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February 17th, 2014

5 Creative Writing Tips to Overcome Writer’s Block

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by David Rogers

An old typewriter on display

The phrase-that-must-not-be-named: Writer’s Block. Every author succumbs at one point or another, and a good part of the cure is to better understand your own writing process. Here we present five creative writing tips to aid you in your battle with what may well be a writer’s Dark Lord.

1. Just Write! (But Do So Methodically)

Let’s start with the obvious: the best writing tip is that you should just write! It’s been said many times, it’s cliche and it’s true — the only way you can really be more productive is to sit down and force yourself to make that blank computer screen no longer blank.

This is easier said than done, of course; if everyone was able to follow this advice every day we’d all be sitting on piles of more manuscripts. But it’s understanding how to make yourself actually write that is key to productive writing sessions.

2. Overcome Writers Block by Understanding What Writer’s Block Really Is

Writer’s block: the biggest and scariest monster living under any writer’s bed (or desk or wherever). But the biggest problem with this oft-cited procrastination tool is not that you don’t have anything to say when you sit down to write. Instead, the real crippling effect of writer’s block is the notion that not only do you not have anything to write at this very moment, but that you’ll never have anything to write ever again.

Needless to say, this point is what causes our brain to raise our anxiety levels exponentially, which in turn often leads to a less productive writing session. But learning to focus on the fact that though writer’s block is real it is not a permanent setback is key to controlling this anxiety — though this also is much easier said than done.

*Note: this idea is taken from a great book by James V. Smith Jr. called “The Writer’s Little Helper.”

3. Break Your Self-Assigned Writing Time Into Small Segments

This is both related to and a potential solution to the previous point.

First of all, you are setting aside dedicated writing time for yourself, right? It doesn’t have to be every day, but a routine is key to not letting your writing fall by the wayside.

That said, if you set aside an hour of writing every day, those days where you feel that writer’s block coming on can seem incredibly debilitating as you face the prospect of an entire hour’s time wasted trying to think of something to write. This too often results in starting a load of laundry, cleaning up your desk or any number of activities that take your mind off the fact that you are not writing.

One way to combat this is to set aside smaller time blocks — say, 15 minutes each. This is a much less intimidating span of time even if you feel you don’t have anything to write on a given day, and on the better days when the words are flowing out, it’s unlikely that it’ll be that difficult to convince yourself you can go over your allotted amount of time. The load of laundry can wait.

4. When You Can’t Write, ReWrite

James A. Michener reportedly once said “”I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” While there are times when it is best to power through writer’s block and produce something new, other times it is best to instead return to your previous work for editing and refining.

One of the best things about rewriting is it often leads to more writing as you realize that, in hindsight, the story needs a bit more work than just editing. Certainly this can be a great jumping off point to filling that blank screen.

5. Back Off

What happens when the cause of writer’s block comes not from having too little to say, but instead knowing exactly what you want to say? This may sound a bit ridiculous at first, but it comes from the an idea by Andre Dubus III that it’s creatively productive to give your story a bit of freedom as you sit down to write.

This is one of those pieces of advice that’s a little more divisive than the others depending on what type of writer you are. But it’s definitely an interesting concept that may not only free your writing to flow more easily, but make your writing and story better in the process.

“But during my very early writing… I began to learn characters will come alive if you back the f**k off,” Dubus said. “It was exciting, and even a little terrifying. If you allow them to do what they’re going to do, think and feel what they’re going to think and feel, things start to happen on their own. It’s a beautiful and exciting alchemy.”

What are some of your best tips for conquering writer’s block? Let us know on our Facebook page!

Image Source: Flickr