Five Ways to Avoid Writer’s Block
by Matthew Caracciolo
It happens to the best of us. One minute you’re Hemingway, churning out page after page of inspired writing that excites you. The next, you’re in a creative desert unable to find even the next word. What you do write isn’t what you want, and the whole process stalls out of frustration. Writers block is a real bummer, and it’s unrealistic to think that you can avoid it completely. However, just as healthy practices such as washing your hands decreases your chances of contracting the flu, there are some best practices to preserve your creative health. In general, writing begets writing: these suggestions will help keep the words flowing.
Keep to a routine
If you already have a writing routine, good on you. If you don’t have a routine and are tired of writers saying you should have one, I get it. I didn’t have one for a while. I thought “when do I have time?” The answer is you don’t have time for everything you want to do in life, but if writing is important to you, you’ll make time. Wake up earlier. Sacrifice another hobby. It’s not always pretty, but the hope is to flex your writing muscles as often as you can, even if it’s just 30 minutes every other day. Routines set the expectation that you have something to accomplish, and allows you the space to accomplish it. They also act somewhat as mini, self-assigned deadlines. Deadlines produce urgency which produces the impetus to write.
Assign yourself tasks
Rather than sit down and hope your fingers know where to go, tell yourself “today, I am going to write ____.” This can be as ambitious as a chapter or as specific as a character description. Remember, nobody said you have to write in chronological order from start to finish. If what occurs next is what’s getting you stuck, write something else that you know will appear later, or revise something that you’ve already written that you aren’t satisfied with. You can always come back to what may currently mire you in writer’s block.
On that note, if you feel yourself drifting toward writer’s block because you’re not sure how to write the next part, try thinking backwards as a mental exercise. Do you know how you wish to end? What happens just before the ending? And just before that? And that? Write those parts instead.
Engage your brain somewhere else
If you feel yourself starting to overly criticize or think too hard with little in return—sure signs of oncoming writer’s block—then put your brain to work somewhere else, preferably in another creative or a physical endeavor. Write another assignment, draw, build something. Exercise isn’t a bad idea either. Then return to the computer to write.
Put off for tomorrow what you could probably do today
This is counterintuitive, but I’ve found that if I’m writing and still excited about what I’m writing about, I should save something to do for tomorrow. That way, I know that at least tomorrow I won’t have writer’s block because I’m already looking forward to what I have to work on. For example, if you know the next three steps in the plot, write the next two and save the third for tomorrow. If you have small children, it’s a little like the “keep them wanting more” mentality when taking them to museums or zoos—don’t overstay their excitement. Don’t overstay yours either.
With luck, these tips will stave off writer’s block as much as possible. What techniques have you found useful in the past?
Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay
Matthew Caracciolo is a freelance writer and author of The Waygook Book: A Foreigner’s Guide to South Korea from Monday Creek Publishing. He also maintains his own travel blog, Travel is Fatal, on his website. To find out more about The Waygook Book or Travel is Fatal, please visit matthewcaracciolo.com.