Sometimes, it’s hard to be a writer. You get the best and worst of both the “artsy” and “practical” worlds. You use the building blocks of language to communicate with other people, often about very specific thoughts, ideas, emotions, plans, instructions, and many other things.
You also use language to create art, which is a much different process with a product that doesn’t usually fit within the practical realm. Fiction and nonfiction are two very different things, but sometimes, the line between them can start to blur – especially when you’re suffering crises from both worlds.
As you probably know, one thing that bridges the gap between fiction and nonfiction is writer’s block. No matter what you’re working on, it’s easy to get stuck in a situation that seems to rob you of the ability to think clearly and express yourself well in writing.
It’s always stressful to be stuck in the vicious cycle of writer’s block, but the good news is that there are plenty of strategies you can use to get yourself out. The following are ten of my favorite ways to banish writer’s block, so I hope they’ll be useful to you the next time you’re struggling to put words on the page.
1. Free Write
If your brain is swarming with ideas and you feel too addled to decide how to organize them as you write, put them down on paper in a mind map format. Your ideas can be isolated – they don’t have to form a cohesive body of writing in your head. Write them down to help you wrap your mind around the big picture, then devise a strategy for incorporating your “free write” material into a solid piece of writing.
Go for a run, do some yoga, or simply stretch in your office for a few minutes before you try writing again. The physical act of moving can increase blood flow to the places that need it, and it can also give your mind a much-needed rest from focusing on writing.
3. Work on a Different Piece
When you have a variety of writing projects at the same time, you can switch to a different one while you give your brain time to recover. As you write a different piece (preferably in a different style), your mind will continue to work on the problem you encountered. This gives you the opportunity to keep working while you subconsciously generate more ideas.
4. Work Somewhere Else
Get out of the office for a little visual inspiration. You might try working at a coffee shop, in a park (for as long as your laptop battery lasts), or at the local library. Being somewhere quiet that isn’t your regular work space can help you get past stress and boredom.
5. Motivate Yourself with Time Tricks
There are two time tricks that work for me, and one might work better for you than the other. The first is to tell yourself that you only have to write for five minutes. Once you start writing, it’s easy to keep going, and soon you’ve forgotten all about having writer’s block. The other strategy is to limit yourself to a reasonable period of time, such as thirty minutes, and work hard to finish your piece of writing during that time frame. Doing this can help you write what’s already in your head without having to tease it out slowly.
6. Talk Instead of Writing
If you can’t write, start talking into a voice recorder. You can go back later and type the good parts of what you dictated, which can easily be turned into a solid piece of writing.
7. Work Toward a Reward
Give yourself a treat once you’ve finished the task you’re struggling to complete. You might get yourself a special drink, pick up some ice cream, or even buy yourself an inexpensive reward such as a new book.
8. Take a Nap
Sometimes, the best thing you can do to relieve stress and give your mind a break is to take a nap. Even if you have an important deadline approaching, it can be helpful to invest fifteen or twenty minutes in a power nap. There are times when it’s the only solution.
9. Read Something Great
Most writers are inspired by great authors, so pick up one of your favorite books and read a chapter. Reading a favorite poem or short story can also break you out of writer’s block.
10. Write Another Way
If you’ve been typing, try getting out a pen and paper to help you get past writer’s block. Changing the medium of your writing can help your brain relax and improve your ability to focus. You can also open a blank email and start typing “to a friend” if it helps you get your work done (you can copy and paste your work into a word processor later). By helping your mind relax, you’ll decrease the amount of stress you’re feeling as you regain the ability to write efficiently.
Bio: Lisa Shoreland is currently a resident blogger at Go College, where recently she’s been researching art scholarships as well as disability scholarships. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing, practicing martial arts, and taking weekend trips.