tips to beat writer’s block

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posed a question on Facebook: How do you get creatively unblocked? She was working on a design project and was having trouble getting inspired. I found the responses — which ranged from a long walk to booze to sex — fascinating. I’ve just finished a fiction writing class that focused on pre-writing and nurturing ideas, which taught me some new tricks. Here are three ways I beat writer’s block.

1. “Go for a drive. Works for me every time.” This was the tip I gave my FB friend, and it’s my favorite for a couple reasons. First, it works even if you’re on deadline, because you can’t always sleep on something but you can almost always spare 30 minutes. I never understood why this worked so well until my fiction teacher explained that when your brain is engaged in a fairly mindless task, it frees up other parts of your brain. Taking a shower, doing dishes or working out have all worked for me too, for the same reason. Do something you don’t have to concentrate much on, and let your mind wander.

2. Just write something. Nothing psyches you out more than a blank page. Put something, anything, on it. Often the way I start on a story is by typing up the quotes I think I’m going to use, and arranging them in the order they will likely appear. Then in the spaces between, I make notes about what I think needs to be said. (i.e. “People are turning to gardening to save money. Also, they’re nervous about food recalls.”) If I do that, take a break and come back, I can usually work quickly to expand and finesse those bare-bones thoughts.

3. Compile a creative music mix. An amazing tip I got from class: Choose a few songs and then play them whenever you need to get in the mood to write. It’s another way you can snap your brain into focus. This works especially well if you have a long-term project (like a novel) or standing assignment. Listening to the same music every time you work on can help quickly get you in the zone. Even better: Listen to it while doing your mindless task. I keep my novel playlist on a CD in my car, on my computer and on my iPhone so I can hear it anytime.

How do you barrel through a creative block?

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4 responses to “tips to beat writer’s block

  1. I’ve got a couple problems that interfere with my creative writing. One is too many ideas. Two is perfectionism. Three is the desire to show how gosh-darned clever I am by throwing in the whole note book.

    Any suggestions on how to get through those. Some days they’re almost crippling.

  2. I’m a perfectionist, too! Chris watches me agonize over these posts sometimes and shakes his head. I think that comes with the territory.

    But you have to turn off your inner editor when you’re working on a draft. Just get something down and tell yourself you’ll fix it later. More often than not when I look back, what I have is better than I think.

    It’s hard to beat the urge to be clever, but I think that gets easier with experience. My older work is laden with alliteration, tons of adjectives, etc. etc. Now I have a much greater appreciation for simplicity.

  3. Alcohol. Radiohead. It’s science.

  4. These are great tips…I think simplicity is something I could learn! But I’m sure it’s much easier to write for yourself (fun), than for The Man (money)….if only because there is no red pen!

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