Walking the Walk and Blocking the Block: 5 Cures for Writer's Block
It haunts us, a shadow at the periphery of our laptop screen. It makes no sound, gives no warning, and has no mercy. This predator sinks its teeth into our inspiration, killing it in an instant.
It is...writer's block.
Cue the horror movie scream, guys. Writer's block can feel like the end of the world. We've all heard the novelists' equivalent of urban legends about authors whose careers were ruined by this phantom menace of the mind, and it often seems to be a sentient creature bent on appearing at the most inopportune times possible. You're about to start that elusive last chapter? Ha! No you're not. You've got writer's block. You've finally sat down to write that article you have outlined in the margins of your "important meeting notes?" WRONG AGAIN, SUCKER.
Take heart, my friends, for this enemy can be defeated. Here are a few of the ways I've personally slain the writer's block beast.
1. Just Forget It.
No, this isn't my way of telling you to give up hope and set up a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere (no offense to any readers who actually do live in cardboard boxes. I respect the lifestyle.) Inspiration is a strange creature, kind of like a cat. When you want it to curl up in your lap, the best tactic is usually to just ignore it for a while.
Sure, stick around in the same room - continue to outline, read in your genre, and turn over ideas in your head - but don't go chasing after your inspiration while making frantic pspspspsps noises and acting like some kind of crazed superfan. Make yourself attractive to inspiration. Maybe put on some pants and drink one of those holier-than-thou health smoothies you saved on Pinterest. Keep a notepad and a pen handy in case inspiration comes to meow loudly in your ear at 3am to demand attention...you just need to move away a bit and at least pretend you're busy with other things.
Gets 'em every time.
2. And, Scene!
You know how those romantic movies always have the perfect setup for the big, steamy, protagonists-are-finally-banging scene? Well, consider inspiration your co-star in the hit film 9 1/2 Pages (I really hope someone out there got that reference). Sprinkle those rose petals and put on that Marvin Gaye music, because you're about to seduce the love of your life: your writing.
I once had a hellish case of writer's block in college. I just couldn't figure it out! I had wine, I had *legally purchased* vyvanse, and I was hot n' bothered just thinking about putting those words on the page. But when it came time for the big moment, I had some serious performance issues.
That is until my loving, well-intentioned roommate and best friend walked in and politely informed me that "my room was a sh*tshow." Cue a montage of him shaming me as I chugged pinot grigio and tidied up. Then I lit some scented candles, cleaned myself up, and sat back down. And wouldn't you know? I got right to it, no coc- er, writer's block to speak of!
It's hard to feel inspired in a pigsty, so if you suspect your block could be tied to the piles of dirty laundry and dishes in your room or office, make cleaning a priority. If you don't have the time, go to the library or some other space where they pay other people to clean! Trust me, it does wonders.
3. Be a Dirty, Two-Timing Cheater.
Being 100% faithful to one project at a time can clog up your creative arteries like a five-hundred pound intellectual big mac. Wait, that metaphor was weird. Think of it this way - you're putting a lot of pressure on your piece by making it the sole focal point of your efforts for any length of time. It's getting a little uncomfortable. It's starting to google things like "how to ask for an open relationship" and "how to know if polygamy is for you."
That story can still be your bae, your favorite, your main squeeze. But maybe you should covertly swipe right when you're alone, just to see what's out there. Type a few lines in a different article, maybe edit some chapters in a finished manuscript...nothing too serious. Or just go all-in and throw yourself into a wild affair with a new (or old) flame for a bit.
That main project won't mind. It doesn't even have to know! And you'll be confident and recharged when you get back, ready to prove yourself to it all over again.
4. Run for the Hills.
Or any other landmark, really. Just go somewhere else. And no, I'm not saying you have to go seclude yourself in a Buddhist monastery somewhere in order to get any writing done (unless you actually live at a Buddhist monastery, which is awesome).
What you need is a simple change of scenery. This can mean flying across the ocean or just walking up the street - as long as you're in a new setting, your mind will start to limber up and power on. Familiarity can breed contempt, and sometimes it also breeds writer's block. That's because our brains hate us, and they are lazy, complacent a*holes.
Just kidding...kind of. The human mind thrives on novelty, no matter how much of a recluse you are day to day. It needs change, it needs pizazz! (Insert jazz hands). Give it the ol' razzle dazzle by literally walking two blocks away or by going to a five-star resort in the Seychelles. Your mind won't really notice the difference when it comes to getting creative. It has pretty low standards for itself. #Relatable.
5. Read it and Weep. Or Laugh. Or Sigh Thoughtfully.
Whatever works, as long as you incorporate the reading part. Read in your genre, out of your genre, at the windy, ice-clad perimeter of your genre...but read like your life (and your work) depends on it. Because it kind of does.
Trying to write without being an avid reader is like holding up a flashing neon sign that says "writer's block welcome." You might as well pop some champagne for your writer's block and give it a little party hat.
The pathways in your brain that become activated when you write are the same ones that light up when you read - just some casual neuroscience for you. So when you read, you're working out your "wordbox" and filling it with potential fuel! Pretty neat, right?
To avoid or cure writer's block, you need to find reading material that inspires you. You can't just break out the dictionary and go to town hoping it'll spark the next bestseller. Peruse topics that call to you, cruise blogs and websites that engage you (like, dare I say....this one?). Just keep those words, sentences, and themes flowing, because they're an investment in your creative life!
Well, I certainly hope these methods help you, because otherwise I'll be moving into my very own deluxe box-mansion next door to yours soon. Maybe we can create some sort of under-bridge utopia for people who succumbed to their writer's block. We can call it Boxville and sell slum-tourism packages to wealthy thrill seekers. Come see what it's like to live amongst the failures! Tour includes champagne and party hats!
But if these tips do help, comment and let me know - and share some tips of your very own, if you're feeling generous. Until next time!