I have yet to meet a group of people who try to distract themselves from writing as much as writers themselves. What is it that terrifies writers so much about their own work? Is it a fear of failure? An acknowledgement that while finishing a project is one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world, the process of getting there is nothing short of brutally hard work? All of the above?
Regardless of the cause, delaying deadlines often manifests itself in the form of writer’s block. Writer’s block is one of the most dreaded experiences in a writer’s career, yet it is one of the most common. Rest assured that even the most successful writers endured and overcame this. And we should be glad that they did. Imagine that the author of your favorite book let their writer’s block convince them to end their project. What would you do if the person who created your favorite characters decided to never write them into existence?
You could be that person to someone else. So no matter what, do not give up.
Here are some ways you can overcome writer’s block:
1. Writing prompts
There is an abundance of resources providing free writing prompts for all types of genres. You can find these prompts with a quick google search or by scrolling through a writing-themed Instagram page. If you’d prefer, you can also purchase books filled with writing prompts at your local bookstore. Even if the prompt is seemingly unrelated to your current work in progress, crafting a short story in response to a bizarre or unique prompt may be just what you need to get your creativity flowing. This can also be a great way to get a project started. You’ll be surprised at the beautiful things your mind can come up with, so give writing prompts a try.
2. Stream of consciousness
This is my favorite method for battling writer’s block. Even if you are not aware of it, your mind is constantly spewing random thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts can be rich with negativity, and they may interfere with your creative ideas. Why not make use of them? I like to start with a thought relevant to my current project. Say, for example, you’re writing a novel about dragons. Think about dragons, and start typing every thought that forms in your head after that initial thought. The words won’t come out in a coherent way, and you may jump back and forth from topics that have little to no relevance to each other. That’s perfectly okay! The point is to get as much of your thoughts down as possible, sit back, analyze them, and see what you can pull out from these thoughts that you can use in your story.
3. Search for treasure
You rarely find treasure neatly left out for you. You’ll have to dig for it or rummage through trash to find it. It may make you grimace, but it’ll be worth it in the end. You can do the same with your abandoned projects. Perhaps you wrote a cheesy romance story in middle school, or maybe you wrote a poem at three in the morning that sounded beautiful to you at the time but turned out to be mildly catastrophic when you reread it the next morning. You may be tempted to discard these works of writing and pretend they never existed, but they can still be of use to you. Even if the work doesn’t work out as a whole, there may be a small part of it—a character, a paragraph, or even just a sentence—that is pure gold. Search for it.
You can find oddly specific music playlists on YouTube. No matter how unique your story is, there is a playlist or song there that will help you feel as if you have entered the world you created. Even though listening to music while writing works for many, I prefer to use music as a tool to immerse myself in my own world before I begin writing. Let’s use the earlier example and say I’m writing a novel about dragons. I’ll start by looking for fantasy music on YouTube. One I’ve found music I like, I will turn off the lights, close my eyes, and pretend that I am the protagonist of my story. I’ll see the streets of the world I created through my protagonist’s eyes. There is no need to worry about developing the plot. I just wander through my fictional world and see what my mind comes up with. I think about what my protagonist would be feeling, craving, or thinking. I find that writing becomes easier after this exercise because it is as if the protagonist is writing the story.
The key is to take a brief break from your project and develop your creativity elsewhere until you are ready. Remember, having something on the page is better than nothing. Taking a break is perfectly acceptable, just try not to make it a permanent one.