In today’s post, I’d like to talk about one of the most dreaded word in a writer’s life – writer’s block.
It ranks right up there along with rejection and bad reviews. And once we’re caught in it, it’s like a steel trap around our mind, suffocating it’s creativity.
But how do I overcome writer’s block and get back on track again?
I started writing my novel, Dragons of Atlantea, back in August 2014. And after a couple of months, my personal life took on a very drastic turn. Life threw me curve ball after curve ball and I scrambled to get my bearings. I was forced to take a break from writing for several months. At one point, I even thought of totally giving up on writing. But my characters haunted my dreams and wouldn’t let go.
So in April 2015, I started writing again. Only now, when I looked at the screen of my laptop, my mind went blank. All my ideas drained away like sand from a broken sieve and no matter what I did, I couldn’t write anything worthwhile.
But this time, I wasn’t ready to give up. So I researched on ways to overcome writer’s block and tried different ways till I was back on track again. Here are some things that I learnt:
THE FIRST AND MOST CRITICAL POINT – DON’T GIVE UP!
Whatever happens, how many ever times you look at the screen resisting the urge to fling it at the wall, don’t give up. Keep trying all the ways that inspires you to overcome your writer’s block.
INTROSPECT ON WHAT IS CAUSING IT:
If we research on the internet, there are hundreds of exercises and ways. Trying them all will take a LOT of time. And when we’re already frustrated, trying so many things that reiterate our problem will only make us more demotivated. I made this mistake and lost a couple of months. Instead, if we introspect on what is causing the writer’s block, we can try out exercises that are targeted to help us break out of that particular shackle.
In my case, it was grief for a personal loss that I wasn’t able to get out of. For some others, it could be problems at work, stress, worry that the novel isn’t going to be something people like, depression … In fact, the reason for a writer’s block can be anything and only the person suffering from it can really know what could be causing it.
Once we’ve a list of possibilities, we can try the activities/ ways/ exercises that is geared to help us out of the cause of the writer’s block. Here are all the ways that really helped me to break the suffocating and frustrating cage that trapped my story and my characters:
TAKE A BREAK
- Effective for blocks because of stress, worries in work/ family, worrying about how the novel will be received by others, that it is not meeting our own expectations, pushing ourselves to meet our planned targets and deadlines
If you feel your writer’s block is because of stress, problems at work or family, take a break. Your work and family is a critical part of your life. Let it settle down a little and then continue with the novel. It is not going anywhere. If you feel writing your novel will be a stress-reliever from all the problems, then let go of all your expectations and worries and write freely. Don’t worry about grammar and plot and character arcs. Just write and let it all come out.
Another thing that causes a writer’s block if worrying too much about the novel. Many times (especially during the first draft), we might feel that our story and characters are falling short of our own expectations. How are others going to like it? Worrying too much or over-taxing our creative brain can also create a writer’s block. In such a case, take a break and do other fun stuff. Come back a week later and try again. Block still there? Then try some of the below ways, anything that inspires you.
DO CREATIVE WRITING EXERCISES
There are a lot of creative writing prompts on the internet geared to overcome writer’s block. Find one that piques your interest and just start writing about it. Don’ t think, just let the words flow. Your writing need not be perfect, gripping or even readable. Just write whatever comes to mind. Once we do this a several times, the block just disappears. And we even get loads of ideas from the prompts for our novel. So it serves a double purpose.
Another method is to pick 3 or 5 words and make a story about it. This jump starts the creative part of our brain and helps us beat the writer’s block. Pick any words that come to mind and start writing.
Here are also some great sites offering loads of writing prompts to beat writer’s block: My favorite of them all, Writer’s Digest Writing prompts, 365 Creative Writing Prompts, Reddit
If you are a visual person, then you could try out some sites that provide visual prompts to overcome your writer’s block. Here are a few: Write Practice, Slideshare, or you could just search for some pictures in google image search and write what it inspires in you 🙂
One of the common causes of writer’s block is too much organization. Our mind has two modes to it: the creative mode and the analyzing/ organized mode. Sometimes, if we follow a fixed routine, our mind gets set and creativity reduces. In such a case, try doing something different. If you usually write on your tab or laptop, pick up a pen and write a scene in a book. Or vice versa. This method worked wonders for me. Go out to a different place and write. Find a place that soothes and relaxes you (like the beach, the park, or your favorite seat at home etc.) and try writing there. When the mind is relaxed, the words flow like water and the scene writes itself.
RE-READ NOVELS THAT YOU LOVE, THAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE
I love Harry Potter, Julia Quinn novels (they are hilarious!) and most fairy tale adaptations. I found that taking a break from my novel and re-reading these books really rejuvenated my mind and spiked my creativity.
DO OTHER THINGS THAT REDUCES STRESS AND INCREASES POSITIVITY:
The mind gets blocked mostly because of worries, stress, self-doubt and other negative things that weigh us down. Throwing them off from inside us will free our mind and push it to be more creative.
I’ve found two things that really helped me in this: Listening to inspirational music and meditation. Both calms me down, helps me shed all the negative things that assail me (at least for a few hours) and brings about a state of balance in my life. I found meditation especially helped me a LOT in freeing my mind, making me feel refreshed and light. I could balance my creativity with practicality in a very natural and easy way allowing me to write a much better first draft.
Try things that inspire and center you. It has worked wonders for many writers.
FREE WRITE FOR FIVE MINUTES:
Though this method hasn’t helped me personally to overcome my writer’s block, I’ve heard that this has helped a lot of other writers. How to free write? Just pick a sheet of paper and start writing whatever comes to your mind. It could be about your day, your family, food, cats, cars, whatever. The ideas don’t even need to be connected. Let go and just write. Let whatever is in your heart flow out. Many writers feel that, when done regularly, this flushes out whatever caused their writer’s block. Their mind becomes free again to create new scenes and continue with their novel.
STEP AWAY FROM WRITING AND DO OTHER CREATIVE THINGS:
Not able to write the perfect scene and don’t have the inclination to write anything at all? No problem. Step away from it for a time and do other creative things like painting, handicrafts, make a cover image for your novel in Photoshop just for fun, make character profile pics for all your characters … or any other hobby that inspires you. Do that for a few days and come back to writing.
This might sound funny, but this method works wonders for people who find inspiration in their dreams. My entire novel was first written in dreams before they were transferred to my laptop. In our dream state, creativity is at its peak. While going to sleep, just think about the scene that you are stuck in and dream about the various ways it could go 🙂
It’s a fun way to overcome our writer’s block.
The power of positive suggestions have been scientifically proved and accepted world-wide now-a-days. Need to see the proof? Have a look at this video about Dr. Emoto’s world-reknowned experiment on water and how it is affected by thoughts.
What has really helped me besides meditation is the positive suggestions that I give to myself at night before I go to sleep. I suggest to myself that my mind and heart are free of all things negative, that they are filled with creativity, happiness and love. If done with a strong belief, the effect on our psyche is amazing!
That’s it for now … 🙂
If there are some other ways that have worked for you, I’d be delighted to learn about it and update this list. Hope the above ways are of some help to you.