(Note: This post was originally published on my previous blog back in 2008.)
Writer’s Block is something that all writers are bound to encounter.
Sometimes the trouble comes when faced with the blank page, sometimes it comes while trying to figure out how to end a piece, and sometimes it comes in the middle of a piece, when the mind just simply loses focus. In my experience, writer’s block seems to be chiefly motivated by one key element: Fear.
Of course, there may be instances when writer’s block is not related to fear. It could also be caused by distractions, mental exhaustion, trouble focusing, etc. However, it seems that for many writers, fear becomes a complication at some point in the writing process.
Whatever the cause for writers’ block, there are some simple techniques which may help in those moments when writing suddenly seems so difficult.
(Note: Every person has a unique writing process, so the effectiveness of these techniques will, of course, vary from person to person. Hopefully you’ll find at least one method which works for you).
Free-writing is a process in which you force yourself to write continuously for a certain amount of time. You can focus your free-writing on a particular topic, or you can simply allow yourself to write down whatever comes to mind.
The purpose of free-writing is to encourage your mind to relax and to express itself freely through language. With free-writing, however, you must silence your internal editor — you must write simply whatever comes to mind, without censoring yourself or correcting grammar or spelling.
The point, again, is to allow your mind to be playful with thought and language, to explore mental connections among topics, and to stimulate linguistic creativity.
When writing comes to a halt, it may help to create a visual map of the main ideas you wish you convey.
If you have already begun writing, you can sketch out a bullet list or a diagram of what you have written so far, and then continue the list/diagram with possibilities for what you intend to say next.
If you get stuck at the beginning of writing, an outline/map can serve as a way to get your mind thinking about the purpose for your writing.
Seeing your ideas organized visually can be an important step in stimulating your mind to transfer those thoughts into language, to put them into words on the page.
3. Give Your Mind a Break
Sometimes writers’ block is simply a result of a mental overload. Often, stress and anxiety from the writing process can cause the brain to freeze up, and creativity ceases.
In these cases, it may help to do something to allow your brain to rest and relax for a brief period of time before returning to your writing. Go for a walk, play a video game for 15 minutes or so, read a chapter of a book, or listen to some music.
Give your brain a few moments to rest and release a bit of anxiety, and then return to your writing with a fresh perspective.
Brainstorming is usually used to collect ideas before writing begins, but it can be a useful technique at any point of the writing process. Similar to free-writing, brainstorming allows your mind to explore freely and to be creative with connections among related (or unrelated) ideas.
If possible, find someone to brainstorm with, as an alternative perspective can often be of enormous benefit to jumpstarting fresh ideas. However, even solitary brainstorming can be a great way to create a rudimentary outline of possible ideas for use in your writing.
Simply write down your topic heading (for example, “Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block”), and then jot down any possibilities that come to mind which fit underneath that heading. You may find that, as you brainstorm, certain ideas seem like tangents — write these off to the side, or create another list for them.
Once you’ve finished brainstorming, examine your list for any connections between ideas. Mark the list up — circle important phrases, draw lines to connect related ideas, etc. Marking connections visually can be very helpful in getting a clear mental picture of how to organize and express your ideas.
I hope these tips help you overcome your writer's blog and get those words on the page!