Tips To Beat Writer's Block
Updated: Nov 24, 2020
WRITING DOESN'T HAVE TO BE IMPOSSIBLE! Let’s face it, sometimes we just cannot get ourselves to write. We get writer's block. Sometimes we lack motivation, confidence, or energy—but the laptop is all the way over there, and I'd have to boot it up, and I don't know where to start... Or if you’re anything like me, perfectionism is your enemy. Fear not, for no matter what monster you’re trying to slay, I have tools you can use as your weapon! To the armory!
The first thing we encounter that can make us turn away from our work is a bad work environment. Your outer realm really is a reflection of your inner realm, so you want to make sure your space is in the right shape for you to feel in your element and stay focused.
Spruce Up Your Work Station. Yes, this means actually filing those papers you’ve been moving from one end of your desk to the other for weeks. Even if you thrive in a chaotic mess, it never hurts to get rid of what you can. Decluttering your workspace helps declutter your mind as well. Throw in some decorations, inspirational pieces, a few personal touches, and you will be feeling good about yourself and your space in no time! I swear every time I redo my writing nook, I feel like a Real Adult and get a much-needed confidence boost.
Get Rid of Bad Energy. I get it: sometimes we need to lock ourselves up for a week or two to recharge. But open the windows and let the wind break up all the stagnant energy. Light a candle to add ambiance. Use a nice air freshener that makes you feel awake and happy. Play music to help set the mood and block out distractions. I like to make playlists with music that reminds me of characters or scenes, or listen to video game soundtracks if I need to really focus.
While it can be our greatest asset, at times our own mind can be our worst enemy. Writer's block, self-doubt, anxious thoughts, difficulty choosing which way to take the story . . . it can be really tough. But it can be overcome!
Meditation. If I am feeling particularly resistant to writing or just want the extra boost, I like to meditate for a few moments to calm my mind. I particularly like this Throat Chakra Guided Meditation by Late Blooming Light Worker. No matter what I am working on, this meditation always makes me feel more confident in my words! If I want to meditate on a specific story/concept, I will play music that reminds me of it and let my mind wander. This is a great way to come up with ideas without feeling too much pressure.
Journal. I find getting my thoughts and worries on paper helps me to confront them. If that’s not really your style, you can find journaling prompts on sites like Pinterest. If I'm not sure what to journal on, I like to scan prompts until I hear an answer calling to me. At the very least, you’ll be getting writing practice and see your skills improve over time.
Gas Yourself Up. I get it, this one can be difficult and even awkward at times. But if you can get past feeling silly, it really works wonders! You can use affirmations or make declarations like “I am going to write the most exhilarating scene I can!” to an empty room. You can try positive self-talk in a mirror, or listen to music that gets you pumped. Do anything that makes you smile and feel on fire.
Power Pose. This falls under gassing yourself up, and it can feel corny to some, but it really works! I learned this from Yoga With Adriene. Spend a few minutes standing with a tall spine, hands on your hips, chest out. Think “superhero.” Experiment with other power poses and, as Adriene says, "Find what feels good." Maybe go so far as to lift the corners of your mouth into a smile. Even if you don’t feel like it, doing either of these for a minute will make you feel lighter and more capable.
Consider Future You. Sometimes we put things off because it feels hard or uncomfortable now, but we will definitely work on it in a day or two . . . Instead of thinking about all the reasons we don't want to write or all the things that could go wrong, focus on your future self. How will they feel if you met your writing goal today, even surpassed it? Focus on the pride they would feel after a job well done, how relieved they would be to have it done in a timely manner rather than rushing later, how grateful they would feel for whatever you do now.
Assume a Worksona. This is one of the more creative ways to get into a better mindset for writing. It’s like building a playable character you can take the role of when things get hard. You can get inspiration from characters/people you admire, or think about your “ideal” work self. What does this person wear while writing? What kind of routines do they engage in before they sit down to work? How would they approach an obstacle? What would they absolutely not let slide? Once you have it figured out, you can step into the role of this “character” anytime you need to switch gears.
Sometimes all we need is a deadline or a gentle nudge from a loved one to keep us from constantly kicking the can down the street. I can do it tomorrow, I WILL do it tomorrow! Or you could try these tips and maybe do it NOW.
Plan writing goals. Be as specific as you can, but also make sure your goals are REALISTIC. Break up large, intimidating tasks into smaller ones. Write your goals in a planner, calendar, or on a note in plain sight. Leave multiple reminders if you have a habit of swiping notifications away or looking right past the notes you see every day. Review your goals regularly—not only will this help you keep track of them, but it can help you track your personal progress and discover what helps or hinders you.
Tell a friend. Sometimes just knowing someone else is privy to our plans will keep us motivated to not fall behind, especially if it’s something they can do with you. If they’re a good friend, they'll check in from time to time and offer you encouragement . . . or if they're a really good friend, they'll provide a little tough love.
FINDING YOUR FLOW:
Sometimes it's not a matter of getting to our workspace and trying to work, but a matter of not building any momentum. Perhaps you get distracted easily and lose your flow (guilty; Gemini Moon!). If I'm having trouble getting the ball rolling, I like to:
Freewrite. This is one of my top tips. So often we psych ourselves out before we can even open a word document or notebook. If you can show up and spend 5-10 minutes writing whatever comes to mind, you might be surprised at what happens. It doesn’t have to make sense or be related, it just has to get written down. You can edit bad writing, but you can't edit a blank page. To me, freewriting is like brainstorming without the limitations of a subject to write about. Once you're done, you might even have a concept to brainstorm over!
Use Prompts. If finding inspiration is your problem, sites like Pinterest have tons of awesome prompts you can use to find an idea to work with. Sometimes you can even come up with multiple story ideas from a single prompt!
Note Distractions. If you have a hard time with distractions and being scatterbrained like me, take note of these thoughts! I have a mug by my laptop that’s filled with little strips of blank paper. If I get an idea about something else, something to read about, a task I need to complete, etc., I write it down on a strip and put it aside for later. This prevents me from getting out of my flow state, but also helps me not forget things!
LEARN FROM OTHERS:
Are you feeling insecure about your skill level, trying to figure out a method that works for you, or just not sure where to start or go next?
Watch Interviews. Every writer comes up against these problems at some point, so I find it insightful to watch interviews of my favorite authors or authors in the genre I'm currently working on. You get insight into their worlds, their processes, their writing advice, and usually a few good laughs or fangirl moments. We tend to put successful authors on pedestals, and seeing them be human can be really comforting and encouraging!
Get Writing Tips. Take a writing course, read a book about writing, or find some tip videos on YouTube. Jordan and I are particularly fond of Reedsy. The information is presented in digestible portions, and they have videos and exercises to help you at literally any stage of the writing process, often explaining different methods while encouraging your own creative freedom.
Consume What You Want to Create. Whether it's reading, music, or TV, focus on the genre you are working with. Study it. Geek out over it. I like to analyze scenes and chapters in fiction—length and structure, show vs tell, dialogue, pace, the purpose of each scene. It helps me be more aware of what does and does not belong in a story. Music inspires scenes and feelings, while books and TV can give you inspiration for ideas; "but what if THIS happened instead?" and "if this person were to..." are often the first steps to an incredible story.
That's all I've got for today, kiddos! I hope some of these tools will provide you the support you need on your journey, to slay any monster that stands in the path of your creativity. Let me know which one(s) you like best and drop your own tips in the comments below!