It happens to us all. Most cases of writer’s block come from a place of fear (I’m just no good at this), ‘perfection complex’ (editing while writing), and not giving ourselves space when we need time to think, or heal, or otherwise take a break from the task at hand. Fear and anxiety become excuses for not getting things done. Luckily, there are simple solutions to help you move past whatever is causing the block so that — in no time — you are back to putting words to paper.
- Develop a writing routine. Keep to a regular writing habit, and soon you won’t be able to imagine a day without your writing ‘fix.’
- Eliminate distractions (no social media, cell phone, TV, etc.) Claim your space as a writer and make it clear that – unless someone is bleeding – you are not to be disturbed during the time you’ve set aside to write.
- Don’t edit as you go. Just get the words out. First drafts are rough. That’s why they’re called ‘rough drafts.’ So, write first; edit later – preferably after putting the work aside for a while and then coming back to it with fresh eyes. Note: One of the benefits of working with professional book editors or traditional publishers is that often weeks pass between submitting the manuscript and getting it back with suggested tweaks. It’s mind-blowing what jumps out at you with each round of edits.
- Take a break if you need to. Take a walk, have a cup of tea, take a shower — but set some parameters, so you commit to getting back to work asap. Don’t use taking time away from the project as an avoidance technique.
- Ignore your inner critic. That little voice inside your head trying to convince you that you’re just not good enough to be a writer. Ignore that mean-spirited mischief-maker who chisels at your self-esteem, hoping you’ll prove her right by giving up on yourself before you get a chance to find out that you just may cut the mustard after all. Just get the words out. You can edit once you’ve knocked out that crappy first draft. The best way to put your inner critic in her place is to write.
- Try starting your day with 5 — 10 minutes or so of free writing. I like to start by picking a writing prompt – something that starts with, ‘What if?’ or, ‘I remember…’ and just letting whatever comes into your noggin pour out onto the page. Once the timer goes off (I use a timer), move on to your writing ‘to do’ list. It’s like priming the creative pump and can get things moving when you find yourself temporarily ‘stuck.’
- Try working on something else for a while. I often take breaks from writing to do a bit of (timed) research on the current or another project. Just make sure you remember to come back to the task at hand to stay on track with your writing goals.
- If you are genuinely not feeling well or otherwise need to go ‘off-schedule’ for a day or so, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just be sure you’re not looking for excuses to delay getting things done. Check out this article from Life Hack to determine if you are a chronic procrastinator: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/why-you-procrastinate-7-possible-reasons-you-cant-get-anything-done.html. Some of what you find in this article may be real eye-openers, but once you realize you’re self-sabotaging in this way, you can begin to make positive changes. And that’s a good thing.
- Try to tackle the most challenging tasks first. It feels terrific to then move on to something more enjoyable. Plus, you’re not trying to accomplish the more demanding parts of a project at the end of the day, when you’re running out of steam.
- No excuses. Action is the antidote for inaction. Setting goals (and prioritizing them) the night before helps me get so much more done the next day.
- Don’t wait until you are ‘inspired’ to write. Develop a routine that works for you, get your butt in the chair, and write!
I hope you find something in this post that helps you get moving next time you find yourself struggling as a writer. I’d love to hear from those of you who have stories to share about how they got to the other side of writer’s block.