Writer’s block can be incredibly frustrating – here are some ideas for smashing through!
Writer’s block can present itself in different ways. We may be struggling for inspiration and ideas. We may be paralysed by the desire for perfection or the fear of not being good enough. We may be stuck on a particular point in our novel.
However you’re stuck, there will be something below to help get you flowing again…
(psssst – you can watch a video version of this article if you scroll down)
1. Take a walk
This is much more effective than you might think. It’s not simply about a time out. Fresh air invigorates your brain and the muscle movement releases chemicals into the bloodstream. Also, new stimulus in the environment will get your synapses crackling.
Write for ten minutes non-stop, about anything at all. Even if it’s just the same word over and over and over again. Misspellings, sense, none of it matters. If you really can’t think of anything to write then just write about how you can’t think about anything to write. The most important thing is to keep your fingers moving. The rationale behind free writing is that it limbers up the brain and builds up momentum which can blast past the mental blocks that are holding us back.
3. Work on some notes instead
Pick a character and complete questionnaire for them. Or do some research on one of your locations. All this work will enrich your novel and help dissolve the blockage.
4. Listen to some music
Some people believe writer’s block can be defined as ‘an inability to make the conncetions in the brain which enable creative thought’, and that music can ‘create the right environment for connections to occur in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. Listening to music can affect how your brain focuses and neutralise mental distractions. There are even claims that specific rhythms and tempos can be particularly effective…
5. Make a pointless rule and write to it
Such as: you can’t use the letter e more than once per sentence, or each sentence must have an even number of words. Limits create focus and change your perspective.
6. Read the papers
Great for ideas that nobody will ever believe are true. A good way to come up with fresh and unique ideas is to take two or more news stories and try to combine them into a single story or idea.
7. Write a rant
Who really got up your nose this week? What would you say to them if you could? Get those juices flowing, let the emotion pour out onto the paper.
8. Explain your dilemma to a teddy bear
If you can’t think how to proceed, explain your problem out loud to a soft toy. The process of formulating the problem out loud is often enough to let you see the solution. This techique is often used by software developers to aid problem solving.
9. Give yourself a day off
Sometimes we really just need to carry out some self-care and give our bodies and minds a break. Sleep is the human equivalent of turning it off and on again, so give yourself a reboot and there’s a good chance your sub-conscious will do some background magic in the meantime.
10. Give yourself permission to write badly
Sometimes we struggle to write because we’re worried that what we write won’t be good enough. If this is holding you back, then try to remember that earlier drafts are like shovelling sand, so that later you can build sandcastles (quote from Shannon Hale). So give yourself permission to write badly, because this isn’t the finished product. Right now you’re just feeling your way through the story – later you can focus on getting every sentence and word right.
11. Try the Pomodoro technique
Get yourself an egg timer, set it for twenty-five minutes, put it on the table and get as much done as you can in that time. When it goes off, your fingers must leave the keyword (or paper and quill or whatever). Set it for five minutes and do something else for that time. Relieve yourself, stare out the window, play with the puppy, learn a few words of Spanish, whatever. Repeat this four times. Then, after the fourth session, take a longer break – of about fifteen or twenty minutes, before continuing.
12. Set a small, achievable goal
Sometimes the overwhelmingness of the task of writing a novel can paralyse us. By setting a small, achievable goal, we can set the fear aside, and get small, repeated senses of accomplishment. The goal could be simply to write a single page, or a single paragraph, or even just a single sentence. The Novel Writing Roadmap works on the principle of breaking down the massive task of writing a novel into small, manageable chunks.