If you’re a writer struggling with writer’s block, you know a little something about stress. After all, what is writer’s block but a seemingly insurmountable wall erected as a result of the pressure you put on yourself?
That’s stress. You want what you write to be perfect. But you’re told, and you know, that perfection is unattainable. So you procrastinate. Why bother even trying when you know that you can’t create the perfect story, book, essay, poem, or song?
That’s writer’s block in a nutshell.
Fortunately, there are ways to overcome this and move through the creative process. Some will get you over the hump of formulating your ideas, while others will move the process through to completion. Wherever your block enters in, there are ways to move through it.
Here are my top ten tips to overcoming writer’s block
1. Go with the flow
If you get a creative impulse, take time out and explore it. Inspiration doesn’t come along everyday. Use it while it’s there.
2. Create a separate physical space for creating
If you have a place where you complete your writing “tasks,” find or create a different space where you can relax and allow thoughts to run riot. If you need quiet, find someplace quiet. If you need noise, go where there’s noise. The object here is to make sure you have a place where your creative juices flow.
3. Always carry a notebook or audio recorder with you
Great ideas happen everywhere and you want to make sure you still have them when you’re ready to use them.
4. Try writing exercises that have nothing to do with the project you need to work on
Pick a random person on the street and write your version of their life story. Pick an ordinary object and write about it. Personify it. Write everything you can think of about it. The point here is that creativity begets creativity. Make time for it. Try combining things that would not normally be combined and write about them, for example – write a short dialogue about two famous historical people from different eras meeting – what could happen?
5. Try a different creative activity
Try drawing or playing guitar. The variety will generate new connections, ideas, and enthusiasm. Again, creativity begets creativity.
6. Just start
Starting is often the hardest part of the whole process. When you’ve got your ideas relatively sorted out, and it’s time to start putting pen to paper, do it. Don’t worry about where it’s going or what’s next. Just get the starting bit over with.
7. Don’t edit as you go
Do this later. Editing is a separate process. There’s no need to make it perfect right out of the gate. If you worry about every little imperfection during the writing phase, you’ll paralyse yourself. Worry about that later. For now, just write what comes.
8. Organise your process
Break your project into small chunks, and only focus on the chunk at hand. Develop a schedule for your writing and stick to it. Be realistic in your expectations. Schedule maybe 500 words at a time. And give yourself a reward or extra break after completing each chunk. It helps you to feel the process moving forward if you can look back at all the little tasks you’ve completed.
9. Accept that much of what you write will be changed or even end up in the trash
Write it all anyway. The gems will be in there amongst the trash. Don’t spend time worrying that each word or idea gets written down perfectly. It prevents you from getting anything down, and that includes the gems.
10. Forget the critics
Don’t set yourself or your work up to be judged by others. Everyone’s got opinions. Realize that it is far better to have your work out there making whatever impact it will than not to because you’re too worried that somebody won’t like it.
While writer’s block comes with some of its own characteristics unique to writers attempting to do their life’s work, it really is just another manifestation of stress. Overcoming it involves many of the same techniques we use to combat stress of all kinds. It’s about finding ways to manage your expectations and move toward accomplishing your goals. Now get to work!