“Writer’s block isn’t the problem. The problem is not writing!”
Ask any writer, and they’ll tell you that writer’s block is just like an occasional headache that comes and goes as it pleases.
Take me, for example. I originally wanted to write this very article over the weekend, but all my plans were laid to waste, thanks to the block turning my brain to mush (oh, the irony). Come Monday morning, when one should be pumped up and ready to take on the week, and all I wanted to do was throw a blanket over my head and sleep the day away because the creative part of my brain refused to side with me. While avoiding the situation was an option I liberally utilised during college, it isn’t a possibility now, with responsibilities and deadlines to meet. This is what led me to understand what writer’s block is, it causes and cures.
Getting rid of writer’s blocks a work in progress- there’s no quick fix, but there are a few ways to overcome the brain fog and demotivation. And if you need some proof as extra motivation, you’re reading this article, aren’t you? Here’s an actionable list of what to do when you want to overcome writer’s block:
1. Shower First
There’s nothing a cold shower can’t fix. Turning the tap on and letting the cold water first shock and then soothe your body will help you gain clarity on your work. During summers, I prefer going for a swim but the pandemic has rendered this impossible. So, a shower it is!
Plus, some of the best ideas come to us in the shower, so you never know when inspiration might strike. Just remember not to actively think about it.
2. Create A Roadmap
Writing when you’re unable to think straight is a task in itself, let alone writing with no direction. I often find that building a roadmap or outline of the article gives me purpose and a place to start. For example, for this listicle, I listed the subheadings I wanted to cover before actually sitting down to write. If you’re writing a story, list down the plot points in chronological order.
This is suggested for any piece of writing, regardless of writer’s block. Visualisation gives your article structure and direction, which greatly helps when you have a tight deadline to meet. I’ve always found this technique helpful to overcome a creative block too!
3. Forget The Fluff
As a writer, the search for the perfect word is ongoing. My mind runs at 100 km/hr when I’m in the zone, and pausing my thoughts to include eloquent language leads me right at the doorstep of the block.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You’ll feel the block fading away when you just have fun with your writing. Forget about grammar and vocabulary- start by freewriting your thoughts, and treat it like your first draft. Once you’re done, read through the piece and fine-tune it as required.
As the first step, just get the words on the page!
4. Reward Yourself
When I experience creative fatigue, the urge to shut my laptop and scroll endlessly on social media takes over. Not giving in to it only makes it worse! Instead, work on the principle of rewards. For example, since I was struggling to write a listicle with 10 points, I decided to take a short break every two subheadings. You can reward yourself for completing a part of your writing as you see fit. Listen to a few minutes of a podcast, eat a snack, take a walk around the house (coming to this soon), or scroll on Instagram!
This technique is a procrastinator’s way to overcome writer’s block, and it works wonders, which reminds me- just one more subheading to go for my break!
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5. Walk It Out
Often, writer’s block is less about not knowing what to write and more about lacking the motivation to write. This can happen if your mind feels restricted and claustrophobic, which is bound to happen in today’s times.
I often find that taking a short walk, especially outdoors, helps put my mind at ease and refresh it. Though I have the privilege of being able to walk inside my housing complex, walking in the balcony or even around the house can do the trick. If nothing, just stand by the window and get some fresh air for 10 minutes!
6. Focus On Another Task
Not being able to complete the current task of writing, plus the thought of having five more tasks lined up for ‘after’ you’re finished with writing is enough to give anyone an ulcer. Put the article aside for the time being and complete the other tasks on your plate. Once you’re done, take a short break and then go back to the article. Chances are, your mind will be more at ease to write.
All it takes is some shifting around of priorities!
7. Use The Writer’s Cube
Kim Keeline, a writer, came up with the cube concept to eliminate writer’s block. The principle lies in writing about your topic from different perspectives. Each side of the cube encourages writers to think deeper about the subject.
Side 1: Define the idea you’re writing about.
Side 2: Compare your topic to other topics. Write down the common and differentiating factors.
Side 3: Using your senses, describe what the topic makes you feel. Put your thoughts and feelings into words.
Side 4: Describe the features of your topic. What subject does it fit into?
Side 5: Add the topic’s value proposition. How does it help the reader?
Side 6: Debate the topic. Make a pros and cons list of why the topic is worth writing about and why it isn’t.
Once you complete the exercise, you should have enough material to write- a value proposition, facts about the topic, its meaning, and why you should write it. Take that, writer’s block!
8. Change Your Spot
Working in the same spot for 7-8 hours at a stretch is sure to be a bore. Pick different spots in the house and keep shifting around to refresh your mind and stretch your body too.
If you’re like me and need a set routine or timeline when writing, creating ‘writing nooks’ around the house is incredibly helpful. Use blankets and pillows to create a comfortable space, and sit there for a couple of hours at a time. The balcony is my favourite writing spot, no matter the season!
9. Start With A Quote
Read the quote at the beginning of this article? That’s how I usually power through starting my article with writer’s block. When you’re stuck at the beginning, a little push is all that’s needed to get started. Search online for quotes related to your topic and pick one that you can relate to. You can even remove the quote when you’ve finished writing, if needed.
10. Consult A Friend Or Colleague
If you’re having trouble with how to approach the topic, getting a fresh perspective can be helpful. Speak to a friend or colleague and listen to their ideas and thoughts. For example, you could ask about specific research methods if you’re an academic writer. If you’re a novelist, narrate the plot points you’ve outlined and ask for their opinion on making it more engaging.
A fellow writer will always understand your plight, and you’ll definitely get some valuable advice to think about. The next time you want to overcome writer’s block, these methods should help set that creativity loose. Even if you don’t agree with their suggestions, just thinking about them will take you closer to finding that sweet spot in your writing. So, take a second opinion and get started!
Teamwork makes the dream work!
Before you try any of the above ways, here’s a quick grounding exercise to calm those nerves!
- Step 1: Close your eyes.
- Step 2: Breathe in.
- Step 3: Hold for 10 seconds.
- Step 4: Breathe out.
- Step 5: Open your eyes.
- Step 6: Untie your hair.
- Step 7: Rotate your neck clockwise and anti-clockwise.
- Step 8: Shrug your shoulders.
- Step 9: Tie your hair back up.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Creative blocks usually have a trigger, no matter how big or small. Recognize why it’s happening and take actionable steps to overcome writer’s block. Give yourself a break, and the words will come to you!
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Last updated on 2nd August 2021