I have now finished my series of blogs about becoming a copywriter so I’m returning to more general writing topics for a while although I’ll still be covering copywriting from time to time. I thought I’d start with some tips on how to tackle a perennial problem for many writers – the dreaded writer’s block.
Writer’s block usually occurs when your brain is overworked so that you become mentally tired. When this happens it becomes harder to write and you can find yourself unable to produce work that’s of your usual standard. Words that would normally flow from your keyboard are difficult to find and you become increasingly dissatisfied with your work when you read it back to yourself.
There are a few ways of dealing with this problem and some will suit you better than others. It will most likely depend on the extent of the problem i.e. whether it is just a short-term blip or whether it is more long-term. Here are some tips that might help:
1. Continue writing anyway and don’t worry if it doesn’t read quite as good as it should. At least you are getting something down on paper (or screen) and you can always return to your work after sleeping on it. You will often find that you can make huge improvements once you tackle it with a fresh mind.
2. Take a rest from writing for a short while and take part in physical activities such as walking, gardening or swimming as these can enable you to relax. Even watching TV or listening to music can help; basically get involved in anything that diverts your attention from your writing and gives your brain a rest.
3. While you’re taking a break from writing it doesn’t mean you have to take a break from reading. Read a few good books or have a good browse in your local library or bookstore. Do it in a relaxed way though rather than with a particular aim in mind. The objective is to let ideas creep into your subconscious rather than trying to force them to materialise.
4. You could also try reading newspapers and magazines; all those snippets of information and short stories may just trigger something. Again, take a relaxed approach and read them purely for pleasure.
5. Go out somewhere busy such as a bar, the beach or a bustling city centre. If you’re writing a novel then it could be particularly useful to go somewhere linked with your setting. Don’t try to force ideas into your mind though; just immerse yourself in the atmosphere and enjoy some down time.
6. Try writing out of sequence. Sometimes, if you’re writing a novel, you can be stuck on a particular scene but still have plenty of ideas for what happens later in the book. In fact, you may have already worked out the ending. There’s nothing to stop you writing the plot highlights first then filling in the rest. It’s handy to start with an outline, which acts as a framework that you can then build onto, adding more and more detail as you go along.
7. If your writer’s block is particularly bad and none of the above suggestions help, take a holiday. If you enjoy reading then don’t stop doing it during your holiday but take a break from writing.
8. Lastly, and most importantly, don’t obsess about the situation. Worrying about it won’t help as your brain needs to totally switch off. Take comfort in the fact that the situation will right itself eventually. In some ways the brain can be compared to the muscles in your body. For example, if you overworked in the gym and all your muscles were aching badly then chances are you would take a few days off before returning unless you really had to train for something. The same applies to the brain.
Writer’s block can happen to anyone and even the most successful writers suffer with it from time to time. The books I am currently writing are non-fiction, which are mainly researched based and follow a set format so writer’s block is not really a problem for me at the moment. However, I have plans to return to writing novels in the near future so no doubt I’ll be recapping on this post at some point and heeding my own advice.
I hope you have found this article helpful. If so, you are welcome to leave any feedback comments below. Alternatively, if you have any tips for dealing with writer’s block, please share them.