Whether you’re already a professional or not, you’ve encountered writer’s block. It’s one of the most crippling experiences a writer can have, and it applies to fiction and non-fiction alike.
But there are a few easy fixes to eventually break your brain out of that cage. Call it training your writing brain. Here they are.
1. Write SOMETHING
Write about how mad you are that you have writer’s block. Write to yourself as the only audience, sort of like writing in a diary. But keep it related to what you’re hoping to write about, even if it’s vague like “writing a blog post.” These can become thousand-word rants, and that’s fine. Don’t worry about editing or structure or anything. Just write in a stream of consciousness, like you’re arguing with yourself. Eventually, your subconscious will speak up and tell you exactly why you’re facing a hurdle and how to get over it.
2. Write What You Know For Sure
This works especially well for non-fiction, journalism more than anything else, but it can apply to fiction if you have enough to work with. Just write the bits and pieces you have. Don’t worry too much about grammar and fixes at this point. You’re just getting the jig-saw pieces down. That will help you see the bigger puzzle, and maybe even help you figure out what that puzzle should look like. Over time you can start doing this in your head, but doing it on the page or screen when you’re starting out will train your brain.
3. Take A Walk
Now, this isn’t about getting back to nature or meditation. This is about doing something that is NOT writing. Try your hardest to not think about writing. Think about everything in your life but writing; your kids, your spouse, your bills, your everything. Get those anxieties and concerns out right now. But here’s the key, know that when you get back to the house your mission is to write. If you’re not in shape, there’s even more motivation to concentrate on this think-therapy, because you will eventually feel like stopping the physical activity. This is a great primer for every other piece of advice here. Clean your plate, and get ready to fill it back up. And if, after you’ve done this introspection, you’re still walking and an idea comes rushing out, perfect. This happens a lot. Your mind is ready to get to work, so rush home as quick as possible.
4. Read Everything
You can read novels or books, if you like, but you probably are already doing that. You love writing because you love reading. But for this, read everything from magazines to blogs. The more pithy and bullet-pointed they are, the better. You want your brain to be overloaded with little bits of information that are seemingly disconnected. Over time you will find that your brain connects the dots much better than before, and it will present solutions to problems much quicker. Also, if you’re struggling to just come up with a concept for fiction, quick news is a great way to invite those “what if” questions.
5. Analyze Like A Writer
This is especially good for fiction writers. When you write, or even conceptualize something, your subconscious is doing the heavy lifting, and it’s near impossible to command it with will alone. So you have to fill your subconscious long before it’s crunch time. This is by far the hardest piece of advice here, because it’s intensely personal. But think of every concrete you see, every experience you have, and try to attach an abstraction to it. See a beautiful sunset? Does it make you feel a sense of foreboding, elation, or awe? Why? Think about every detail and how that may relate to those emotions. Do the same thing for everything. Then, when you say “I want my hero to be courageous” you will know what concretes made you have that abstract emotion in the first place, and your subconscious will reverse the process you did months ago and result in art. It’s amazing when this happens. Try it for at least a month and see the results.
6. Be Outgoing
Writers are often pegged as introverts. You have to reverse this. Meeting other people opens up a plethora of opinions and life views that you would never have thought of. Essentially, think of this as interviewing, though you should try not to make it seem like that. Just be nice and curious. When combined with #5, this will help you become a better fiction writer. If you’re a non-fiction writer, or a journalist, then this will make you more well rounded as you’ll consider all angles and have an archetype in your brain ready to play devil’s advocate.
7. Put Yourself Under Pressure
There’s a common saying among journalists: “I write better under pressure.” They mean that when they enter the office and only have an hour to write, it’s like writer’s block flies out the window. Well, there’s a common retort, “You don’t write better under pressure, but you do write faster.” The reasoning is that if you had more time, you’d actually be able to self-edit and tweak, which always makes writing better. But when battling writer’s block, you just want speed. But you also want to make sure you give yourself enough time to edit, which means you have as few blocks as possible and finish early. So give yourselves deadlines. Make them up and just keep them in your head like a contract with yourself or go the next step and get a buddy to hold you accountable. It always helps to put money on the line, too. Tell your friend that you will give them $10 if you don’t finish a chapter by Monday, for instance. Something small. It will force your mind to work out of preservation.
8. Be A Student Of Structure
If you’re a journalist, blogger, or non-fiction writer, know the inverted pyramid and its variations inside and out. Know essay structures. If you’re a fiction writer, be it a novelist or screenwriter, know the three-act, four-act, etc. structures. No one wants to be a hack structure writer, but it’s there for those times when you’re lost. There’s always the editing phase, where you can blur the structural lines and make yourself feel better. But writers have to write. And if you’re not writing, then you aren’t a writer and can’t claim any kind of “artist” label. So, have that safety net just to keep yourself alive if nothing else.
These are just some broad steps to curb or overcome writer’s block. There’s plenty of articles out there with specific advice that may or may not work for you, but these tips lay the groundwork to hopefully reach that point of block-free writing. If Isaac Asimov and Stephen King can do it, it’s possible. But you have to start somewhere. The most important thing is to never lose hope and never stop writing. But more importantly, never wait for inspiration. Go out and find it.
Jason Boyd has to-date successfully beaten writer’s block and hopes it stays that way. Over the course of 10 years, he’s been a fiction writer, an award-winning journalist, and an active blogger, never taking a day off. Visit his blog Fictionphile.com, where he takes fiction seriously. Maybe a little too seriously. Also, buy his e-novella What Eats Us on Amazon or wherever ebooks are sold.
About Jason R Boyd
Jason Boyd is a 26-year-old author, freelancer, and blogger living in Dallas, TX. I am addicted to fiction in all its forms and have a proclivity to collect then spout seemingly disparate information and facts.