Oddly enough, millions of words have been written on the subject of writer’s block — it seems that writers never tire of writing about not being able to write. And there are as many different coping strategies as there are writers. Some just stare at a blank page or screen for days, months or even years, waiting for, well, something. Others write down anything and everything that enters their heads in the hopes that two or three consecutive words will actually be worth keeping. Ernest Hemingway used to end each writing day in the middle of a sentence so he’d at least have some direction for starting the next day. Then there are the compulsive rewriters and re-rewriters who must polish a sentence until it gleams before they can gather the courage to try another one.
As as you might image, articles about getting un-blocked, such as this one I found recently on Copyblogger, are popular among professional writers. But of course you don’t have to make your living at the keyboard to struggle with writer’s block, as countless non-writers have discovered for themselves. For what it’s worth, here are a few tips that I’ve found useful for blocking the block:
Call it something else. The very term “writer’s block” can act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Gee, the words are coming slowly this morning. Maybe I have WRITER’S BLOCK.” Well, if you didn’t have it before, you probably do now. But isn’t it possible that you’re just tired, unwell, or distracted by some completed unrelated event in your life? If so, maybe you can’t focus on any particular activity just at the moment. You don’t have writer’s block, you have (fill in the blank). Deal with that issue and the writing problem may well resolve itself.
Sneak up on it. “I’ll just jot down a few notes.” I’m always telling myself that. When I’m not sure how to begin a piece of writing, I don’t bother with the beginning at all. I just start writing stuff that may end up going anywhere (or nowhere). If I forced myself to come up with a brilliant beginning before I could move on, I’d never finish. I just write with no preconceived plans or expectations — and before I know it, my “notes” have mushroomed into a full draft.
Take frequent short breaks. If you wear yourself out, sooner or later the ideas will dry up and you’ll find yourself stuck. That’s fatigue, not writer’s block. You can prevent it by forcing yourself to stand up and go do something else — anything — for a few minutes. (Don’t stay away too long, though, or you may never come back.) Recharge your brain a little and then get back to work. Do this at regular intervals, whether you feel like stopping or not.
And if all else fails, you can always hire me to do the writing instead.
For more about my writing services and current package deals, check out my website at www.reynoldswriting.com.