If you are a writer, you already know that writers only function with massive doses of caffeine (from tea or coffee, whichever is your beverage of choice). However, you may not know how to overcome writer’s block, the dreaded nemesis that most writers must face at one point in their career.
You may have tried a few distracting strategies (probably watching tv or checking your social media accounts) but you may not be familiar with some tricks which can make a difference between feeling stuck and feeling open to ideas. Whichever approach you decide to follow, you will surely find some inspiration among these 10 steps. From taking a shower to grabbing a cup of coffee, these tricks can make a difference.
Armed with the valuable knowledge that writers thrive on caffeine, the first step is to admit that coffee is fuel in more ways than one. In fact, coffee breaks are good for you if you want to overcome writer’s block.
For some reason, sipping on freshly brewed coffee while staring frustratingly at an empty word processing page does not quite work. The trick is to change the scenery, ideally getting out and sitting down for a coffee in a nice cafe, or grabbing a take-away coffee and walk around the block.
Here’s rule number one: take yourself out for a coffee when you feel stuck.
2. Fresh Air
We have all heard it before, but do we really take a break from our screens and go out for a walk? Yes, we do. When you don’t need a caffeine fix, your brain may still require a “fresh air fix”. If possible, find a green space near you and observe your environment. Walking in a park or local wood, according to studies, can help to reduce stress levels and improve mood. Writers need to feel calm and relaxed in order to work properly: stress is the enemy of creativity.
3. Write Longhand
Studies found that you use more cognitive areas in the brain when you write by hand: first of all you use more senses, as you feel the weight of the pen and the smell of the paper. Writing on paper allows for more freedom, as you choose the direction of the text and how deep the pen digs into the paper.
Typing on a keyboard is mechanic and each keystroke require the same level of pressure and skill.
Keep a diary as well, if you can. Write every morning on it – it could be anything from being grateful for what you have in your life, to recording your energy levels. This is particularly important for your job as a writer: when do you feel you have the most energy? Is it first thing in the morning, in the afternoon, evening or night? Plan your workload accordingly. Listening to your body is essential for good health and creativity.
4. Dictate Ideas to Your Phone
Sometimes inspiration strikes at the most inopportune times (let’s call them “nature breaks”). If you have your phone with you, record your ideas there and then – even better, use speech recognition to save your spoken word into text. There are advantages and disadvantages in both voice notes or notes from speech recognition: voice notes need to be transcribed, but you can listen back to them. Notes from speech recognition save some typing, but sometimes the software may not be accurate. However, it is much better to have some notes than none at all.
As a back up, also carry a small notebook and pen with you to take notes.
5. Start Typing Anyway
Brainstorm potential ideas for headings to define how the text will progress from one section to the next.
Listing headings does not normally feel like a chore: they can be very short and they can be re-arranged within the text. After creating the structure of the piece of writing, filling in the rest should be much easier than starting from a blank page.
6. Call a Friend
Calling a friend doesn’t only work for TV game shows: getting a break and talking to a friend can open up new possibilities. As you talk about things that are unrelated to work, you may find yourself thinking new ideas. You can also brainstorm ideas or discuss a concept. You may also want to join a writer’s group and network with like-minded individuals who are available to talk on the phone.
7. Use a Timer
Using a timer can be a life-saver: by forcing yourself to work on your project for a limited amount of time, after which an alarm will alert you you need to stop, you will reduce the amount of discomfort you may experience during writer’s block. The rush of adrenaline and the sense of relief from knowing that the alarm will ring should create a sense of urgency that can trigger further creativity.
8. Have a Bath or Take a Shower
Depending on whether you have a bath tub or shower in your bathroom, taking a 20 minutes soak or 10 minutes shower can really make a difference. Call it a “eureka” moment, but there is something to be said about taking an aquatic break.
9. Get Some Coloured Pens
Get creative with post it notes, coloured pens, any other fancy stationery that you may have, and start building a mind map with your ideas. Don’t judge any ideas that pop into your head: just go with the flow. Nothing is too silly or impossible for this exercise.
10. Set a Daily Word Count Target
You don’t need to write a whole novel in one day (unless your publisher says so!). Set yourself a realistic word count target each day. Most importantly, start small: maybe 100 or 200 words a day. After a few days, increase the target. Don’t know what to write about, still? Why not describe what you had for breakfast: you never know when you might need to write a breakfast scene in a novel! Writing about something unrelated to the current topic you are working on will unleash your dormant creativity.
Which Step Do You Find the Most Useful?
These were the suggested 10 steps to help you overcome writer’s block: have you found them useful? Which one was the most useful for you?