It’s the monster hiding in every writer’s closet; the looming bane of every author’s existence. If you haven’t experienced its paralyzing effects yet, just wait—it’s coming for you.
Writer’s block. Two simple words with the power to strike dread into the hearts of bloggers, novelists, and poets everywhere. We fear becoming entrenched in the muck of writer’s block, yet those of us with any writing experience are deeply aware of its persistent inevitability. It never goes away.
A Continuous Struggle
Just because the plague of writer’s block never actually goes away doesn’t mean you, the writer, must surrender to it. Quite the contrary! Writer’s block is the Achilles Heel all writers must learn to live with—and overcome.
Some are masters at this. They’ve learned secrets that allow them to overpower the beast time and time again. They’ve formed habits they can rely on to protect them from its onslaught. But what’s more, true masters recognize the number-one thing that will cripple their resolve and ultimately defeat them.
What You Should Never Do to Beat Writer’s Block
What is the arch nemesis of productivity? What are the tendrils of this fearsome beast that are keeping you paralyzed?
The answer is distractions. Once you’ve fallen into the stupor of writer’s block, it’s easier than ever to become distracted by other things—sometimes even good things; necessary things like housework or errands. More often, though, the distraction that rears its head first is the most irresistible: The Internet.
We’ve all done it. We sit down, open our Word document, and stare at the blank page. Words won’t come, so we tell ourselves we’ll take a break. Just a short break, of course—a harmless little venture through Facebook or Twitter, or the unwieldy realm of Pinterest. No more than five minutes, we tell ourselves. But then, almost before we can blink, the time we’ve allotted for writing is drained away. Writer’s block—and distractions—have won.
Tumbling down the rabbit hole of the internet is one of the greatest dangers we face when confronted with writer’s block. We find creative ways to justify it: “Only five minutes!”, “I’m just going to hop on Pinterest for some character inspiration!”, or, my personal favorite: the vague, yet convenient “Research.”
If you’re suffering from writer’s block, I implore you—do not turn to the internet to solve your problem. It won’t help. Instead, it will suck you down the black hole of distractions faster than you can open a new tab.
If you must research, allot a specific portion of your schedule, separate from the time you’ve given yourself to write. If you come across a question in your writing, don’t stop to answer it. Instead, make a note and keep moving. You can research the answer later. But don’t let it put the brakes on your productivity! Your time is precious.
5 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block
Instead of turning to the slippery slope of the internet, try employing these five tactics to outsmart writer’s block.
#1: CHANGE LOCATIONS
I often find that leaving my house to write works like magic when I’m struggling with writer’s block. I pack up my computer and head to a coffee shop or a bookstore and find myself a nice corner to get to work. A change of scenery and stimuli might be just what you need to jumpstart your engines.
#2: TURN ON SOME MUSIC
Many writers find that music helps to kickstart their imaginations when they’re grasping for ideas. I always like to keep a pair of earbuds in my purse in case of emergency if I’m out and trying to work. Good soundtracks and jazz have saved me from writer’s block many a time.
#3: SET A GOAL OR START A COMPETITION
I don’t know about you, but I love a good competition. I played volleyball in high school, and the stakes of a competition or a goal always spurred me to keep pushing, even when I was tired, discouraged, or frustrated. If you’re a natural-born competitor, this might be the solution for you. Set a timer or a goal and try to beat it, or enlist a writing buddy to write against for thirty minutes (or longer, if you can!). I frequently used this method in my high school writing group to write upwards of five thousand words in a single sitting.
#4: JUST DO IT
In the worst of times, sometimes you just have to go for it. Just force the first words onto that page. It doesn’t matter if you write a hundred words or a thousand, you just have to put that pen to that paper and make something happen. Is it going to suck? Probably. But that’s not the point. The point is, you’re not letting the monster win.
#5: UNPLUG FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES
Sometimes, the most powerful thing you can do is to step away from your computer for a few minutes. Turn off all distractions. Don’t touch your phone. Don’t even pick up a book to read. Just sit quietly and breathe. Think. Let your mind wander. Clear your head and go back to the page. Still struggling? Time for Tactic #4. Ignore the tug of distractions, summon your courage, and just take the plunge. You can do this! I believe in you.
- When was the last time you struggled with writer’s block?
- What is your favorite tactic for overcoming it?
- What is the biggest temptation you have to avoid?