer’s Block

Written by Emily Grace.

Has motivation left you standing in the cold rain with a bunch of wilted roses and a half-empty box of Belgian chocolates? Inspiration decide to take an unplanned, one way trip to Barbados without even the promise of a postcard?

Dear creators, do not fret nor fear. While these blocks may lend us untold amounts of frustration and misery, there are ways to abate and negate the undesirable curse that is Writer’s Block.

1. Write!

Wait! Don’t close the tab, just hear me out a second.

I’m sure we’ve all been given this advice before, and we’ve all tiredly reiterated that we’re ‘suffering from writer’s block and really could not write’. Well, I’m here to tell you that this insufferably simplistic piece of advice is actually pretty sage, in both theory and practice.

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘if you’re going through hell, keep going’? Writer’s block, and writing in general, is a bit like that. You’ll make it through eventually, but persistence is the winning ticket and the only way out is through.

So, write a page in your diary, or a scathing review of the coffee shop you checked out last week that didn’t offer any gluten free items. Anything to keep the pen in your hand steady and the keys under your fingertips warm. It doesn’t have to be good, or even make sense. It could be the same word written a thousand times over, until the word loses all meaning.

Just. Keep. Writing.

While doing so, of course, perhaps attempt one—or all—of the following suggestions to alleviate the sheer frustration of being in the middle of your own creative crisis.

2. Go for a Walk

Alas, I’m sure this advice is also overused, but just bear with me as I explain!

The feel of a cold breeze as the smell of freshly moistened gravel and garden waft tantalizingly through the swaying branches; the thick sound of traffic in the suburbs during peak hour; muffled laughter distant conversation flowing seamlessly together through the open windows and backyard barbeques.

There are many reasons why taking a walk might aid you in your quest for motivation and inspiration. It gives your body and mind something else to focus on, allowing your mind to process all the things keeping you from writing. It’s also a great way to engage with the world (more on this in the next step), giving you access to new settings and environments–no environment is the same from one day to the next; there is always something new, though you may not know what or how.

Even if you just wind up pacing around your own backyard–just get up, get out, and stretch those legs of yours. If that’s not a possibility, then perhaps simply try a change of scenery.

3. Go Somewhere Public

As with the previous suggestion, this involves leaving the comfort of your home–and maybe even your comfort zone in general. That local coffee shop just down the road from you where the coffee is too bitter but the smile of the barista is like a warm embrace; the library in town populated by students working off hangovers to the sound of crumpling paper and the smell of dusty pages. You could go to the museum, or to the zoo, and surround yourself with excited school children and exasperated parents and teachers alike.

Go somewhere where there is conversation. Take out those earphones and take your eyes away from your phone. Listen to your surroundings. Sometimes the greatest prompts come in the form of an overheard conversation. Who is that man talking to on the phone? What is the call about? What about that toddler babbling to the empty seat beside them? Who (or what) are they talking to?

And it’s not just dialogue! You can get some serious inspiration for how to write human interaction through the simple act of bearing witness to or experiencing it. Here are some examples for you: the man that rushes towards the door but bumps into the elderly woman entering and forgoing an apology in his rush. The child tugging incessantly on her father’s flannel jacket as they pace the garden section of the local supermarket. The group of teenagers draped carelessly over the furniture and each other in that dimly lit café. Anything could be that thing to bring a spark to your mind, and it’s the perfect excuse to hang out with a friend you’ve been neglecting during your attempt to cure the writer’s curse.

4. Read.

Sometimes, living in someone else’s fantasy is just what you need in order to escape from the ever-present agony of being unable to string together a single sentence.

Try reading something you wouldn’t have picked up under normal circumstances. You don’t even need to get through it, honestly. Read it and think about what you’d do differently if it had been you writing it. Read it out loud in the most obnoxious and exaggerated accents you can think of. Read aloud to your pet or read to the moon, nobody will judge you here, I promise.

5. Dictate or Record Rather than Write

Got a fantastic idea but not a clue how to write it? Or maybe every time you reach for a pen or your laptop your mind goes completely blank?

Sometimes it’s easier for us to simply speak our ideas.

