Writer’s block is the bane of most wordsmiths. It afflicts those who put pen to paper, and frustrates even the most prolific of authors. It’s a condition that stops the flow of words and brings writing to a grinding halt.
When you’re a writer – especially one on a deadline – the sudden onset of writer’s block can easily cause a feeling of dread. An empty white screen or a blank piece of paper can mean all the difference between keeping a job and losing it. If you’re feeling that your well of ideas is starting to dry up, don’t panic. Here are some no-nonsense tips for dealing with writer’s block.
1. Just get started. Most times, writer’s block strikes right at the beginning of a project. Titles, headlines, leads, and introductions are often the hardest to figure out. Instead of getting derailed straightaway, skip to a part of the project that you already know. Start on the body and come back to the head later. The important thing is to get the gears turning.
2. Set a schedule. Writers have creative minds that don’t want to be tied down by things like timeframes and deadlines. Don’t let a set writing schedule intimidate you. It can actually help you nudge your brain into being productive by giving it a routine to go by.
In an interview with Neil Gaiman, Stephen King talked about how having an everyday writing schedule keeps him happy as a writer. “I sit down maybe at quarter past eight in the morning and I work until quarter to twelve and for that period of time, everything is real. And then it just clicks off. I think I probably write about 1200 to 1500 words. It’s six pages. I want to get six pages into hardcopy,” he said.
3. Find the best writing conditions for you. Every writer is different. Some need peace and quiet to write, while some like to listen to loud rock music when typing up words. Find what works for you and stick to it. It doesn’t matter if you like writing in a comfortable nook, or you need a cup of tea to think. If it helps you write, do it.
Take a cue from JK Rowling, who wrote Harry Potter in a café. “It’s no secret that the best place to write, in my opinion, is in a café. You don’t have to make your own coffee, you don’t have to feel like you’re in solitary confinement and if you have writer’s block, you can get up and walk to the next café while giving your batteries time to recharge and brain time to think.”
4. Don’t let stumbling blocks defeat you. There are times when you’ve reached the middle of an article and a dilemma presents itself. Instead of getting discouraged and letting your project go to waste, look at it as a challenge. Find ways around the issue rather than force it aside. Be flexible. Sometimes, letting things take an unexpected turn could be the best thing to happen to your work.
5. Go easy on yourself. Don’t let insecurity get the best of you. Giving in to a bout of self-doubt can hinder the writing process. Just write what you feel like writing. When you’re done, that’s when you let your editor, or your client, or yourself snip, cut, and reword anything.
John Green deletes about 90% of his drafts. “I just give myself permission to suck,” he said.
Writer’s block can be a hurdle, but it’s not a curse. Use it as motivation to work even harder and make your writing even better. Neil Gaiman put it best when he said, “But it’s probably more honest to think of it as a combination of laziness, perfectionism and Getting Stuck. If you’re being lazy, don’t be. If you’re being a perfectionist, don’t be. And if you’re stuck, figure out where the story went off the rails, or what you got wrong, or where you need to go deeper, or what you need to add to make it work, and then start writing again.”
Ready to start writing? Check out Freelancer.com’s Writing & Content projects and show writer’s block who’s boss.