If being a writer had an initiation, writer’s block would be it. We’ve all had moments where we wrestle with the blank page and lose. Even the best of us have to fight it.
(Can we talk about how J.K. Rowling only dealt with it during one of her seven masterpieces?) I deal with writer’s block everyday.
I get it when I write new posts, I get it when I revise my novel. I get it when I make up writing prompts and those are literally 1-3 sentences a week. So you can understand why I've spent a while looking for ways to get through my writing constipation.
The strategies below are the ones that work best for me. Hopefully one of them works for you, too!
1) Read Your Past Work
Right now I’m revising my debut novel, The Keepers, and it is the most grueling process of my life. Even though I’m re-writing, each page of this 150-page novel takes me about 2 hours. There have been so many moments where I am literally just staring at my screen and waiting for the magic to happen.
When I can’t seem to move forward, my first instinct is to go back and read the last chapter I revised. Reading what you’ve already wrote (or re-wrote) is a great way to move past writer’s block for 3 reasons:
It keeps you in the story
Distractions are a writer’s worst enemy and today they are almost impossible to avoid if you have a phone and/or access to the internet. If you can get through writer’s block without leaving the page, you’re setting yourself up to win.
It gives you confidence
When I’ve spent 2 hours struggling to re-write 500 words, there is nothing more encouraging than re-reading my edited chapters. It reassures me that I am not wasting my time and that all of the moments I spend banging my head against the keyboard ultimately amount to something.
It connects you to the story
When you read what you’ve already written, you get to experience your work as a reader and not a writer. This allows you to get into the characters’ mind and feel the progression of the story in a new and organic way. Sometimes you need to remind yourself where you are so that you can figure out where you’re going.
2) Write A Scene You're Excited About
I don't know about you, but whenever I get an idea for a story I can perfectly visualize the climax. I daydream about it when I’m driving to work, I think about it when I’m about to fall asleep at night. I cast the characters in the movie adaptation, I pick the dramatic score that plays in the background.
I get so pumped to write that part that half the time I don’t feel like I’m writing to get to the end, I feel like I’m writing to create that scene.
Now maybe you don’t go into weird obsessive detail about a certain scene in your story, but I’d be surprise if there wasn’t one passionate argument, battle, or romantic embrace you weren’t dying to write. And if you are just the perfect writer and don’t have any scene that excites you more than the other because everything is exciting to write, try writing a short-short.
When you’re having trouble moving forward linearly, write out of order! Writing the scene you’re excited to write is a great way to get through writer’s block because:
So much of writing can feel like a chore. It’s nice to have a chapter or scene that feels fun.
Even if you go out of order, you’re not losing to writer’s block if you’re writing.
When you write that amazing scene you’ll have a new energy to reach that point in your story. It's a lot easier to get through chapter 11 when you already know how mind-blowing chapter 23 will be.
3) Find A Controlled Brain Break
Sometimes the best way to get through the block is to get away from the blank page. For some people this is taking a walk, for other’s it’s scrolling through Pinterest.
Pinterest used to be my controlled study break because it’s full of inspiration. Whether I’m looking through concept art for my novel or scrolling through my board dedicated to fighting Writer’s Block, there is always new content to be discovered and open up your mind.
Personally, I can’t rely on Pinterest anymore because my “5-minute brain breaks” would always lead me down the rabbit hole and my attempt to write would become a distant memory in a land full of magical pins. Right now I’m using DuoLingo.
You’ve probably heard about it because it’s the app all of your friends download when they tell you they’re finally going to learn Spanish. I love this app for a Brain Break because:
There are lessons, and there are mini-lessons, so I’m never at risk of going down the rabbit hole. I spend 10 minutes completing one lesson, and then I easily remember to get back onto Word and keep pushing through.
It opens up my mind
Now I’m not a neurologist, but when I spend 10 minutes trying to match up “gato” with “cat” and get back to revising my novel, words literally start flowing out of me.
I’ve heard that the human brain uses the same parts to learn math and a new language, so maybe once I free up the “foreign language"/"math” part of my brain, my “writing” part becomes less constipated. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me. Try it out and let me know.
You don't have to use DuoLingo, just find something that makes you think in a new way but doesn’t make you forget that you’re supposed to return to writing. The important thing to remember is you’re giving your writing brain a break not a sabbatical.
So there you have it! Thanks for reading, and let me know what you use to get through writer’s block in the comments! Stay tuned next week for my post introducing the NaNoWriMo Success Series!