8 Ways to Overcome Writer's Block
A lot of people say they should write a book or screenplay, but really, who among us ever follows through? Everybody’s got some lofty dreams of getting a book deal or movie deal, but very few of us actually write and write consistently. Take a look at the blogosphere, and you will see countless blogs that have been abandoned. Writing is a lot harder than it looks.
I do freelance work for bodybuilding magazines, and I’ve self-published a few books that you can find on Amazon. I only write part-time, however, because I have a full-time job and a personal life. So how do I find the time to write?
When it comes down to it, everybody is busy. If you only have a half hour to an hour to write everyday, then that’s all the time you’ve got. The key is to use that time as efficiently as possible. Here are some tips to help you overcome writer’s block and consistently create material:
1) Use a stream of consciousness approach. This is one I learned in high school expository writing. What you do is to write and keep writing whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about grammar or structure or the sequencing of your ideas and events. Keep writing and writing. Do not stop or pause or edit your work until you have a page worth of material or until you can’t come up with anything more. If you have to write “Mary had a little lamb” 5 times because that is what came to your head, then write it down. Once you’ve written a substantial amount of work, then take a break and come back at a later time to edit. A full page, even if it is crap, is still better than a blank page. Crap can be molded. Empty space cannot.
This approach works best if you’re doing a memory dump onto the page. In other words, if you’re writing something that involves your expertise in a particular field, then write as if you were teaching someone. It also works if you can picture a story or scene clearly in your mind. Then it’s just you writing what’s unfolding in your head.
2) Take a break to overcome writer’s block. If you’ve been writing for at least 15-20 minutes and encounter writer’s block, then get up and do something else for five minutes. Get some water or more coffee. Go to the bathroom. Anything that gets the blood flowing again. If you get writer’s block, it’s usually because your brain is stuck in a mental feedback loop. If you briefly disengage from writing, then you can get unstuck. So when you come back, you’ll see a way to write through that mental roadblock.
3) Figure out when you write best. I normally write best in the morning. My mind is usually clear once I’ve had my coffee. After lunch, however, my mind is mush. I’m about as articulate as a baby babbling. For you, your peak time to write may be different. For most people, however, I would say the A.M. hours are best.
4) You don’t know when inspiration will strike, so go with the flow. Even though my mental acuity is best in the morning hours, I’ve written some fantastic pieces of work at odd hours of the day. If inspiration strikes, then just go with it. Edit it later.
5) Use anger to overcome writer’s block as a last resort. Everybody likes to rant and bitch about stuff. People don’t give a lot of lengthy praises, but it’s real easy to go on and on about stuff that pisses you off (“How about a lively discussion on white men and Asian women? What is up with that?”). If we didn’t have ranting, then we wouldn’t have enough traffic to sustain half the blogs and forums out there.
Be careful though. Anger can hijack your topic, and it’s hard to bring it back down. Anger is productive if it eventually leads to hope and action.
6) Have a cup of java. What writer doesn’t write with a cup of coffee next to his or her laptop? Caffeine facilitates better mental recall, so you can use it to write stream of consciousness style. Edit later when you come down from your caffeine high.
7) Listen to music to set the tone of your piece. I write a lot of articles for bodybuilding mags, so my pieces tend to have a fast and hard-edged tone to them. Readers want to be pumped up to want to work out. So when I write these articles, I’m often listening to adrenaline pumping hard rock, punk rock or metal on my MP3 player. What music you listen to is up to you, but whatever it is, just make sure it gets you writing.
8) Write in different environments. I’m fortunate to have an office at home, but sometimes I just want to be in a different environment and see people. So sometimes I go to coffeehouses, and I write for however long I want. The combination of having a new environment and that strong cup of joe usually helps me churn out some good work that can be edited later.
Watch out though. If you go to a coffeehouse to write, then write. Don’t be a beatnik poser sipping coffee, checking out the ladies with a blank word document in front of you.
If you want some more writing advice, particularly about novel writing and managing your family life, then check out this post by Big WoWo.