Writer’s block. Two dreaded words for any storyteller. Yet inevitably, every one of us – at some point – faces a lack of creativity. What can we do when those words just won’t come? Here are a few tips to help you next time you’re stuck.
1. Pound your head on the keyboard…
…and throw your computer out the window. Let that confounded conglomeration of technology learn the meaning of the word, “defenestration”! HA! That’s what you get, stupid machine!
Um, just kidding. Please don’t do that. That computer is expensive. Try some of these other ideas instead…
2. Take a break.
Often times, the solution to a problem doesn’t come when we’re looking for it. If you’re trying to solve a plot hole, for example, and you’re getting nowhere, stop trying so hard. Step back, and allow your brain to work on it in the background. The idea may come from “nowhere” while you’re doing dishes, shampooing your hair, or walking your dog.
This tip comes with a word of caution. These breaks should be brief and infrequent – just what you need to get inspired and get back to work. Be intentional about it! Checking social media notifications or browsing Netflix isn’t taking an inspirational break; that’s called getting distracted.
Instead, do specific things that will inspire you or help get those gears churning. For example, listen to a song that you know will inspire you; or watch a beautiful, creatively-produced movie; or read a book in the style/genre of the story you’re writing; or take a walk and admire the beauty of nature; etc.
3. Work on something else.
This is closely related to Tip #2.
Start a random side project; not something gargantuan that will take over your main project, but something small and fun that has no pressure. Maybe you’ll draw a picture, re-organize your bookshelf, make a photo collage, or create your very own Buzzfeed quiz. Just do something creative that will allow those gears to start churning.
3. Get a different perspective.
Try looking at the problem from a different angle. Often the best way to do this is to ask for someone else’s perspective. As the adage goes, “Two heads are better than one.” Don’t think that your story has to be 100% compiled of your own ideas! The best creative works out there are results of collaboration, not of a single writer banging his or her head against a wall. It’s okay; you’re allowed to ask for help. 🙂
For example, when I’m stuck on the logistics of a battle scene, I often go to my brothers. They seem to have a natural knack for it (maybe it’s a guy thing?). Every time I ask for help, I come away with brilliant ideas that take my scene to a whole new level.
Remember – you don’t have to use your friends’ or family members’ ideas. You can always discard the ideas if you come up with better ones. But it never hurts to ask! An outside perspective may be just what you need in order to push you in the right direction.
5. Work on your project (indirectly).
Stuck on plot? Then go work on your characters.
Stuck on characters? Then go work on your setting.
You might be surprised; the idea you need could come where you’re not expecting it. For example, the key to a plot point might emerge while you’re writing a character backstory.
6. Type random words.
Open up a Word document. Is it open? Okay, now start typing whatever in the world comes to mind.
“My mother is an ostrich from the district of Colombia. Where is your purple nose? I need gross green dyes and little fish from the Indies. Developers, developers, developers.”
What did you write? Whatever it was, it was certainly nonsense… but guess what?
You wrote something!
Often the greatest cause of writer’s block is the fear of putting words on a page. So, conquer that fear! Blast it to smithereens! Write random words, and keep writing them for as long as it takes. It’s amazing, sometimes, how much easier it can be to write for real after that.
7. Use a sledgehammer. (What?)
Sometimes the solution to writer’s block is to take a break; more often than not, though, it’s the opposite. Hit a wall? Then break out your mental sledgehammer and smash through it!!
“What exactly does that mean, Brianna?” you may be asking.
What that means is, you’ve taken your break… now, sit in your chair, stop making excuses, and just. write. Write, no matter how bad the words seem to you, no matter how uninspired the dialog feels, no matter how lost you feel for direction, just write.
At first, what you vomit on the page will seem bad. But just keep going. And you’ll find that as you push through that wall, you will come out on the other side; with persistence, creativity will start flowing again. I promise!
What tactics have you used to kill writer’s block? Let me know in the comments below!