17 Tips to Beat Writer’s Block, Refocus Your Mind and Write Your Book
It’s controversial, but here at writing.co.uk we aren’t big believers in writer’s block. At least, not in the form everyone talks about. We prefer to see writer’s block as a fleeting set-back, a day of not bringing your writing A-game, or a temporary glitch in your writing progress.
When the inability to concentrate or move forward with your book strikes, you need to re-establish your focus, notch up your concentration levels and really plough head first over that hurdle, pen (or laptop) in hand whilst catapulting yourself back into a solid writing momentum. All sounds a bit unreachable? Here are 17 indispensable tips to help you get back on track with your writing and banish those off-form days – whether you call it writer’s block or not.
1. Get a sense of accomplishment from projects other than writing
From time to time we all need a break or at least a shift in focus from what we are doing on to a different type of task. It is difficult to stay engaged over a long period of time hammering away at the same project, day in, day out. Whilst for the most part writing is entirely enjoyable – hey, it’s your passion after all – at some point you need a brief break and time to regroup. Groundhog Day for writers is not fun – particularly if you are stuck at the same point in your writing. Switch your focus to another enjoyable and creative task for a few hours. Pick something – which once completed, will give you a sense of creative accomplishment – and really go for it. This feeling of accomplishment will bring you a renewed sense of energy for your writing.
2. Cut out the distractions
Being permanently online means that there are lots of distractions – that means skype screens popping up, emails pinging, twitter feeds to scroll through and a million and one other things that suddenly become necessities when faced with a blank page. Sign out of your skype account, your twitter and your emails and don’t let your day be ruled by alerts. Allocate a certain amount of time to your research and then disconnect yourself from the internet. Read our article on the best apps and browser extensions to help you minimise distractions when you are writing.
If you can’t find a quiet place to write and you aren’t a “soothing music” kind of person, try plugging in some headphones and listening to white noise or one of the many YouTube videos of thunderstorms and rain. This drowns out the sounds around you and is perfect for getting cosy and moving on with some serious writing.
3. Set realistic and achievable goals
Even just one day of feeling like you haven’t completed one section or hit one goal makes you feel entirely unproductive and you can lose momentum. Make sure your writing goals are realistic and that every day you get to feel a small sense of satisfaction at having completed what you set out to complete.
4. Coax more, stress less
The ideas aren’t ready yet and they probably need a little coaxing before they will come out in the format you want them. In rare cases inspiration strikes us, but more often than not, ideas take work before they are ready. Make sure there is enough space cleared in your head to enable you to think clearly and coax the ideas out.
5. Face your writing fears
Fear can be crippling and can be a major cause of writer’s block. Don’t be afraid to get your ideas and thoughts down on paper. Don’t dwell on what people may think, or what people will say, write like this draft is really personal and will never see the light of day. Fear will only ever hold you back.
6. Sleep on it or start afresh
It sounds simple but a good night’s sleep and a fresh look at a problem is one of the best ways to re-discover your creative mojo. Set up a clean work space with everything you need ready to start the next day. If it’s still early in the day and you aren’t getting anywhere, have a shower, change your clothes, get out of your tracksuit bottoms, prepare yourself for a new start with your work. However, stay focused, be careful not to use this as an excuse to start rearranging the bathroom shelves.
7. Write bad first drafts
Some authors are too caught up in crafting perfection in a first draft to be able to commit anything substantial to paper. If you spend too long dwelling over each sentence, or searching for the most powerful word or most dramatic opening, you will never get anywhere. The quest for perfection can lead to failure to produce anything at all. A first draft is exactly that, just a draft. Set yourself a writing goal every day and just let yourself write. Try out different writing styles, mix up the structure, anything as long as you are putting pen to paper and letting your ideas flow.
8. Develop good writing habits
Build and maintain good writing habits early on. The habits you form today will stay with you and help make the process of writing that much easier. Make your most important habit to write every day. Write at least five hundred words every day, without fail, even if you don’t feel like it. Don’t edit it or labour over it, just write it.
9. Choose your stopping places carefully
Make sure you halt your writing in a place where you know what will happen next. Get yourself excited about the next piece of writing and try not to stop when you are at a standstill. It is so much harder to get over a hump from standing still.
10. Try writing at different times of the day
If you are usually an afternoon writer, try getting a good night’s sleep and writing first thing in the morning to see if your head is any clearer. If you are a morning person, try setting yourself up for an evening of writing – make a cup of tea, find your favourite place by the window, get cosy and get cracking.
11. Remember what made you want to write
Was it a book someone had written, was it an idea you had, was it a vision of yourself that really got you hooked on being a writer? Whatever it was, find that place again. Picture yourself the way you did when you first dreamed of becoming a published writer. Imagine yourself as that vision you had, after all, half the trick is feeling like the person you want to be – you will find your way there eventually.
12. Brainstorm ideas and experiment with style
Rather than trying to write a chapter in complete sentences, try to brainstorm some bullet points or a mind map. Think about key ideas you need to include, any perfect sentences you already have in your head or moments you would like to use and note them down in any order. Don’t worry about writing it into any kind of format, simply jot down ideas and organise them later. If you are used to writing everything on a computer, try something different – pick up your favourite pen and a big sketch pad or stack of index cards and get creative.
13. Read your work out loud
There’s something very different about actually hearing your work being spoken aloud. Hearing the words echo around the room can trigger all sorts of ideas. Additionally, this is one of the secrets to writing killer dialogue. If it doesn’t sound natural when you read it aloud, you know it needs refinement. Keep at it until the words roll off your tongue as naturally as any other conversation.
14. Avoid procrastinating
That includes avoiding reading articles like this! You can read all the tips and tricks in the world but ultimately none of them will work until you actually put pen to paper. If just getting started seems like an overwhelming task, then break what you have into smaller chunks and tackle one piece at a time.
15. Write somewhere you feel comfortable
Even if it is just to get an idea started, writing in a place that feels like home is relaxing to both the body and mind. This relaxation and comfort can help thoughts in your head flow right out onto the paper. Maybe it’s the coffee shop down the street where the employees know you by name, or maybe it’s in your kitchen by the big French windows, it could even be in bed under the duvet. Experiment in different places that are familiar and see which one helps your writing the most.
16. Move It!
Go for a walk, go for a run, have a change of scenery. Focusing on something physical is a great way to free up your mind and give you room to create new scenarios and ideas. Allow your subconscious mind an opportunity to take on the problem for a while. Return to your desk with renewed energy and focus.
17. Meet with a mentor or friend
Regularly meeting with someone who can talk with you and ask you questions about your writing is an effective way to stimulate your thoughts. Just 20 minutes every now and then, bouncing ideas off of other people and receiving feedback can re-ignite that writing fire.
Picking up momentum from a standstill is one of the hardest things to achieve as a writer. If you can use any of these techniques to get yourself back in the swing, you will be well on your way to getting your creative mojo back. Remember – if you are writing a novel, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Don’t pressurise yourself and don’t be hard on yourself when you don’t have the success you originally visualised. Remember, every word written and every moment of writer’s block overcome, is a step forward in your career as a published author.
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