Anyone who writes knows that sometimes your worst enemy is yourself. Maybe you know what you want to write but you just can’t get it onto paper; maybe you don’t have any idea what to write but you know you want to write something. Don’t panic! This happens to the best of authors. Having writer’s block simply means that you care about the quality of work you put on paper, which is a good thing. However, this can be detrimental to the creative process, especially if you have a deadline. So how do you avoid encountering writer’s block before it happens?
Ernest Hemingway encouraged fellow authors to stop when the going’s good. That is to say, he encouraged writers to stop well before running out of ideas. Doing this ensured that when Hemingway came back to his writing, he knew where he was going. Many writers go further than ending in the middle of new ideas and end in the middle of a sentence. That way when they sit down next, they will start in the middle and work off what has already been done.
What if you’ve already encountered the dreaded writer’s block? The first thing you should do is breathe. Hitting yourself over the head and trying to force yourself to come up with a novel idea is only going to make things harder on yourself. The best thing you can do in this circumstance is leaving your desk for a while. Try going for a walk: ten minutes in the sun is known to increase your vitamin D intake and your overall happiness. When you go for your walk, bring your notebook with you. The change of location could be just the thing to get your creative juices flowing.
If a walk isn’t possible, or the weather is not forgiving, you should still get away from your desk for a while, maybe make dinner or just relax. If you come back to your desk and you still have no inspiration, there are a number of writing exercises you can try. One particularly useful exercise you can try is the Alphabet Exercise. Pick a letter from the alphabet and write it repeatedly until you think of a word that begins with that letter, the first one that comes to mind. Next, build off that word. Write about a 300 word paragraph out stemming from that idea. This utilizes the idea of stream of consciousness. After you have written your 300 words, read it and determine the theme that is repeated throughout. You should then take that theme and write a short story based on it. Similar to journaling, the Alphabet Exercise determines what is going on in your head and therefore emphasizes the idea that is most important to you right now.
The last tip in overcoming writer’s block is to just keep writing. It sounds silly, but the more you write the easier it gets. It doesn’t have to be the most groundbreaking work of all time, it just has to be words. Open up the conversation between yourself and the paper and it will just get easier every time. Writing is a habit that needs to be repeated every day. Don’t forget that the reason you started writing was because you loved it; if you condemn it as a chore then writer’s block will pop up more frequently. Avoid writer’s block by embracing your love of writing again.