Beating Writers Block

Frustrated We all experience writers block now and then. Here are some tips for breaking through a block and getting the job done that seem to work for me.

~ Start in the middle. Write your intro last, so you’ll know just what you want to emphasize.

~ Just write. No matter how rough or bad you think it is. Just get something down on paper. That leads right into tip #3.

~ Editing is easier than writing.  Go through your rough copy and circle what you like and keep going. It’s much easier to rewrite than it is to start from scratch.

~ Think out loud. Work through your ideas with a co-worker. Words flow easier in conversation. And their feedback might give you a new perspective.

Most of us don’t have the luxury of waiting for the muses to strike. Check out this laundry list of other good ideas from Maartje Van Hoorn at Behind the Page.

Can you add to the lists?  When you just can't seem to string two sentences together — what do you do?

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18 comments on “Beating Writers Block

  1. If you have a particular structure in mind, draw it out and include subsections you have. No details though!
    And yes, read other people’s work as inspiration for non-fiction..but please try hard to use multiple sources.

  2. When I can’t write, I do something completely different. These very simple things dislodge blocks and really work for me:
    — doing dishes
    — folding laundry
    — going for a long walk
    — closing my eyes and focusing on breathing for 10 minutes (set a timer so you know when time’s up)
    — listening to favorite music (and perhaps even dance…)

    Doing something more physical relaxes my thoughts and gets energy flowing again. And in a couple of cases, the house gets a bit cleaner. 😉

  3. Maartje says:

    Wow! I was wondering where I got all these sudden pageviews from! Thank you! Haha

    Maartje

  4. Jennifer Suminski says:

    As a former composition teacher, I agree and use many of the listed “writer’s block techniques” especially stream of thought and integrating other visual and auditory arts. A few others I had my students try…

    1.Write down an important and/or memorable life event(s). (First time you met your best friend/significant other, car wreck, visiting new city, old homeless man, or the day everything went right/wrong.) Start with the facts then add in emotions and senses.

    2.Have a conversation with someone. (I liked using this with literary analysis papers in order to get the students to make each other prove points and expand from them.)

    3.Read/listen to/watch a story and present a different perspective. (Go to a library, mall, or bar and ease drop.)

    4.Read a headline and make it in to a question you must creatively answer.

    5.Take words from one printed item and begin with utilizing those into something beyond.

    6.Research.

    7.Disagree with yourself on any argument or stance taken in your life.

    8.Recall your dreams. Could be one from childhood or last night.

    9.For more technical writing: outline, thought webs, categories…

    And so on. I tend to prefer memories, arts, and stream of thought above all else. (One fun stream of thought writing you can start with a transition word and go from there. Therefore… Hence…At that time… )

    (Kristin, personally I wouldn’t set a timer it might ruin a good progression of thought.)

  5. Tracey Bien says:

    Drew,
    I really like the “just write” suggestion. I like to call that technique “word vomit.” I write whatever comes to my mind even if it makes no sense because sometimes those random thoughts can be manipulated into something acceptable and maybe just maybe brilliant.

  6. Jennifer — RE: not using the timer. That’s an excellent point! Thanks for this. Next time, I’ll try this with no timer at all. 🙂

  7. Mario,

    Ah…reading the work of others is another great method. You know with all these ways to break the block, it’s a wonder any of us ever get stuck!

    Drew

  8. KG,

    I find doing something physical helps push me past the block too. Cranking music and just dancing or working out are great mind cleansers.

    I’m not going as far as cleaning though — that’s just crazy talk!!

    Drew

  9. Maartje,

    Any time….it was a great post!

    Drew

  10. Jennifer,

    It looks like your students got quite an education. That’s an excellent list — thank you for sharing it.

    Which technique was your guaranteed to break the block trick?

    Drew

  11. Tracey,

    Yup, that’s probably the one I use most often too. Just sit down and write something. Sooner or later, I get to where I need to be.

    And sometimes, have discovered some new paths worth exploring along the way!

    Drew

  12. For me, creativity boosts usually come from a change of scenery. I’ll look through the news headlines, review my personal library, recall stories from my own experiences or simply go outside for a while.

    I’m fortunate in that I experience fresh business contact with many new people each day, each with a rather unique situation. These usually provide a constant flow of fresh ideas to explore.

    For those who do not have that luxury, have an weekly meal with a friend(s) in sales, marketing or management of some kind. They can likely share a sufficient number of stories from their experiences that can get your creative juices flowing. Such networking may be just what the doctor ordered!

  13. Jennifer Suminski says:

    Drew,
    There is never a guarantee block breaker. Nonetheless, reading others’ works and memory recall seemed to work for the majority of individuals.

  14. Daniel,

    Agreed — a change of scenery is often a catalyst to fresh thinking. Sometimes just changing rooms in the same space is enough.

    I wonder if people are using blogging as a creativity boost too. Much like your idea of dining with friends, it’s a quick mental fix of new ideas and challenges.

    Drew

  15. jgrichards says:

    For a good, hard once-a-year workout, try National Novel Writing Month in November. A 50,000 word first draft of a novel is considered a win.

    Having to push that many words through in that short a time…well, let’s just say I’ve never looked at writer’s block in quite the same way again.

    http://www.nanowrimo.org/

    Another thing that sometimes works is to grab my camera and see what new perspectives it yields, even in a few minutes’ exploration.

    And then there’s always getting outside to let the ideas fly. One way or another, something good always happens in fresh air.

  16. JG — excellent additions to the discussion. Thank you. I cannot imagine writing that much in a month. Do you take the month off of work??

    Drew

  17. Laura says:

    Keep a notebook with you at all times in case you get an idea off the top of your head. Then you can write it down. Before long, you’ll have a long list of random phrases or possible song titles or ideas so when you get stuck, you can look over them and be inspired!

  18. Laura,

    My version of the notebook at my side is JOTT. Whenever I think of something worth remembering, I just JOTT myself and voila, I have an e-mail from me.

    Drew

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