Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you find yourself staring at a blank page. The cursor blinks, your fingers tap the keyboard and nothing comes. You have writer’s block! But, don’t panic. Here are some quick things you can do that just might be your cure.
1. Get rid of distractions. Whatever you think typically distracts you, set aside time throughout the day that those things aren’t allowed to get in your way. If it’s the internet, or your phone, turn those things off. Hand your phone or your wi-fi password, or both, to a friend or a spouse and say “Don’t give this back to me until I have four pages!” There are also countless writing programs that you can download on your computer that help you to block out distractions. If you’re easily distracted by anything, like a bird flying by outside the window, just write what distracted you into the text and edit it out later. That way you keep your fingers moving and your mind focused on putting more words on the page.
2. Write in timed bursts. This one is my personal favorite, because it has helped me get a lot done. If you’re like me, you can only stay focused for fifteen minutes tops. Tell yourself that you are going to get 1 or 2 hours total writing done throughout the day, and then break that time up into fifteen (or even five) minute bursts where you can do nothing but write. Set a timer to let yourself know when fifteen minutes is up, and figure out how many fifteen minute sessions you would need to make up your goal for the day. You can keep track of them with little tick marks or check boxes on a scratch piece of paper. Whatever you need to do. Sometimes that five or fifteen minute burst will be a pain, and you can reward yourself for doing it and take a break. Sometimes you’ll get into the flow and want to do another burst immediately. Either way, by the end of the day, you’ll have an allotted amount of work done. Even if you don’t make the full 2 hours, maybe you’ll have a solid half hour of work, which would be better than sitting there staring at the screen for that amount of time.
3. Don’t dry the well. Hemingway is famous for comparing a writer’s creativity to a well, and it is said that he left some water in the well by stopping his writing for the day in mid-sentence. I have tried this and sometimes it works. At the very least, you have a task for your next day of writing. You have to finish that sentence!
4. Hang upside-down. This works best for when you’re starting something and are unsure of how to begin. I do this all the time and sometimes it gives me the giggles, but a lot of the time it gives me an idea. Hanging your head upside-down increases blood flow in your brain, which is where your ideas come from. I have no idea if it’s scientific, I just know it works for me. Weird rituals can sometimes really help because your brain thinks, “Oh. It’s time to be creative!”
5. Have a routine. Speaking of ritual, having a routine of any sort can really help with writer’s block. Many famous writers have many different types of routines. It could be something short and superstitious like spinning around and tapping your computer four times, or it could be something regimented like waking up at a specific time and drinking a cup of coffee as if you were going to work. Whatever it is, the routine will make your brain accustomed to being creative when it has done this series of things.
6. Skip ahead. If you don’t know exactly how to phrase the very next bit, skip ahead to a different part of what you’re writing. You can fill in the holes later when you have a better idea of where you’re going.
7. Put it down for a little while. This works well with revisions, or with first drafts. If the project you’re working on is making you crazy, put it down and come back to it after you’ve taken a break. This could be a quick little break, or it could be a week. Maybe you need some space from it and need to work on something else. Maybe you need some time to forget how you feel about it so that you can be more practical with your revisions. Whatever the reason, sometimes the best thing you can do is put it down.
8. Just keep going. Some of the best writing advice I ever got was to keep writing and not care if it’s good or not. You can make it good during revisions, when you have something to work with. But in order to have something to work with, you need to just write.