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5 Ways to Avoid Writer’s Block

So often you hear writers complaining about being struck down by ‘Writer’s Block’, a fearsome disease that will kill off every creative thought you ever had. However, I think 95% of the cases people call writer’s block is simply a lack of motivation.

I see it in myself all the time: It’s not that I CAN’T write, it’s that I don’t FEEL like writing. It took me a while to realize the difference.

Since I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t struggle with this, I thought I would share some of the things that work for me when dealing with this pseudo-disease:

#1 – Sit Your Ass Down and Write

And before you protest: Yes, it IS that simple(most of the time, anyway).

If you’re not motivated to write, you’re not going to write unless you force yourself. Just sitting around, waiting for that itch to return, rarely helps anything. Besides, I find that even when the thought of writing makes me want to curl up in my bed and hide, I almost always regain some amount of motivation as soon as I have typed out that first painful sentence. My brain quickly realizes ‘Hey, this isn’t that hard!’.

#2 – Write by Hand

This is my nr. 1 life saver when I feel like I spend more time staring at a blank screen than actually writing.

Pick up a pen and a notebook, and abandon your keyboard for a while. You will quickly discover that your mind suddenly works way faster than you can write and you won’t have to stop constantly to consider what to write next, as you already thought of it long before the words hit the page. Also, because it’s harder to rewrite without a delete button, you won’t be tempted to go back and change a sentence 50 times instead of moving on. That’s what rewriting and editing is for, anyway!

Downside: Cramps!

#3 – Switch Locations

I do my best writing on the train, in the park while my dogs play, in waiting rooms, at parties where I don’t know anyone… But never at home. Why?

Because there’s distractions everywhere.

If there’s a thousand other things I would rather do than writing, I have to make sure I don’t have access to those things. If I sit by my laptop, I have the biggest distration of all times looming over me: The Internet. Reading forums about writing is sure to kill off any writing I might have done. Oh, the irony…

Add to that all the other things I suddenly decide to do when I’m at home with time to write: Walk the dogs, watch programs about sloths on TV, clean the owl’s cage, rearrange my bookshelves, stare at the cat… The list goes on. Funnily enough, I don’t feel like doing any of those things unless I have better things to do. *Cough* write *cough*

That’s why it’s much better to take my tablet(which I HATE using for internet surfing) and an attachable keyboard to a park or a cafe. Puts the mind in a less distracted state, since there’s really nothing better to do.

#4 – Set a Goal

This relates back to #1. If you tell yourself you have to write # words a day, it’s easier to sit down and get it over with.

Last time I used this, I set a very modest goal of 200 words per day, because it wouldn’t seem so daunting. It turned out that many days I wrote close to 2000 words instead, because ‘Well, I might as well keep going’.

#5 – Talk About It

Yes, yes, I know most writers are very solidary creatures, but if you aren’t the type who hides in your dungeon with 6 deadbolts on the door, this might be helpful.

Sometimes it’s good to get out of your own head for a while and share your writing with an outsider. When I’m stuck I often ask a friend for some advice on what I’m writing(or supposed to write) and though they rarely come up with anything useful, just being able to talk about it tends to shock my mind back into action.

Once I asked a couple of friends to brainstorm a twist with me in a Facebook chat. I don’t think they actually came up with a single idea, but sharing my own thoughts got the juices running and it ended up with me spewing ideas and my poor friends trying to write ‘Sure’, ‘What could work’ or  ‘I like the other idea better’ fast enough to keep up.

Do you have any tips to add? What works best for you when the muses abandon you? Share it with us in the comments!

5 thoughts on “5 Ways to Avoid Writer’s Block

  1. #1 – Sit Your Ass Down and Write

    And before you protest: Yes, it IS that simple(most of the time, anyway).

    It’s good that you placed that parenthetical statement in there. I’ve been reading Joseph Conrad’s work quite a bit–and reading about him. In his personal letters, he mentions having sat down for weight hours and written only three sentences, only to erase them at the end of the day. Conrad was such a great genius. And he was such a hard-working writer. His usual routine was to write — or at least try to write — for eight hours a day.

    I don’t have, knock on would, any trouble with writer’s block. When I actually am writing, I often have a difficult time typing fast enough to keep up with the ideas the muses give me.

    John Le Carre and Quintin Tarantino write their stories with pencil and paper.

  2. Not sure I can agree with you about this, at least in terms of someone who is a truly gifted writer. I think that perhaps struggling with — not so much what to say — as how to say it is part of the process. In his letters, Joseph Conrad talks about sitting down for eight hours and only writing three sentences–and then erasing them at the end of the day.

    Myself, I never have a problem with writer’s block, mostly due to some of the techniques you mention. It’s good advice for someone who hasn’t set his goals too high, like me. Check out my novella “Badlands,” if you have the time.

    BTW, I see Jenny also clicked the like button on your blog. She, and others, are constantly doing that to me. That’s why I keep the “likes” turned off on my blog.

    1. Does it matter if they just like the blog? Can’t see it really hurts anyone.

      And I agree, these techniques are not going to help everyone. Writers are as different as all other people and I can only share what helps me. Besides, as I write in the beginning, this mostly helps the writer’s block that comes from lack of motivation. Writer’s block that comes from lack of inspiration is much harder to deal with.
      Thanks for your comment, I appreciate your thoughts!

      1. “Does it matter if they just like the blog? Can’t see it really hurts anyone.”

        It does me, because they don’t like my blog, for they have never seen my blog. There is a group of people who simply go along WordPress’s dashboard and click all the follow buttons. So far, I have 22 followers, not one of whom has actually been to my blog. They are, evidently, only interested in getting people to go to their blog. I’m interested in that also, but I’m willing to actually read and comment on someone’s post, as I have yours. You do indeed have quite a good blog–and I know that from first-hand viewing. 🙂

    2. Indeed, most people are like that on every social network. Most who follow me on Facebook and Twitter is exactly the same, simply expecting me to follow them back.
      I have become quite trained in ignoring them 🙂 And 1 in 100 might actually be someone who’s interested!

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