Staring at a blank page for hours on end, willing the words to come.
Most writers have faced this dreaded writing scenario from time to time: a case of writer’s block.
Even the most successful and prolific writers can suffer from a lack of words at times.
It seems like every writer has a few tricks up their sleeve to handle writer’s block. Some like to focus on outlining and sketching out novel chapters while others prefer to use apps, calendars and spreadsheets to hit daily word goals.
But sometimes it’s good to shake up your routine a bit in order to find new creative energy.
Try these tips if you find yourself with a case of the dreaded writer’s ailment.
1. Go to clown class
If you don’t have visions of red clown noses and funny wigs, you don’t have to literally go to clown school. But trying an activity that is out of your comfort zone and normal routine is a great way to shake things up and find your creativity.
It doesn’t matter if you take a clown class, sign up for a curling league, go to comedy improv night or take a kazoo workshop. Whatever you do, you’ll end up with something new and exciting to write about afterward.
After returning from your new experience, try writing about it as soon as you get home. Use your words to describe what you experienced, how you felt and who you met. Write a character profile of someone you met, describing what they look like, how they speak and what they wear.
Be careful; there’s always a fine line between “shaking up your routine” and procrastinating.
Make sure you use your new activity as a mental refresh and inspiration to get the words flowing rather than a distraction from writing.
2. Use your hands
Writers use their hands to type or scrawl notes longhand all day long.
To shake up your routine, try using your hands in a different creative way. Sculpt clay, paint a picture, crochet a hat or make a collage to turn your brain onto a different type of creativity.
You can even apply this creative technique to your projects.
If you’re writing a novel, sketch out some of your characters visually. If you’re writing about a room, draw the room. What does the sofa look like? How is the table set? Is there a centerpiece? Are there placemats? If you’re drawing a landscape, what types of animals are hidden in the frame? Are there birds, squirrels, insects, or a friendly dog lazing about?
You don’t have to write words to make progress with your story.
3. Find natural inspiration
I’m one of many writers who loves to work outdoors, but you don’t have to bring your laptop with you to find outdoor inspiration and break out from your writer’s block.
Go for a walk or a hike, preferably out in the woods, but even a neighborhood park will do.
Consider bringing a journal and freewriting about three different experiences you have along the way. Don’t overthink it. You don’t have to experience earth-shaking personal revelations to have something to write about on the trail. You can write about an interesting tree or a rain cloud or your experience with a blue jay that watched you eat your lunch.
It doesn’t matter what you write about. The important part is spending time having experiences out in nature and putting those feelings and adventures into words.
After you get your creative mind flowing, you might find the words on your blocked project come along easier, too.
4. Find a prompt
If you Google “writing prompts” you’ll discover more than 1.8 million results. And, if you’re more visually inclined, check out Pinterest’s collection of writing prompts.
Wherever you find your prompts, don’t spend too much time trying to select the perfect one.
Just pick one and start writing. Set a timer for 10 minutes (or whatever length of time you like) and write words. If the words don’t come, write about how they’re not coming. Describe your fingers sitting on the keyboard or tapping on the table. Describe yourself. Write about your desk.
Prompts are great because your only goal is to write for a certain amount of time.
Your writing doesn’t have to meet any standards and no one ever has to read it. But it’s a great exercise to help get your brain going.
If the words still aren’t coming, grab a good book and start reading.
But if you write about the book, it might be even more helpful. Read a chapter and then write about that chapter. Write about your favorite character or favorite scene. Describe your thoughts and what you might do differently. Hypothesize about a character’s motivations or what might happen next.
But be sure not to compare yourself to the author. Just enjoy the story and, hopefully, it will help your own story keep spinning along in your mind and on the page.
However you work to conquer writer’s block, don’t worry about it too much. It’s only a temporary ailment. These techniques should help you shake up your routine enough to get back on track with your writing.
How do you beat writer’s block? Tell us in the comments below.