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How to overcome writer’s block

Writer’s block is defined as an overwhelming feeling of being stuck in the process of writing without the ability to move forward and write anything new. Writers often experience this phenomenon and overcoming writer’s block can be a little challenging. The process of overcoming it depends on the individual, however, there are ample tools that can help writers along the way.

Here are a few ideas that can help:

Take a break: In order to view your work with a fresh eye, consider doing something else for a while. You can then return a few days or weeks later after clearing and refreshing your mind. During your break, you can do small tasks such as cleaning, taking a walk or even showering and painting.

Research has shown that when you are doing something monotonous, your brain goes on autopilot. This leaves your unconscious free to wander without logic-driven restrictions. You can daydream and eventually make creative solutions that you might otherwise miss.

Jump ahead: One of the tricks that have helped me personally is writing smaller pieces of an article or story without knowing where they fit. Sort of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and perfecting it as you go along. The important point here is to keep going. You can avoid areas of high difficulty and just keep writing. The best part is that the first draft can always be rewritten. This is a freedom that you can make use of!

Pretend you have never read your work before. This is another hack that helps a great deal. Start at the beginning of your work and read it through line by line. You should be able to see where you have gone off track. This method can also help you to string together or finish off hanging paragraphs and make sentences clearer or use better-fitting words.

Create a deadline. If you are a little like me, then deadlines will help. Time pressure gives me focus and it forces me to think and make decisions I may be avoiding. Although this is not a strategy I use all the time, it goes a long way in disciplining me as a writer because when deadlines are created, commitment is key.

Make it more visual. If you are unsure of how to continue with the next chapter or even how to start, try turning to diagrams. You can use sticky notes or diagrams using plain pen and paper, this can help.

Free write. Write. Don’t second guess anything. Don’t worry about the sentence structure, spelling or grammar or whether it makes sense, just write. This will help to push through the block even if most of it is unusable. You can then come back to your work later and fine-tune everything you need to.

Switch up your tool. A change of scenery can help, as you may know. However, switch-ups don’t just refer to geographical locations but also to writing tools. As an example, if you have been typing on your word processor of choice, you can try switching to pen and paper. Even the smallest shift can make a huge difference to your productivity.

Look for the root of it. As Singer and Barrios pointed out, writer’s block often comes from a problem deeper than a simple “lack of inspiration.” So let’s dig deep: why are you really blocked? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I feel pressure to succeed and/or compete with other writers?
  • Have I lost sight of what my story is about, or interest in where it’s going?
  • Do I lack confidence in my own abilities, even if I’ve written plenty before?
  • Have I not written for so long that I feel intimidated by the mere act?
  • Am I simply feeling tired and run-down?

Each of these problems has a different solution, of course. For example, if you feel pressure to succeed, you should remind yourself that writing anything is an enormous accomplishment, and literary recognition isn’t the end-all-be-all of success. Or if you’re feeling tired and drained, you should take a few days off from writing! But you have to get to the root of the block first: once you identify what’s wrong, it’ll be so much easier to fix.