Simple Steps To Overcome Writer’s Block
So, your writing has come to a grinding halt and you’re scouring the internet to find answers on how to push through. It’s okay, we’ve all been there at one point or another.
Whether you’re writing a book, a blog, a new web page, or even an essay for school you’ve probably encountered the tall and daunting mental wall known as writer’s block.
Hell, I’ve even gone through writer’s block while trying to email coworkers before!
But, there are simple steps to overcome writer’s block that I’ve used in the past that have allowed me to push through and to achieve my writing goals.
Here are a few of those simple steps to overcome writer’s block.
Create An Outline
Let’s say you’re trying to build a house. Would you start putting up walls and moving furniture first? The answer is no, you develop a blueprint first so that you can visually see what you’re building before you start.
Similarly, when you’re writing, you may want to create an outline for what it is you’re about to write before you put pen to paper or start pushing keys.
Before I started writing this blog post you’re reading, I wrote all the section headers.
This allowed me to see the structure of what I was trying to create and made the whole process more of a simple “fill in the blank” type of assignment rather than a complex post. I even have the freedom of bouncing between sections rather than starting at the beginning.
Creating outlines can not only help cure writer’s block, but prevent you from having it in the first place.
Develop A Routine
Everyone gets into the creative zone differently so getting into a routine will largely depend on you.
The routine I’ve found that works for me is:
Head to a coffee shop early in the morning.
Put on a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
Read some creative writing from places like poetry.com to get inspired.
Create an outline.
Write like a bat out of hell.
I find that having other people around forces me to at least look productive. That means putting my phone away and smacking my keyboard until it sounds like I’m making mac & cheese.
Scientific studies have shown that writing early in the morning can be beneficial due to the fact that the prefrontal cortex of the brain (the creative part) is most active. Willpower is also a finite resource your brain drains through as the day goes on and it’s best to use as much as you can for writing.
For others, an opposite routine may work better.
Solitude can be beneficial, along with using certain apps to help you concentrate such as ommwriter or cold turkey. Those that are home-bodies may want to find a comfy part of their home where they can stay undisturbed.
The important thing is to find a routine and stick to it. That requires discipline, but if you’re trying to overcome writer's block, you’ve got to be willing to build a positive habit.
Write To A Single Reader
Every writer wants their work read by the world. This is true for novelists, web copywriters, bloggers, you name it. The truth is, the entire world isn’t going to do that. Even if they did, every reader would have a different and unique experience reading your work.
Instead, try this approach advised by the legendary John Steinbeck.
“Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person — a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.”
For example, in previous blogs, I imagined writing to my brother who has shown a growing interest in web copywriting.
When doing this I’ve found words to come more naturally because it felt as though I was having a conversation rather than trying to impress potential readers. I’ve taken this strategy when writing short stories as well and the result has been just as impressive.
Write Something Else
Writer’s block often comes with another frustrating feeling; the feeling of being unproductive.
There’s nothing worse than setting aside hours to write, only to look at a blank white page when your time is up. An easy solution to this is to simply write something else! Freewrite, start writing for a different project, just write down what’s in your brain if all else fails.
The point is to see content on any page you’re writing. To see that you can, in fact, write.
Slowly, you’ll see that feeling of unproductivity fade away and you’ll find that you have accomplished something writing-related, even if it wasn’t for the original assignment.
You may be able to get your creative juices flowing and find the words you were searching for just by writing something different.
Write Now, Edit Later
Let's face it, one of the biggest reasons why so many writers experience writer’s block is because of simple feelings of perfectionism, self-doubt, and a compulsive need to edit every word they type.
Read this carefully:
It’s okay if your rough draft is rough.
Not every word you type has to be perfect.
You can always edit later.
Earnest Hemmingway was notorious for spending his nights drinking and writing, then waking up the next day editing. That’s not to say writers should start hitting the bottle for inspiration. The point here is, don’t let the fear of imperfection block you from writing because there's always another day.
If you are the type to edit while you work, the hemingway app will do that for you. Just don’t let it dictate your every sentence.
Simply Stop Writing
This may sound like an outlandish proposal given the title of this blog, but sometimes stepping away is one of the best steps to overcoming writer's block.
In an interview with Time Magazine, senior psychology lecturer Sandi Mann detailed how doing boring tasks can actually spark creativity. When the brain is occupied with monotonous tasks such as doing chores, walking, or showering it tends to go into auto-pilot.
When that happens, the brain will search for neural stimulation. If it can’t find it, it will create it.
Some of the best ideas I’ve ever had for creative writing have come from when I was in the shower, driving on a long road trip, or simply going for a run outside. The change of scenery and pace was enough to get my creative muscles to get back into action.
Keep in mind, these steps to overcome writer’s block don’t have to be taken exclusively. You can try a combination of them or all of them. Just remember, even the greats experience the little hiccup here or there so you’re not alone.
Power through this and go write something badass.