15 Ways to Fight Off Writer’s Block
Last week, we talked about what writer’s block really is and a mindset shift that you can use to combat it. However, sometimes it’s not just your mindset that needs changing: writer’s block can stem from anything! It can take time to realize the most common blocks you face and what works for you to get back into the writing groove.
To fight off your writer’s block, you may need to try a variety of writing and motivational strategies to see which ones put you in the most positive and productive writing space. Here’s 15 strategies and activities that you can use to move past your writer’s block and get writing again.
Picture by Art Lasovsky on Unsplash.
1. Work in 25-Minute Productivity Bursts: The Pomodoro Technique
This strategy of working in 25-minute bursts has completely changed my productivity and helped me get around writer’s block. Your timer is about to become your new best friend!
Here’s how it works. Sit down and set a timer for 25 minutes and commit to working the whole time. It’s only 25 minutes! Once your timer goes off, give yourself a five-minute break to do whatever you want. Grab a snack, stretch, play a quick game—just remember to stay within your five-minute limit. Repeat the process a few times, and once you’ve worked for about an hour or two, give yourself a longer break.
This strategy can help motivate you to write because you set yourself a simple, easy goal (work for 25 minutes) and a reward (a five-minute break). Those five minutes can help you find more energy and focus to keep going for the next round of writing, and sometimes it makes you realize that you’re actually excited to get back to it!
If you want more information about the Pomodoro Technique, check out this helpful article by my friend Sarah. She has some great tips about how to incorporate this strategy into your work routine.
2. Utilize Gardener and Architect Approaches
If you haven’t already, take some time to figure out whether you’re more of a “gardener” or an “architect” when it comes to writing. (Check out my helpful post, “Are You a Gardener or an Architect?” to learn more about what these writing styles are and which one you fit!)
Both of these writing approaches have great benefits, and you should take advantage of them. For instance, most architects, also known as outliners or planners, like to make an outline of their story because they don’t like to keep asking “what happens next” as they write. They rarely get stuck staring at a blank page because they’ve already planned what needs to happen next.
Gardeners, also known as discovery writers or pantsers, actually thrive with a blank page in front of them. They get excited to fill it up and “discover” the story as they write it. Discovery writers should keep asking themselves questions as they write to keep their creative juices flowing. For instance, they can ask what their characters would most likely do in a new, stressful situation.
Ultimately, once you know how you work, you can take advantage of the different strategies each writing style offers.
3. Try One Relaxing Activity
Some people struggle with writer’s block because they’ve put themselves on edge—often for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, all you need is a low-stakes activity to relax and get your creativity flowing. You could read a book, take a walk, spend some time with family and friends, or even exercise. (If you’re into yoga, check out this relaxing practice especially for writers!)
The key to this strategy is to only do one activity and to not spend all day on it. Once you’ve finished that activity, get back to writing! Give yourself a small, manageable goal that you can reach to get yourself into the groove. Even if you only write a hundred words, at least you’ve written something.
Picture by Zen Bear Yoga on Unsplash.
I know meditation may sound a bit strange or extreme to some of us, but I’m not asking you to sit in an impossible cross-legged position and hum loudly as you hold your fingers delicately in the air. To meditate, all you really need is a quiet, positive space where you can focus inwardly, whether that means closing your eyes or not.
You can choose a few different ways to focus your meditation. You can try to actively focus on one idea—for instance, you might think about your work in progress and ponder why you’re struggling to write it. You can also try to think about nothing, just noticing any thoughts that come to mind and letting them go. As you meditate, you might decide to ponder your current life situation. Do you notice anything in your life that feels out of place or harmful to creating a productive writing space? Fix it!
So how will this help you get over your writer’s block? Meditating is about taking the time to reflect and focus so you can be in a positive mindset to tackle your daily tasks. When you can clear your mind of any worries or stress and instead focus on the task at hand—writing—you’ll be able to perform better.
5. Write Something Else That Strikes Your Mood
If you’ve ever heard of or experienced “mood reading,” you’ll probably understand that people can experience “mood writing,” too. You might be in the mood for a certain kind of writing, potentially making your work in progress hard or boring for you to write.
Mood reading isn’t inherently a bad thing, and neither is mood writing! Remember, just taking the time to write something every day keeps your writing muscles in better shape. So if you need to take a break from your major project to write something else that just sounds fun, something else that makes you passionate, then do it. Once you’ve finished, you’ll probably be able to come back to your work in progress.
The key with this strategy is to know your writing priorities and goals well enough to know how much time to spend on “mood writing.” If you constantly bounce back and forth between different projects, you might not ever finish writing a single book!
One way that you can use this strategy while still keeping the focus on your work in progress is to write whatever scene sounds most exciting to you, even if that’s the last scene in your book. Find the parts in your story that make you passionate about creating, and don’t worry too much about the order in which you write them.
Here’s one more thought about why you might not be in the mood to write your story. If you feel like your story has reached a “boring” part that you’re just not interested in writing, chances are that your readers won’t be interested in reading it, either. Take some time to think about this part of your book and why it is’t drawing you in. Brainstorm ways that you could make it more interesting. Chances are, once you think of a twist to add to the scene, you’ll be excited to write it and see how it turns out.
