It’s a common predicament for writers. While our tales of knights slaying the dragon enthrall our readers, us authors, unbeknownst to the general public, have our own monster to face.
The old foe of every writer who, no matter how often we conquer, somehow impossibly finds a way to resurface again. The one thing that makes a writer dry out and lose inspiration faster than any other challenge.
The truth is, however, that writer’s block isn’t so impossible to defeat after all. As it turns out, there are in fact a few tricks of the trade we, as writers, can employ to keep the words flowing. So before you trash that six month project, or hide your blog away in the archives, here’s five tips on how to slay writer’s block, once and for all.
1) Set a Routine
We humans are creatures of habit. Biologically wired to recognize and form patterns, it’s a proven scientific fact that the more habits we develop in our day-to-day lives, the more brainpower we have to spend elsewhere.
And when it comes to your writing, sometimes developing a routine can be just the thing to help you focus on just that: writing.
I’m one of those people who, for the life of me, cannot concentrate at home. There’s simply too many distractions, too much noise, and too many things (and people!) calling for my attention. So, whenever I need time to write, I make a point to designate it; and because I can’t concentrate at home, I go somewhere I can.
For me, my writing routine consists of a few hours spent in a particular corner, in a particular coffee shop, drinking a particular tea.
There’s something about carving out a specific time, even a specific place, to concentrate your writing. Often, doing this turns writing into less of a chore, and more of an escape. Into something to get excited for – which of course lends all the inspiration needed to kick start your projects.
So whether it’s a chair you sit in, a certain time of day, a place you go, a tea you drink, or (pulling one of out Lousia May Alcott’s book) a ratty hat you wear, figuring out just what tells your brain it’s time to write (and get’s you excited for it!), can be the key to keep the ideas flowing.
2) Clear Out Distractions
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s that focus is key. Far too often, I will formulate an idea or a sentence in my head, only to lose it as I’m distracted by something else.
Making a point to clear out distractions that can interrupt your thought process, can help you dedicate all your focus on writing – rather than dividing your attention amongst a thousand other things at the same time.
If you are one of those writers who prefer a keyboard over a pen, resist the urge to open up other tabs like your email, social media, etc.. Instead, limit your writing time to tabs purely necessary for your writing or required research, saving all those other sites for another time.
The same thing goes for phone usage. Consider turning on “do not disturb”, turning off notifications, or leaving your cell in another room so you’re not tempted to open it up and mindlessly scroll.
For both the traditional pen-and-paper and the modern writer, often your environment affects you more than you think. Noise, visual distractions and people, all begging for your attention, can leave next to none for your writing. Before taking up your pen or laptop, tell others around you that you’re no longer available, going somewhere quiet and separate from daily-life chaos.
To help yourself relax, breathe and truly delve into your passion, isolate yourself somewhere where you can do just that – free from outside distractions.
3) Get Out and Experience
Sometimes, the only thing we lack to beat back writer’s block is good ol’ inspiration. And sometimes, the only way we’ll ever find it is if we open our eyes to see what is there. To borrow a popular quote from Orson Scott Card…
“Everyone walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writer’s are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”
Are you a good writer? Then open your eyes! Pay close attention to what goes on about you! Make a point to get out and experience new things, meet new people, or observe new places.
Human beings are fascinating creatures, and the world is an incredibly complex place. Inspiration is everywhere – if we can only train ourselves to see it, and accept it as ours when it presents itself.
Who knows? Perhaps that woman at the shopping mall could inspire your next heroine, or that homeless man your intellectual musing, or that morning fog your next poem?
4) A Little Pick-Me-Up Never Hurt
Let’s be honest.
Sometimes, our head just isn’t in it. Sometimes, we carry around this mental fog that we just can’t shake – prohibiting us from giving our best into our writing. And while to feel tired, out of it, or emotionally strained is normal, it certainly isn’t a precursor to creating a bestseller.
Before attempting to write in this state, take the time to align your head and heart.
If tired, make sure you get a good night’s rest and eat well! I can’t stress enough how much a healthy diet influences our brains and bodies – improving focus.
If you’re one of those people who can’t focus without your daily dose of coffee, than enjoy it! Be careful though – too much caffeine can make you jittery and actually less sharp. Personally, I prefer a cup of green tea over coffee or another, even stronger energy drink.
If your mental distraction comes from a more emotional outside source, then stop writing and attempt to fix the problem. Go talk to the person, if applicable, or take the time to think things over and simply breathe. Come to terms with things emotionally, before you try and distract yourself with writing.
With your heart in the right place, emotional turmoil could actually be turned to something that inspires you to write as never before!
5) Know When You’re at Your Best
We all have our good days and bad days, but did you know that you’re at your best a certain time of the day?
It’s true! Studies have shown that people function best certain times of the day over others, and learning just when your “peak” time is can be the key to conquering writer’s block.
Perhaps, you are a morning person – writing best after a refreshing night’s sleep and looking forward to what the day has in store. If so, jump on that opportunity! Consider waking up early, before the day starts and the rest of the household wakes up as well, and sit down to write for a good few hours. You may find the words flow faster than you can jot them down!
Or maybe, you’re a night owl, like me – feeling relaxed in the evening, finding inspiration from the day to fuel your writing. If that’s the case, the same rule applies. After the day is done and you’re settling down for the night, hide away in a quiet corner and let the words just come.
Don’t know which type of person you are? Experiment! Just avoid writing in the middle of the day, as researchers have discovered that’s when we are all functioning at our worst.
When it comes to you, your body and your writing, there is no right or wrong answer. Only both author and authored, coinciding in harmony and brilliancy.