Overcoming Writer’s block 2.0

It’s a bane of every writer’s existence. You’re chugging along, everything’s going fine, your story or essay is looking amazing, the ideas and words are just flowing, then boom! You run into a metaphorical brick wall and the idea is gone. No more words to finish your project and you’re not even halfway done. And it’s due either tomorrow or in the next hour. If you’re lucky, maybe it’s a fun project with no deadline. Doesn’t make you any less stuck, but hey! No deadlines!

Yeah, it really doesn’t make it any better.

I’ve been there before and I know how nasty it can be. Writer’s Block, caps required, is truly the bane of every writer’s existence. A running joke around some writing circles is, “You know you’re on something good when Writer’s Block gets in your way.”

So, what can you do?!

Here’s some of the best of advice I’ve gotten to break down Writer’s Block.

1. Take a breath. 

All of us, myself included, have encountered writer’s block. It’s a normal thing for writers writing anything, and we can tackle it together. But panicking tends to make everything worse. Lean back and take a few deep breaths. Heck, look up that awesome gif circling Facebook that you can breathe too. By breathing, your brain gets fresh, wonderful, oxygen and your heart rate slows. Let the panic go. We can get through this.

2. Walk away. 

Seriously. When deadlines loom, it causes panic, and panic causes writing blocks. Reversely, you have no deadline but you have been working on this thing for so long that you can’t see anything but it. Taking a moment to not think of the thing allows you to see it in new eyes when you come back. It’s okay to walk away for a bit. Really.

3. Do something that calms you for at least 15 minutes. 

Since you’re walking away, take that time to literally stop thinking about the writing. Nearly everyone has that one, calming, brain-numbing thing that you do when you are panicked, worried, or overstressed. Take a timer, set it for 15 minutes and let yourself relax in that thing. You need to take care of your mental state first before working on your writing.

4. Change your scenery. 

We’ve all been there. Hunched over a computer or a pad of paper in that one corner of the library or your home where normally, you are able to tentatively tap out your paper or story. But right now, you’ve been staring at the same spot on the wall and nothing is happening. Change it up. Take your laptop, full battery please, and go outside. Find a cafe outside your comfort zone and haunt it for a while. By changing your place of writing it gives your brain a chance to stop, find that wall, and chip away at it.

5.  Find your ending.

You have a start. Maybe you already have an outline. But you are still stuck. Instead of looking at the beginning, what’s your ending? Look over your writing as it is and see if you can find it. Or use your outline to find it. Either way, once it’s found, write it out. Sometimes, having that ending helps you get there.

6. Note card or journal your project.

You have something down. You know what you’re wanting to talk about. . . most of the time anyway. Take what you have, even if it’s the most basic information, and put it on note cards. It makes arranging your ideas flexible and gives you a visual to work off of that can change as you need them too. Journaling works well too! It gives you a chance to just write. You know your project. So write down anything and everything that comes to mind about it.

7. Change up your sounds.

Many writers swear that listening to music while writing helps them. If you’ve never tried it before, anything instrumental is really great. If your writing has a particular ‘feel’ such as fantasy story or a dry paper, you can find a soundtrack that echoes your paper. With new sounds drowning out the craziness of the world, many individuals find they can concentrate better and the Writer’s Block is battered down.

8. Change projects. 

You’ve gotten nowhere with this one. Try switching to a different project, writing or otherwise. If you are writing a story, try googling up some writing prompts. Working through a new problem or prompt can sometimes serve as a battering ram to Writer’s Block. It exercises your brain and can occasionally give you new ideas to work with.

9. Take care of yourself for a moment. 

Seriously. Get food, go for a run or work out, take a nap, and have a shower. Be it a snack or a four-course meal, please eat. Working out or going for a walk helps your brain release the ‘feel good’ hormones. Sleep is needed too. And showers, while not needed, are refreshing. Many writers will drive themselves into the ground trying to beat up Writer’s Block. Do yourself a big favor and take care of yourself first. This alone can shatter that wall hiding your writing.

10. Ask for help.

You’ve tried everything you can think of on your own and nothing works. That’s where friends, family, classmates, and the tutors of the Writing Center come in. Giving your piece to someone else to read and talk over is immeasurably helpful. Even published authors have done this. If you don’t have a friend or family member to draw from, the tutors of the Writing Center are happy to be that sounding board.

11. Last and most importantly: Give yourself permission to write a terrible first draft.

It will be okay. Not one single writer is perfect. Somedays the stars align, your luck is perfect, and you are able to write a great project on the first try. When those days come around, buy a lotto ticket. Many times, the first draft is the worst. And that’s okay! You got the first draft of your thing, DONE. You can always edit or rewrite it later. Just get a draft on paper.

Writer’s Block is a horrible thing. And no matter what happens, it’s going to come around again. By giving your brain a break, it will reward you by tearing down that wall and letting your creativity flow.

If you’ll excuse me, I have a wall of my own to tear down. Happy Writing!

-Neko Sawyer

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