You sit down, stare at your computer screen for an hour, then realize you’ve written nothing at all. Your word count isn’t counting and you can’t walk away because then you would have just sat down for nothing in the first place, right? But maybe walking away is the best way to keep going.
If you’re reading this, I probably don’t have to tell you that writer’s block is very real. But don’t worry, every writer has experienced it at some point, and there’s are way to overcome it. I’ve written several short stories, screenplays, stage plays, and now 2 novels. There are days where I can sit and pound out 10,000 words (with the help of coffee). And there are more days where I can’t…can’t…can’t even.
So the question is: how do I turn my blank page into 70k words?
The first thing to remember is that creative productivity is different from productivity. That sounds a bit absurd, I know, but creative productivity can’t be measured or defined. When do I know my book/art/film is finished? There’s no way to do it. You might have to listen to music or stare out the window for hours. It’s not the same as sitting down and staring at a math textbook until your eyes are on fire.
The best way for me to overcome writer’s block is to find other things that will make me excited to write again. I can’t stress enough that you need to take breaks. Every time I’ve forced myself to push on when my imagination is dead, my writing ended up disconnected and really, just not good. In this world, quality is most definitely over quantity.
There’s no key answer to overcoming writer’s block, and there’s also no one way to write. But there are a few things that may help you overcome the stupid block that’s keeping your imagination from reaching the page.
Reading stories is what inspires most of us to write them, so why not go back to the source? Read a book that’s in the same genre of what you’re writing. Not only is it an escape, but it’s a great way get ideas. This is my number one go-to when I’m feeling stuck. I could not, for the life of me, break past 8k words, and after I picked up a book, my mind was rolling with inspiration and I couldn’t wait to write my own characters and events.
2. Write on Paper
A blaring white screen can be intimidating. Writing the good old fashion way with pen and paper can be very freeing. Write in pen so you can’t erase or shift words around. Even though you’re writing in “permanent ink,” the notion of writing in a notebook isn’t as permanent as it is typing on a keyboard. So when you do go to write your words on the computer, you have a base (what you wrote on paper), and a fresh look at the words. This frees you up to shift around phrases while punching keys without frying your brain. It’s a great way if you need a vault to get you started.
3. Narrate in Your Head
Give it a chance before you write this off as an option. You can do this throughout your day while doing practically anything. Think of yourself as the protagonist and silently write in your head. How you feel. What people look like. The smell in the air. How it all triggers certain thoughts. It’s great practice without having to make anything up, and might even inspire you to get it onto the page.
Paper and pen, computer, whatever tickles your fancy. Write whatever comes to mind, about your day, about something you saw on TV—anything! But don’t do it with purpose. Don’t go into with the goal of I need to bust writer’s block! Just have fun, do what you love, and you’ll exercise your writing muscles without the pressure.
5. Go on a Walk
Get your body moving, get the blood flowing, breathe in some fresh air. It’s a natural stress-reliever, and I can say, does wonders for the mind. It’s the one way to (quite literally) walk away from your problems. It relieves a whole lot of tension and allows you to come back later with a fresh set of eyes. My favorite thing to do is visit the ocean and listen to the water. Sounds cliché, I know, but it usually does the trick when nothing else does.
6. Do Something Else Creative
Do you paint? Draw? Do photography? Take some time to flood those creative juices in a different medium. Use it as a sort of therapy. One of my favorite things to do is listen to music and bake. This is a personal preference, but allowing your focus to shift can provide (yet more) inspiration and ideas. It’s a perfect way to regain your creativity, and when you go back to your writing, you’ll have so much to say.
7. Write at Night
You know that saying, “write drunk edit sober?” Well, for some reason, when we’re drowsy we get all sorts of strange ideas and the will to do is multiplied. Keep a notebook next to your bed and scribble thoughts and ideas, along with a glass of ice water. Or sit at a desk with your laptop. I find myself pushing on late into the night when I get rolling. And even if the next morning you read it and cringe, at least you didn’t run into a wall.