Overcoming Writer's Block
Writing, whether it’s for your next novel or a five-line poem, can be tough. Writer’s block can strike out of nowhere at any time and leave you staring blankly at your computer screen for hours trying to remember what words are.
But fear not, my fellow writer friends, for there are many tips and tricks for dealing with your creative constipation and getting your prose flowing smoothly again. Below I’ve listed the five best methods for inspiring yourself to sit down, plant your fingers on the keyboard and write.
5 Best Ways to Inspire Yourself to Write
- Use a Writing Prompt
- Free Write
- Take a Walk
- Plot It Out
- Read Inspirational Quotes
1. Use a Writing Prompt
There are hundreds of blogs out there in the cyber-verse dedicated to providing awesome little writing prompts that get your wheels turning. A simple google search will reveal an extensive list, but I’ve given you three of my personal favourites below:
- Take an event from history and write a fictional account describing a conspiracy theory about what "REALLY" happened.
- Write a story or scene about two people—or other nonhuman characters, if you prefer—from very different backgrounds sharing a meal together. What do they learn about each other that they weren't expecting?
- You're traveling in a rental car when you hear the thumping of a flat tire. You pull over and discover the thumping is not coming from a flat, after all, but from the trunk. What or who is making the noise?
These are great fuel to get your brain working and your fingers pumping out words. While they’re not all that helpful if you’re stuck in the middle of a novel riddled with plot holes they’re fantastic for inspiring short stories or even a scene in a longer piece.
2. Free Write
While it may seem like the hardest thing in the world when writer’s block is weighing you down, planting yourself in your desk chair and forcing yourself to write for ten minutes is an incredible way to get the creative juices flowing.
Set a timer, pull up a blank document and let your thoughts pour out onto the page. What you write doesn’t even have to be about your current project. It could be a paragraph about what you ate for breakfast, the great book that you’re currently reading or how much you love your cats (these are the three topics that seem to come up the most for me). Ignore grammar, ignore spelling, ignore punctuation and just write. If you want to be extra clever try pairing this activity with a writing prompt that excites you. You might even get the workings of a short story out of it!
3. Take a Walk
Believe it or not, physical exercise is great for stimulating the imagination. Even if you melt in the sun, make strange hissing noises when confronted by other humans, and prefer to stay huddled over a laptop in a dark room all day (or maybe that’s just me), the outside world is actually a pretty awesome place. It’s packed with nature and these weird creatures called people who make great inspiration for characters.
On a more scientific level, neuroscientist Wendy A. Suzuki has theorised that exercise helps stimulate the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, which is a nifty little thing in your brain that plays a role in your imagination. Basically, exercise = inspiration.
4. Plot It Out
The most common cause of writer’s block is because of just not knowing what to write. Maybe you have an idea of where your story is going, but you can’t quite figure out the steps you need to take to get to your epic ending. Maybe you’re stuck in the middle of a scene with absolutely no idea what todo next. The only thing that’s going to remedy these kinds of dilemmas is plotting.
Many writers (myself included) don’t enjoy outlining and prefer to go with the flow when it comes to their stories, but this approach is dangerous when it comes to losing inspiration. Open up a new document and riddle out the next few scenes you’re going to write. What’s happening in your characters’ heads? What sort of challenges are they about to face? Perhaps there’s a new setting or problem that you’re planning on introducing?
If you have an idea of what you’re going to write next, even if it’s only a rough one, I guarantee that writer's block isn’t going to hit you as hard. Another advantage of this approach is that if it’s a particular scene you’re stuck on you can skip it and go to the next one. Yes, you’ll have to go back at some point and tackle that tricky chapter, but at least in the meantime, you can keep progressing with your story.
5. Read Inspirational Quotes
Reading about how famous, renowned authors struggled with writers block exactly like you are or learning about why they decided to chose writing as a career is a great motivator. It may not stir up new ideas for your novel, exactly, but it will remind you how magical it is that you have the power to create entire worlds using nothing but different combinations of 26 letters.
Again, there are a plethora of great quotes floating around cyberspace and a quick google search will reveal them to you, but I’ve jotted down my all-time favourites below:
- "Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." Anton Chekhov
- "A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit." Richard Bach
- "Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way." Ray Bradbury
- "A book is a dream that you hold in your hand." Neil Gaiman
- "If a story is in you, it has got to come out." William Faulkner.
See what I mean? After typing out those suckers I’m ready to write a 50 book series!
Mix and Match These 5 Great Strategies to Get You Started
And there we have it: five great strategies for overcoming writer’s block and generating the inspiration you need to finish that book you’ve been working on or pen some great shorter pieces. For maximum effect, try mixing and matching; read some inspirational quotes and then free write about them or make an outline based on a cool writing prompt. Whatever combination you decide to use, I guarantee that you’ll be churning out words like a boss in no time!
© 2018 K S Lane
K S Lane (author) from Melbourne, Australia on February 11, 2018:
Watching movies and playing video games seems like a great way to get rid of writer's block. I've also found that consuming creative media, especially when reading, helps to spark ideas. Thanks for the comment!
marcuscaine on February 11, 2018:
Thanks for the article Lane. The methods I use when I have writers block is to play video games and watch movies because it takes my mind off of what I plan to write. I also read other people's hubs to help with writer's block as well.
I also do some outlining as well to organize my writing.
K S Lane (author) from Melbourne, Australia on January 25, 2018:
Thanks for your comment Lauren. Yes, these tips are just packed with fibre ;) !
Lauren Flauding from Sahuarita, AZ on January 25, 2018:
What excellent, fibrous tips to cure “creative constipation!” I used to free write every day but have gotten out of the habit. I’ll have to start that again as well as try a few more of these tips.
K S Lane (author) from Melbourne, Australia on January 22, 2018:
That's exactly what I do too, Heidi! I'm not a natural outliner, so I prefer to just have a sketch of the next few scenes I'll write (which I usually deviate from anyway, but it least I can say I have an outline ;) )
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on January 22, 2018:
I think my method is somewhere between free writing and outlining. Sometimes just getting a rough outline of main points helps fill in the blanks. Great tips!
K S Lane (author) from Melbourne, Australia on January 22, 2018:
Thanks for the comment Deborah. I'm glad you find these techniques useful too! Most writers that I've met have used them at one time or another.
Deborah Demander from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on January 22, 2018:
Great article! I have used all of these techniques, at one time or another. Sometimes, a walk outside clears my head and gives me the inspiration I need. And sometimes, just stream of conscious writing unblocks the flow. Thanks for writing!