So maybe you’ll take your phone and record the concepts that cross your mind at 2am, exhausted but unwilling to allow an idea to be lost due to sleep; or maybe you’ll download a dictation software and spend some time enacting dialogue between your characters. You might even decide to do both (though maybe not at 2am; you do need to sleep at some point, you know).

6. Do Some Research

Writing a short story that involves Victorian era aesthetics? What about a novel about a young mermaid drawn into a battle against climate change? If you’re struggling to write, researching things might help jog that stubborn motivation.

Sometimes the more we know about a topic, the easier it becomes to write about it.

It doesn’t even need to be relevant to the piece you’ve set your mind on writing: find the newest Attenborough adventure, or set yourself up with some serial killer speculation; or maybe whatever pops up first on Netflix or YouTube. You could spend a few hours trawling through Wikipedia one link at a time, or searching up conspiracy theories. While it may not assist you in the writing endeavour you’d initially planned, knowledge is power and the more you know the more you’ll be able to write confidently on (and, besides, it may push you into starting something new!)

7. Stay Hydrated!

Aside from remembering to drink plenty of water, take the time to make yourself a beverage of a different sort. Hot or cold, bitter or sweet, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Preparing drinks, and even food, is a great way to relax while also focusing on a task. This gives your brain the opportunity to process ideas without agonising over them to the point of futility.

Whether you enjoy tea, coffee, or hot chocolate; fresh-pressed apple juice, or the bite of freshly juiced lemonade; or perhaps you’d prefer a fiction-inspired cocktail to take the edge off–take just a little time to grab some refreshments (not to be confused with the necessary ‘sustenance’, consisting of water and three square meals).

8. Write a List

You might be thinking, ‘Hey, why isn’t this a part of the ‘Write!’ section?’ Well, let me explain: writing a list, while an aspect of simply ‘writing’, adds a whole different spin on the action of putting pen to paper or finger to keys. It focuses your attention on a very specific cause that you can expand at will. Start with a short list of supplies one might need in a zombie apocalypse, and go further from there to include things one might find that could be useful.

You could write a list of openers for when you meet your favourite celebrity, or even the reasons why you think Steve Rogers (a.k.a Captain America) is an iconic Mary Sue character. Create lists for each of your characters. List their top five traits, or the seven things they find most admirable in an adversary. The list could range from strictly improbable to wildly impossible; or, you could simply stick close to the mundane and write a shopping list.

Lists are a very active aspect of writing and shouldn’t be dismissed as unimportant or thrown to the wayside. So, give it a shot. You may be surprised at the results.

9. Listen to Music

Listen to music—I don’t just mean the same ten pop songs you’ve heard a thousand times. Be as diverse in your auditory experiences as your reading experiences. Don’t stick with one genre; explore! There are millions—possibly billions—of things to listen to, and you might find something new you enjoy that you never would have expected. I, for instance, am currently writing this while listening to that horrendous hold music so coveted by the Centrelink offices.

For extra inspiration, look to soundtracks from your favourite movies (instrumental, of course), or even from your favourite video games. The Skyrim soundtrack, for example, is masterfully crafted to insight certain feelings within the listener/gamer as the soundtrack progresses, as is the case for a multitude of soundtracks available for streaming.

So, whether you open Spotify and choose a random playlist or search up lo-fi hip-hop livestreams on YouTube, music might just be the life-line you’ve been looking for.

For reference, here are some favourites of mine:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Syo9TBYwK4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhFS32B869Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXCTw8EhMYU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWv3DfoiigM

10. Don’t Give Up

What are we most likely to do when we’re struggling? That’s right–a lot of us might simply give up.

I’m here to tell you that, while you can certainly give up and let the block consume you, it’s better in the long run to just keep on pushing through. It might seem like hell at first, and it’ll pull at your confidence in yourself as a writer, but you’ll be writing, and that is the most important thing.

So, give a few of these tactics a try and keep up the good work. You’re doing great, even if you only manage to write a dozen or so words a day. Just keep on keeping on. I believe in you.

 

Emily Grace’s work appears in the Taboo, Illusion, and Contact editions of WORDLY.

1 Comment

  1. You know, when you know all the things you need to do, but it’s not until someone else says them that it kicks in? Yeah, well. Thank you Emily. I am going to print this one out, and stick it above my desk, in my diary, Photoshop it into a desktop background haha.
    Again, thanks, this was really lovely.

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