Damn you, writer's block!
Every now and then, I get stuck. I have days where my brain goes into full-on meltdown mode, and throws a tantrum like a tiny child in the toy store—flailing and crying and completely refusing to do anything but what it’s supposed to.
I guess you could call it writer’s block, but I just call it an off day.
Writer’s block happens to every writer, and for a variety of reasons.
- You’re struggling to get started writing.
- You’ve lost direction with what you’re writing.
- You’re burnt out.
- You think everything you write straight up sucks.
- You can’t decide on an angle to take.
So what do you do to fix it?
That’s really what you want to know, right? For me, learning to cope with writer’s block has been a lesson in learning to love the process. Maybe it’s more love/hate. Jury is out on that one.
Here’s what I do when I get stuck—in order of effectiveness.
I’ve found if I can put together a messy draft that gets some basic ideas or a few thoughts together that start to form an initial outline, my brain is able to make sense of the writing task at hand, and I can move forward. I wrote about this in greater detail over on Medium.
Studies from Stanford show that a person’s creative output increased by as much as 60% when walking—so taking a break to focus on something else can help you break through writer’s block. Walking outdoors is even better—another Stanford research study showed that people who walked in nature had greater blood flow through the brain and overall improved mental health than those who walked elsewhere. My dog is a huge supporter of this tactic.
Ask for help.
You know a fellow writer, right? (I’m waving, but you can’t see it.) Sometimes you need a little external perspective to break through those days when your brain won’t cooperate. Ask a fellow writer to spare a minute or two to talk through what you’re working on. Be sure to return the favor, too.
Don’t force it.
Some days are just a wash. You can try and try, but the logic won’t flow and the words won’t come. It’s okay. Unless you’re up against a tight deadline, it can wait. Instead of sweating it out over your keyboard, give yourself a few hours to reset. Go to the park. Read a book. Try again tomorrow. (Full disclosure, this happened to me on Monday, and I just had to let it go.)
Writer’s block is annoying. Plain and simple. Unfortunately, it’s just unavoidable some days. Follow the steps I’ve outlined here, and you’ll beat this pesky problem (or you’ll at least be better prepared to cope.)
What’s your best tip for overcoming writer’s block? Tweet me @kaleighf. I’d love to hear what works well for you. Yes, I’m looking for ideas to solve my own problem, too.
This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.