6. Use Writing Prompts
Sometimes, all you need to get around your writer’s block is a little practice to get into the writing groove. An easy way to get a little practice in is by using writing prompts. That’s just one reason why I’ve got a series of weekly writing prompts—to help you start writing!
7. Write in a Different Way or Setting
Sometimes, our brains just need a break or a change to kick into gear. You can try changing up your writing space or routine in simple ways to give your brain that break.
For instance, if you typically type your writing in a word document, you could try writing with pen and paper instead. Or you might decide to change up your scenery, like heading outside and finding a nice place to sit in a nearby park.
These little changes can make the writing experience feel fresh, allowing your brain to also come up with fresh ideas and words.
Picture by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash.
8. Find a Writing Group
You may or may not already have a writing group. If you do, you’ve probably already experienced the accountability that comes with submitting new writing each week to a group of writing peers. Many people find that when they know they have to send off 2,000 words to their friends, they take the time to write those words!
So if you don’t have your own writing group, reach out to some of your friends and see if you can get a group organized. Just make sure that everyone can agree on ways to remain accountable to each other and how often you’ll meet. A deadline can be great motivation for you to write and get past that writer’s block.
9. Set Aside Distractions
We touched on this concept a bit in the last post about writer’s block, but it’s so important that I felt the need to mention it again. Whatever might distract you while you’re working, find a way to set it aside or put it away. A lot of things in life can wait a few minutes while you take the time you need to focus on your writing. So let those things wait!
10. Set Aside Negativity
Be kind to yourself as you write. Make your writing space a place of positivity! If you want your creativity to flow, you need to allow it some freedom.
Negative thoughts and words restrict your creativity’s freedom. Make a space where you can write down every idea to show yourself that you have room for all your ideas, good and bad. Encourage yourself as you write. Don’t delete lines as soon as you write them. Let them linger and keep pushing forward. Remember, you can always go back later and choose to edit or delete anything you’re not pleased with.
Writing, or any creative pursuit, is a thrilling activity. But the first step, putting words on a page, is often messy and sometimes incoherent. Let go of any perfectionistic expectations, and you’ll be able to write much more (and much better!) than you thought you could.
Picture by Radu Florin on Unsplash.
11. Add Something Positive to Your Writing Space
Hopefully you’ve made sure to add plenty of positive thoughts to your writing routine, but it can also be helpful to add a physical reminder to let the positivity in. Whether you find inspirational quotes to hang on the wall or just open a window to let in some natural light, find something that makes you happy and lets you be you while you write.
12. Give Yourself an Easy To-Do List
I’ve definitely had the experience before of not being able to write because I feel overwhelmed by all that I need to do. Anyone else been there? I remember when writing a 20-page assignment in high school felt completely impossible. Well, sometimes an 80,000-word book can feel just as overwhelming, bringing on a hopeless case of writer’s block.
Break down your overwhelming tasks into small, easy items that you know you can accomplish in a few hours or in one day. Then, each day, make a to-do list of whatever items you think you can reasonably do. Maybe you’ll decide that you can write three chapters one day, but another day will be completely devoted to a world-building session. Once you start focusing on small, daily steps, you’ll be able to move forward steadily and start reaching your writing goals. Take your writing one day at a time, and soon enough, those days will add up!
13. Talk It Out with Someone
Whether I’m discovering writing in the moment or outlining a story, I’ve definitely had that moment when I’m not sure what should happen next. Sometimes it’s because I see multiple options that could all be really fun to write, and sometimes it’s just because I’m out of ideas.
In these times, I’ve found it helpful to just talk about my problem with someone I trust, like my husband. He’s always willing to listen to the story I’m working on, and he usually doesn’t need to offer feedback before I realize what I should write next.
When we take a little extra time to articulate our ideas out loud, we often understand them better and set our brains into creative motion, completely removing our writer’s block. As we discuss our ideas with trusted friends and family, they can also help us find the ideas and enthusiasm to keep writing.
14. Take Care of Your Body
Sometimes, our writer’s block may be coming from our body’s physical needs. When we don’t take care of our bodies, we become more tired, weak, and unproductive. When we make sure to give our bodies the food, exercise, and rest they need, they give us the energy we need to accomplish our daily tasks.
If you’re not already, commit to getting enough sleep, exercising a little each day, and eating healthy foods. Give your body good nutrients, and it will fuel your brain to work hard and be creative.
15. Find the Right Time of Day to Write
We all have our own times of day that are most productive for us. Some people have the most energy when they write first thing in the morning. Some people prefer to stay up late, writing for hours during the night.
Think about when you typically have the most energy and motivation. Try to block off that time each day as your writing time. Not only will you be more productive because you have the right energy, but setting aside this time and not letting other things interfere with it will make that writing time more special for you. When your creativity feels like it’s getting special attention, it performs better and doesn’t hesitate when writer’s block sets in.
Picture by Samantha Gades on Unsplash.
Well, there you have it! Fifteen different ways that you can use to fight off your writer’s block. Many of these strategies stem from different kinds of blocks, so make sure you think carefully about what might be causing your writer’s block as you try them out. Once you understand where your writer’s block is coming from, you’ll be able to find the right counterattacks to push past the block and write more freely.