If writer’s block has got you stuck, stop staring at a blinking cursor and telling yourself to think. Like a toddler who has just learned the word no, your brain will probably just get more stubborn the more insistent you get. It’s time for a new strategy.
Use writing prompts to help get your neurons started. If you enter the phrase “writing prompts” into your search engine of choice, you’ll find oodles of websites offering hypothetical scenarios or questions that you could use for inspiration. Another trick is to go to websites such as Duotrope.com, which compile calls for submissions from publishers and editors. Some are surprisingly specific, and if you get your inspiration from calls for submissions, there will be an obvious place to submit your story for publication when it’s done.
Pick other people’s brains. Writer’s block is common, but writers’ block is rare. Consulting other people is especially useful when you’re in the middle of a story and you’re not sure what should happen next. Sometimes it’s not even ideas that other people come up with that turn out to be useful, but the questions that they ask in the process of trying to think of a suggestion, which may prompt you to think about what you are writing in a new way.
If you don’t have a friend handy to discuss things with, try an online forum for authors, such as the one on Scribophile.com. You may be able to get some ideas from people you don’t know (yet) and return the favor by helping someone else who’s stuck.
Write things out of order. If you’re trying to tell a story in chronological order and you get stuck, it’s okay to skip ahead a little, or go back in time. Don’t worry about making the details consistent with what you’ve already written. Sometimes the inconsistencies are can help you figure out what you need to change in order to get past the place where you got stuck.
Write in secret. You may be censoring yourself as you imagine what other people will think of what you wrote, before you even write it. This can block a lot of good ideas before you really give yourself time to explore them. Try writing alone, store your work somewhere hidden, and lock it up or password protect it. Don’t even tell people that a piece of writing exists until you’re sure you want to share it, just like you don’t open your mouth to share your thoughts unless you decide they’re worth sharing. If you treat your first drafts more like thoughts than like speech, your internal censor may put the cap back on its big black marker.