Writer’s block: that lack of creativity and motivation you need to write what you know you must write. Every writer struggles with it. And when it comes, it feels almost like running into a brick wall. Whether you are a novelist, student, or blogger, here are some essential tips for beating writer’s block and getting moving on your writing.
Sketch out your ideas first.
Don’t feel like you have to have it all together before you start; even an inkling of an idea is enough for you to get started on your writing. Sketch or write out your thoughts to create at least some framework of what you’d like to write. Just wholly freewrite if that helps. If it’s an essay you have to write, try organizing your thoughts first with an essay map. There are many free online tools out there that you can use to group your ideas into an essay map before writing.
Start in the middle.
Why feel pressured to start at the beginning? If you know what you want the middle (or even end) of your essay, paper, or novel to look like, go ahead and start there. The beginning of a piece of writing is often the most difficult to nail down anyhow, so if you’ve already written the middle section before writing it, it could make writing the beginning a whole lot easier.
Stop editing while you write.
Editing while you write can be a significant hindrance to your writing. Let the writing flow more freely by agreeing to stop editing as you write.
Leave out the facts and quotes.
Stopping every few minutes to look up facts and quotes for your piece (especially if you are a reporter) is another way to throw off your train of thought very quickly. Write as much as you can without looking up the necessary facts and quotes, instead of leaving spaces for these things that you can fill in later.
Set a timer.
Try the Pomodoro technique―set a timer for 25 minutes and do nothing else but write, no matter how unmotivated you may feel. Then take a break for 5 minutes after those 25 minutes are up. When you know that you’ll have a short break after 25 minutes, the task at hand may become that much less daunting.
Perhaps you can’t get started with your writing because too many things are calling for your attention. Try turning off your phone, unplugging from the internet, or cleaning up your workspace if it will help you.
Change your environment.
You’d be surprised at how effective a change in environment can be at getting those creative juices flowing again. Move to another area of your home or workplace when you’re no longer feeling inspired, or head to a cafe to let the subtle sounds of clanging spoons and muted chatter be your background music.
Fill the silence.
Silence can be another important reminder of your lack of productivity. Find a genre such as jazz or classical music that can fill the silence without being distracting. Or, try a noise simulation site to fill your workspace with some soft background noise. Coffitivity, for example, recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe, while Rainy Mood simulates the sound of rain hitting your roof.
Take a break.
Are you experiencing writer’s block after already spending hours upon end involved in your writing? It honestly might just be time for a break. Take a nap, read a book, go on a walk or run—whatever it is that will take your mind off of things. One word of caution here: it’s best to choose things that are at least somewhat productive. Productivity has a way of fueling creativity and motivation, and if you only spend your break watching TV or wallowing in self-pity, you may just feel worse after.
Phone a friend.
Try calling a friend and talking through your writer’s block. Tell them about what you are planning to write and what ideas you already have percolating; by the end of the conversation, you’ll already have created some sort of outline for your writing. Your friend may even suggest something that fuels your creativity even further.
Write just before bed—and first thing in the morning.
Doing some of your writing right before bed or right after you wake up can actually help you summon creativity that might not come otherwise. Writing for 15 to 30 minutes before bed, for example, can cause you to dream about what you’re writing and perhaps even come up with a solution to your writing by the time you wake up. (It may sound crazy, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!) Writing first thing in the morning, meanwhile, lets you take advantage of the fact that your brain is still in Theta mode—the brainwave pattern your mind is in when you dream. You’d be surprised at what you can come up with you’re still half asleep.