10 Ways to Unblock Writer’s Block

by on 10.25.2007

in writing

I know, in a logical manner, that writer’s block isn’t a real, insurmountable thing. It’s a lot of possible twists, in your work and in your life, that manifests as, “I don’t want to.” Or sometimes, “I can’t. I really, really think maybe… I can’t!”

But what it comes down to is your imagination, or maybe your muse, telling you, “This isn’t working for me.”

Here’s what I do when uninspiration strikes:

1. Read through it. Read what you’ve already written. Read your notes. Make more notes. It won’t be long before your heroine will say, “You know I’d never do that, right?” Or something to that effect. Sometimes you get scared and you overplot or you try too hard to push the plot where it totally should go, but for the wrong reasons.

2. Change mediums. You’ve been typing on your laptop? Try pen and paper. Go sit at a desk. Sit at your kitchen table. I’ve read some writers devote their work areas to writing. It’s sort of along the same lines as insomniacs only using their bed for sleeping. It’s a great theory, and if that works for you, I envy you. But me? Sometimes I need to change things up. Try brightly colored note cards, white boards, spreadsheets. Anything that gives you a different way of looking at your WIP.

3. Daydream when you’re bored. If you’re a writer, you’re totally already doing this anyway. But, indulge it. Buy a voice recorder or microrecorder and dictate your ideas, the dialogue, whatever pops into your head. Carry a small notebook and pen and write everything down. This almost becomes addictive. And you’re working! You can’t have writer’s block if you spent thirty minutes in traffic and came up with a scene.

4. Freewrite. Sometimes, I still get hung up on that “everything should be perfect” idea. I should know better, but it’s hard, especially when you’re just learning, to forgive yourself bad writing. So give yourself permission to write anything at all about your characters, your story, your plot, your setting, bits of dialogue. And it’s okay if it’s misspelled, it’s okay if it’s bad. It’s just notes.

5. Go read a book. Someone else’s book. Read it, submerge yourself in it, enjoy it. But think about why you’re enjoying it (e.g. “The character’s are so real because they have so many personal details and quirks and life.” or “The dialogue is so snarky!” or even “I wish I lived in that town.”). Maybe you should write what you know, but you should definitely write what you love.

6. Work on something else. Once, during a particularly bad bout (did I mention I struggle with this a lot?), I wrote 40 pages, handwritten, front and back, of a loose synopsis for a completely different story. I don’t know if I’ll ever even use that one, because it’s a lot darker than I usually enjoy. But, I think that was because I needed a bit of an emotional purge. Sort of like rebooting my hard drive.

7. Along the same lines as reading a book, watch a movie or a season of a TV show you’ve heard great things about but haven’t had time to watch. TV may be an idiot box, but I don’t have delusions of grandeur. I take my entertainment in whatever form I can get it. And I don’t have a lot of time for television as a rule. But when I’m waiting for my characters to speak to me again, I squeeze in 22 episodes of, sometimes, great writing. And when I witness great writing, it makes me want to write. “I think I can, I think I can…”

8. Write a letter from your character. Maybe it’s to you. Maybe it’s to another character. Maybe it’s autobiographical. It doesn’t matter, really. Great, important things will come out. You’ll learn about your characters goals, their motivation, and you’ll learn their voice.

9. Write backstory. I know, it’s frustrating to even consider writing 35 pages that will never see the light of day. But, of course, backstory is important. It will see the light of day, hopefully when you masterfully weave it in a piece at a time. Those 35 pages may not see print, but they will make your story better. And when you’re not writing anyway, how can you complain about that?

10. Remember the story is inside of you. It’s your story, and only you can tell it. It’s all there, waiting to be pieced together. Have faith in yourself.

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