If you’re anything like me, you’ve read countless blog posts about how to cure writer’s block. But did they work? What if you don’t have the luxury to “set your book aside for a few hours,” or the patience to fill out a list of writing prompts?
As with all of my tips, the following suggestions come from personal experience. It’s been three years since I discovered these tricks, and I haven’t had writer’s block since.
1. Use a Notecard System
Stephen King doesn’t do this. Stephen King jots an idea on a sheet of paper, then develops the story as he goes.
Stephen King is a genius.
For the rest of us, this method can be dangerous. Writer’s block will thrive when we don’t know where the story is going! So what can we do different? Plan out your story.
Before I begin a new book, I plot my story on giant notecards and arrange them on the wall in chronological order. Every time I have a new idea for a scene, I write it on a small card and tape it to the large one. When I have a rough idea of where the story is going, I finally begin to write. I pull off the first card, read the small notes, and incorporate them into the scene. When I get to the next scene, I know exactly what needs to happen.
Every so often I’ll have a card with a giant question mark on it. This means that I know what needs to happen in the scene, but I haven’t fleshed out the details yet. Instead of waiting until I reach that card, I’ll pull it off the wall, put it in my pocket, and spend a day thinking about it. When I have an idea, I write it on the card. At the end of the day, I put the card back on the wall, and when I reach that point in the writing, I know where to go.
And remember, taking notes is still writing!
2. Never Use Writer’s Block As an Excuse To Procrastinate
If you blame writer’s block for your lack of progress, this will only give your brain a reason to shut down more frequently! Instead of playing Angry Birds until inspiration strikes, train yourself to work no matter what.
This doesn’t mean you can’t step away from the computer. Work on your notecards. Ponder future scenes and figure out where your current scene fits in. While you study your notes, do jumping jacks to increase your serotonin levels! Whatever you do, don’t let your mind think it’s acceptable to quit.
3. Read a Favorite Book
This seems to go against what I just said about not taking breaks, but stick with me.
Before you delve into a beloved passage, grab your notebook and pen. Open your mind. As you read, filter every word through thoughts of your own project. Let the characters, structure, and style influence you. Sometimes you’ll stumble on a passage that works but you don’t know why. Re-read it. Then read it again. And when an idea strikes, write it down.
The key is to read a book that you already know inside and out. If you start a new story, you risk closing your mind to your own work as you get sucked into an exciting plot!
4. Practice Tip #15
Get out of your comfort zone! Shake up your routine! Surround yourself with people. Use a new pen. Write outside. Listen to loud music. Grab a Cinnamon Crunch bagel at Panera. Whatever you do, force your brain to work outside of its usual habits.
Sometimes routine is good. Sometimes breaking routine is better.
I hope these tricks help! Am I missing any solutions? What helps you when writer’s block strikes?