Writer’s block is a common experience for those who dedicate themselves to writing. More often than not, the biographies of our favourite authors are filled with anecdotes of dry spells, droughts of inspiration and creative infertility, all of which points towards an unacknowledged, often ignored truth: no one is free from the writer’s curse, and every writer has to devise their own way of breaking it, even if only momentarily.
Pablo Neruda, for instance, would try to shoo away omens of writer’s block by sticking to rituals. Before writing, he would wash his hands in a bowl strategically placed next to his desk; writing was a ceremony, a task that ought to be approached with utter solemnity, and anything less would certainly distance the artist from the muses. Neruda would also refrain himself from writing if his pen was not filled with green ink; blue or black would not do. Neruda’s obsessive-compulsive behaviours are a clear example of a writer finding his way around writer’s block, and even if washing your hands before writing, or sticking to a particular color of ink for the rest of your life doesn’t work for you, here are seven not so eccentric tips for overcoming writer’s block that might, with a bit of time and patience, help you get back on track.
Give yourself the opportunity to fail
Excessive self-pressure is one of the main causes of writer’s block. Perhaps the reason why you’re not writing is that you’re not allowing yourself to do so as freely as you should. Maybe you’re expecting perfection. But the reality is that perfection doesn’t exist as an objective goal, at least not in writing; in order to get somewhere, you will have to fail, edit, and learn from what you just wrote. Frustration is to be expected, and as long as you manage to get something out of it, making mistakes is totally fine.
Write an Outline
Writing is easier when you know, more or less, what you what to tackle in each part of your writing. Outlining is especially useful when writing essays because it allows you to stay on track, saving you precious time. When writing fiction, outlines can ensure that every piece falls into place. Do you really think Sir Arthur Conan Doyle devised and wrote the intriguing mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by heart, without a blueprint?
Set short term goals
Don’t try to write your next great novel in just one sitting, and don’t bite more than you can chew. As writers, we often get overwhelmed by our own ideas and projects,
which tend to be ambitious (everyone wants to be the next James Joyce or Jack Kerouac). Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad with ambition, but one should try to be realistic— the higher you are, the harder you fall. Try setting yourself a short term goal: if you’re writing a novel, try and finish the first ten pages, and give yourself a reasonable amount of time to do so. After that, let it simmer for a few days and get back to it with fresh eyes. Feeling like you’ve made progress releases endorphins, which are the gasoline of writing.
A change of setting (inside/out, day/night, alone/in public)
Sometimes a change of setting can get the creative juices flowing. Don’t be afraid to try new things when it comes to your writing routine: Do you usually write indoors? Try writing outside, in your yard or in a café. How about writing in public? Perhaps being surrounded by people that are also, like you, trying to write, can get you in the creative zone. Are you a night owl or an early riser? Try different writing schedules and see what works best; you might be surprised by how big of a difference small changes like these might make
Give yourself breaks
Writer’s block can be a result of over-exhaustion. Not getting enough sleep, or writing for extended periods of time can result in a lack of creativity and motivation. It takes longer for a sleep-deprived brain to make synaptic connections, which results in fewer ideas and intellectual stagnation. Who wants that, right? Pomodoro is a great app for organizing time, be sure to check it out!
Talk it over
Explaining your ideas to someone you trust can be a good way to rekindle a long-forgotten intellectual affair. You might remember why you wanted to write in the first place, or discover a brand new approach to a topic that seemed completely spent. Just be careful with whom you share your ideas with, you wouldn’t want your brainchild stolen from you, would you?
Tools, tools, tools
Can’t find the right words? There plenty of tools out there that might help you with vocabulary and grammar. Tools like WriteBetter and Grammarly will not only save you time and energy, but will also make the task of writing much easier and pleasant. Worried about sounding repetitive? WriteBetter offers its users an ample array of synonyms, dictionary definitions, and words in context, so you can stop worrying about grammatical accuracy and start focusing on what really matters: your ideas.