By: Zachary Arcivar
Have you ever found yourself writing something with complete ease, where you are deep within your own personal flow that just allows your fingers to fly over the keys of your laptop or your pen strokes to take over an entire page with ink in minutes, and then out of nowhere, you hit a wall? This wall is what is known as “writer’s block,” and it is the bane of every writer’s existence. For some of us, it means a five-minute gap between hitting a block and then continuing, and for others, it means putting the pen down for the day.
Writer’s block is inevitable, and it happens to all of us; it is simply a part of writing. However, there are many ways to combat writer’s block, and today I’m going to share five strategies that I personally use to regain my focus and flow of ideas when I hit the dreaded wall.
1. Walk away and take a break
This may seem a bit obvious, but it is one of the most popular ways to go about defeating writer’s block, and it works for a lot of people — myself included. If I find myself staring at my computer screen for more than ten minutes without being able to produce a sentence I’m happy enough to keep, I’ll usually use this method first, and put my focus on something else. You could do anything from drawing or painting to cooking or playing an instrument (personally, I play bass). You could even take a quick nap to recharge your batteries!
I just try to do whatever I think is going to clear my mind, and give myself a good break from thinking about whatever I was working on. I’ll close my laptop, set a timer for myself to go off anywhere from 10-30 minutes, and after it goes off, I’ll sit back down at my computer and see if I get any new sparks to keep my writing going.
2. Try Freewriting
Freewriting is one of my favorite ways to get my brain warmed up for a long writing project or to give my brain a break from the subject I was writing on and journey into other ideas and subjects. Freewriting is exactly what it sounds like; it’s just allowing yourself to write about whatever you want, in whatever form you choose. So, if you’re working on an essay for English class and can’t seem to get around writer’s block, try to just shift to whatever your mind wants to write about for a few minutes, such as a poem, prose, or a list — it really doesn’t matter.
A good tip to go along with freewriting is to actually write with a pen or pencil. While the quickness that computers give us along with the plethora of tools like spellcheck that let us put out writing in no time are wonderful, sometimes it’s good to go old school and take the time to write out a few full pages by hand. This allows you to have more freedom on the page in a physical sense in case you decide to go from writing a pantoum poem to illustrating a picture. You can transition outlets much faster than you would be able to on a computer.
Making use of writing prompts could also prove very helpful and could still have an element of freewriting to them with just a touch of guidance. They, of course, could get you thinking about subjects that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, and can prove to be a refreshing way to escape a bad block.
3. Adjust your writing process
In my last post, I talked about evolving your individual writing process and how figuring out the proper environment for you to write in is crucial to ensure quality writing. If you aren’t writing in the right space for you personally, you’re probably going to experience more writer’s block than others.
Adjusting your process could be as easy as getting rid of distractions like cell phones, TV, or anything else that pulls you away from your writing. It could also mean more drastic changes, like writing in a completely different place, like maybe switching from writing at your home to writing at a public library, or coffee shop.
Another option is to switch the time of day that you write. For me, writing early in the day is pretty much a must if I want to get a good chunk of writing done. For some reason, waking up early and just starting to write comes naturally to me, and I’m usually surprised at how pleased I’ll be with what I write on my first draft. For others, writing really late at night might be preferable — just try as many options as you can, and see what works for you!
4. Read over old work, or pick up a book
Sometimes, even if my environment is perfect (early in the morning with a coffee nearby), it can still be a drag to put the pen to paper or fingers to keys. I may try freewriting, but even with that, I can’t seem to find any sort of rhythm. Well, why not step away from the writing and go to a little reading?
You can pick out the novel you’re currently reading or maybe one you’ve been meaning to start. Hearing another author’s words and phrasing that differs from your own can get your mind moving in different directions and could inspire something. You could also pull out some of your old work and skim over it. Nine times out of 10, when I re-read something that I wrote weeks before, I’ll notice something that I don’t remember writing but really like. This is what can start waking up your brain to get your juices flowing.
5. Get up and move around
Exercising is great for waking up the entire body and putting you in a new state of focus, and it can be used as an amazing tool against writer’s block. Working out is probably my favorite method to use to get my creative process back on track, because I find that it allows me to clear my mind of everything that I was thinking about entirely, essentially clearing out the block that was stopping my writing.
When I go back to work after working out, I feel refreshed, my stream of consciousness seems clearer and more seamless, and because exercising releases endorphins, I’m usually in a great mood going back into writing. And don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to join a gym or start running ten miles a day; for you, it could just mean a walk around the block, or maybe to a friend’s house to talk for a while to further yourself from what you were working on. As long as you get your blood flowing and get your body warmed up and stretched out, the results will be there.
So, there you have it! Try these out if you find yourself stuck writing any time soon, and don’t be afraid to try your own methods if you think of any. Once you find what works for you, you’ll be able to kick writer’s block to the curb without any trouble at all!
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