It’s happened to all of us before. We are on a roll one day and then next, nothing. The words aren’t flowing as easily, inspiration seems out of reach, and the only thing facing us head-on is disappointment and frustration. Well, I’m here to tell you how to end this train of misery. I know there is no formula which works for everyone, but I can provide a list of suggestions, with the hope that one of these tips may work for you.
1. Go enjoy nature.
This one may seem like a given, but Vitamin D (provided by sunlight) is important not only for our health but happiness. Happy people are more likely to be creative which means you have a higher chance of getting over that writer’s block if you spend some time outside. Even if you live somewhere cold, where the sun isn’t blinding you each time you walk outside, trees, snow, and the fresh air itself will all do you some good. Soak in the beauty of the flowers, and the liveliness of everything around you for about 30 minutes. It will make a huge difference!
2. Listen to music.
I know people at work who listen to music all day long to stay relaxed, but music triggers emotions in me. It forces me to connect with different parts of myself–memories, emotions, ambitions, etc. Thus, when I want to stay focused on a task at work, I try to minimize the music in the background, but if I am working on my novel, I select specific songs to set the mood of the plot and thrust myself forward into writing each scene as I’ve imagined it. This may be a way for you to gain momentum as well!
3. Watch a show or movie.
I’ve read and heard about all the studies which show screen time is bad for you, but I don’t buy it. I learn SOO much from watching reality shows, sit-coms, and movies. Growing up, I was extremely timid and withdrawn. It was difficult for me to initiate conversation for fear of saying the wrong thing, so I began observing how people behaved and spoke in order to gage what was socially acceptable in particular crowds. As an adult, and mother, I’m more confident and no longer as quiet, but I still pay attention to people’s interactions and body language on television screens and in real life! Next time you are stuck on character development or dialogue, sit down and watch how the actors and actresses behave in various situations. Turn on sub-titles for added effect, or if you’re more visual with words. My favorite about this one is, like a faucet, you can turn off the show once you’ve got enough inspiration to propel you to write again!
4. Write something different.
Maybe the thing which has you banging your head against the wall is not writing but rather your topic of the day. If you’ve spent weeks or months deep inside your novel and need an escape, try writing something else: a grocery list, a journal entry, a text message to someone asking about their day or explaining your day, an article for a newspaper or an essay for a contest. Anything! Writers love to write; it’s what we feel we were born to do, but if we get stuck we don’t necessarily want to stay away from our notebooks or computer, it just means we don’t know what to do about what’s in front of us. So switch up the setting, write in another topic, or medium. I jot down notes in my notebook to develop a part of my story once I realize that free writing has lost its magic and I’ve run out of energy or hit a roadblock.
5. Go people-watching.
As I mentioned earlier, there is significant value in watching how people live their day-to-day lives. As a fly on the wall, you can observe things you normally wouldn’t if you were not so removed–hesitations, inhibitions, frustrations, ticks, etc. How people express themselves is revealed in action more often than you think, and this is how you can practice showing versus telling in your novels, or any other piece of writing before you. A reader usually prefers to be shown rather than told; it is a craft to do this, otherwise anyone could be a writer and it wouldn’t be such a competitive industry. Examples of places where there is action and conversation: restaurants, parks, workplaces, supermarkets, malls, bars. I keep reading about how you can sit at a cafe and watch people, but I wouldn’t recommending people watching at Starbucks or Panera, as most people are probably having whispered conversations or studying. You’ll get very little material, as opposed to a busy public place where people are likely to be louder because they expect no one is paying attention to them. At bars and restaurants you’ll also be more likely to see couples on dates or friends exchanging stories.
6. Read a book.
If anyone asks me what makes me happy, I would obviously say my family, but as an individual, untethered to other humans, my number one response would be reading. As a child, it’s the world I could always escape to without limits. Now, when I am writing and need to push myself to continue writing, I have learned that it is likely one of the following: a) I feel something is wrong b) I know something is wrong but don’t know how to fix it or c) I want to read something that isn’t just me for a few minutes. The way to fix all three is by reading, so the past weekend I read a whole book on how to write beginnings, and I was able to not get over my writer’s guilt that something I was doing was “not good enough” but I was able to jump back in more excited than ever because I had the confidence required to start my story stronger and with the tools I didn’t have before. If you are trying to overcome writer’s block, read a book! Look for a book outside of your genre if you are looking for inspiration, but if you are searching for advice or resources on how to structure your novel, tips for getting more action in your writing, how to improve SEO, get more traffic, etc. you can read about all these things and more in a book! Go to Amazon or your preferred retailer and educate yourself on the things that are going to bring your writing to the next level.
7. Do some chores.
Maybe this will not work for you, but I find that some of my best ideas come when I allow my mind to wander. Unless I’m asleep, the only time I have a chance to do this is while I’m folding laundry, cleaning the dishes, organizing the kids’ rooms, doing my bed (I am one of those people who has to do it every morning), or even aligning shoes in our closet. Any chore which allows you to focus on the task at hand without exerting your mental power too much is excellent exercise for your creative muscles. Give it a try and see if it helps with your writer’s block!
I am not actually sure how to meditate, but I have read wonderful things about it and the podcast I listen to has raved about it, too, and the host is someone whom I didn’t expect to be into meditation either. I expect meditation has the same benefits as working on chores–it will allow you to breathe and relax. For those of you disciplined enough to sit still and actually do nothing for a set period of time (such a blessing), I think you can focus your breathing to a pattern which garners more oxygen for your body. More oxygen equals more blood flow and better everything! The act of meditation itself also increases self-awareness so if you’re trying to figure out the source of your writer’s block and get to the place where I usually am, where I can address the writer’s block because I know that I’ve stopped writing because of a developmental flaw or timeline problem, you can address it directly and continue your writing journey with more easy! Supposedly, you can also gain more patience and tolerance. I think we could all use a bit more of those traits.
9. Take a nap.
Most things are better after a nap, and you can wake up to a fresher mind after you’re well rested. A brighter outlook is possible! Many writers claim if they go to bed thinking about their novel, they dream things or are able to resolve problems in their sleep and wake up knowing how to deal with an issue which had been stumping them before. I thought this was cool, so I tried it the other evening before bed, and it did help me. Next time you have writer’s block, think about what you want to solve, write it down on a notepad next to your bed, and wake up and write what you discovered in your slumber!
10. Take a shower or bath.
The only bath we have is in the kids’ room since we gave them the master in our apartment–but I prefer showers anyway–and I have found it extremely transforming to walk into our shower after a stressful day or a frustrating session at the computer and release it all to the shower drain. Water is a source of comfort for me. Since I swam competitively in my younger years, I have grown accustomed to giving in to the power of water on my face and letting my thoughts get lost in the steam of a good shower. When I’m interrupted by my husband or kids, it really throws me off center, so I’ve asked to be given these moments alone to think. If you find yourself needing an escape but can’t afford a vacation to the beach and don’t have a pool, just take a shower or bath. Water isn’t just a metaphor for our characters, it can be a way to renew us in real life, too!