I have found on many an occasion that I will sit down to write and the words just don’t flow. Either I get distracted by the fact I have a big pile of books and films to read or watch, or something catches my attention out of the window, or literally anything else that could distract away from the fact that I need to get some writing done. We as writers are very easy to distract when we know that we need to focus. You’ve no idea how difficult it was for me to get all of this post done in one sitting. Well actually you probably do. You’re a writer after all.
For me it’s not usually about not finding the right words, although that does happen sometimes. For me it’s more about having so many ideas buzzing around that I find it difficult to focus on one specific idea or story without the others elbowing each other out of the way, desperately clawing at my mind and seeking acknowledgement that they are ideas worth exploring. Yes, they often are, but just one at a time, please.
With that said, I have also had my fair share of moments where I’ve been staring blankly into space, hoping that something half decent will pour out of my brain at that moment. Sometimes it does, sometimes it does’t. More often than not I get a few token words out of the way before going off to read a book or a magazine to try and restart my creative mind. It happens.
Anyhow, I digress. Here is a very brief list of five methods I use for combatting writer’s block.
1. Move to another room
Quite a simple one in principle. I find that moving to a different room in the house now and again helps with the creative process. A change in scenery can make all the difference. This can be as mundane as literally moving into another room, doing something else for a little while and then returning to your writing. Or you can up sticks completely, taking your writing from the lounge to the spare room or vice versa. I’ve found both techniques to work in the past, although it usually works out better when I have a dedicated writing zone where I can’t be distracted.
Surprisingly, this also includes being able to look out of a window. There have been far too many times where I’ve just stared vacantly outside. If you’re going to do that, get up and look outside from anywhere but your writing location. If you don’t, bad habits will form.
2. Write in a new location
This isn’t the same as moving into a different room. This is going out to a completely different location altogether. If you always write at home but find yourself stuck, go and spend an hour or two writing in a local coffee shop or the library. Get out, experience a change of scenery and use it to power your writing session. I do this now and again and I can confirm that it does help immensely sometimes.
3. Go for a walk
Sometimes it’s best to leave the writing alone and get outside to clear your mind. I’ve found that this can be a very good method of getting the words to flow again. And if not the words, then at least the ideas that will eventually allow me to finish what I’m working on.
It’s best to use this one when the weather isn’t too bad, of course. I’m not going to suggest going for a walk when it’s raining or you’re in the middle of a snow storm. But, you know, when the weather is appropriate you can head out and have a nice walk, declutter your brain and figure out a few story beats that you might have been stuck on.
4. Use a flip chart
I like to be organised, whether it’s in writing or in my day to day life. Organisation is key otherwise I would achieve absolutely nothing. This here blog for example requires a lot of forward planning and organisation on top of the writing, writing, writing that I do for it. How many hundreds of thousands of words are kept here? That hasn’t happened through blind luck, it’s organisation.
And that organisation has been aided in part by using a flip chart. I have two of them on the wall as it happens, and I use them for plotting out either a broad overview of my plans for the year or more specific ideas for one or more projects. It’s up to you how you use a flip chart to support your writing, but I use them for chapter breakdowns, mind mapping/brainstorming, narrative breakdowns and so on. A visual guide for where your story will go can be a great help at times.
5. Switch between projects/writing styles
Are you like me and have multiple projects on the go at any one time? Do you find the words sticking on a particular project, and you’re not making any progress? Then how about switching up your writing style and moving onto another project? Whether it’s the same format/writing style as the project you’re stuck on – be it a novel, screenplay or audio drama – try mixing things up and writing in a different style. Only working on novels? No problem, just move onto your second project and see how far you can get.
I’ve had success with this in the past, especially if the second project is in a different genre or has a distinct tone that separates it from the project I was stuck on. Occasionally this can have a positive effect on the stalled project too. By making your brain engage in a different style, suddenly solutions will present themselves to you and you’ll berate yourself for not thinking about it sooner. Trust me, it’s the writer’s way and this is perfectly normal.
As I always say, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it can be a good starting point if you find yourself staring at a blank or half completed page.
If none of the above work or have worked for you before, what are your preferred methods? Is there anything not on this list that does the job? Leave a comment and let me know, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.