Writer’s block is one of those things you either believe in or you don’t. Generally, I don’t. I’m sure there are times when all of us get “stuck” in our writing, but usually there are good, explainable reasons for it. What I don’t believe is that we get in places where we develop a creative paralysis that needs a magical cure.
On the other hand, I do want to offer some practical suggestions for getting the words flowing again if you believe in and experience this mysterious writer’s block. The first things to fix are the obvious ones. You may simply be burned out on writing—pushing yourself so hard that your mind and spirit have reached a stage of “burn-out.” Writing is like any other endeavor—you don’t work at your peak if you are too tired and have not given your creative juices an opportunity to rest and revitalize. I have friend who has suggested that as writers we need a “fallow” season, just as the land does when it has been overworked producing crops. So give yourself a well-earned break and come back to that blank sheet fresh and excited about writing again.
That block often shows up when your regular editors have stopped buying from you for no apparent reason, your new book is a big success and you are sure it’s a fluke and you’ll never be able to do it again, or you are overwhelmed with too many deadlines and not enough time. In those cases it’s more a case of losing our nerve or belief in ourselves. At times like this you may simply need the objective opinion of a qualified outside person to evaluate your work. If you don’t have a writing friend who can be objective, or a writer’s group who will tell you the truth, you may want to pay someone for a critique of a recent piece of writing (see the listing of Editorial Services in the Christian Writers’ Market Guide). Sometimes our writing may need a simple tune-up—like a golfer who goes to a professional to help him improve his swing.
Sometimes we simply need to write something different. If you have been writing a serious feature, you may need to take a break to write a children’s story or a humor piece. Give your mind and emotions a break or a change of scenery. Also, if you tend to write only what you know, pick a subject that takes some research and research until you have to start writing.
If your problem is that you have trouble priming the pump when you get back to a writing project either from the day before or after a longer lapse, there are a few simple tricks that can get you going again. Try one or more of the following:
- Reread what you wrote last to get you back into the piece. You also may want to edit or polish the previous day’s work.
- Stop writing in the middle of a thought, chapter or section so you know where you’re going when you return. If you stop at the end of an idea or chapter, it is harder to get started again.
- Do some exercise to get your body moving and hopefully your mind unstuck.
- Read one of your favorite authors, or start typing a page from someone else’s book.
- Sit down and start typing anything that comes into your head and don’t stop until you start focusing on the project at hand or you come up with an idea for a new project.
- Give yourself permission to write badly. It is often perfectionism that keeps us from starting (you can rewrite it later).
- Write up one of your own experiences as an anecdote.
- If it’s the lead that is stumping you, skip it for now and start where you do know what you want to say. Writing the lead will be easier once you get started. Besides, if you write it first you’ll likely rewrite it later anyway.
- Switch from the computer to typewriter to longhand (or vise-versa) until you get going.
- Read an article in the magazine you’re writing this piece for and convince yourself you can write yours better.
- Write at the same time everyday, for the same length of time. If you can’t think of anything to write, sit and look at the screen until your time is up. Something will come to you..
- When writing, don’t think about the magazine, the book publisher, the money or the fame, think about and write directly to your reader. Put them in a chair opposite you and tell your story.
- Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can only write when you feel like it. A real writer writes when the writing needs to get done, not just when the muse is present.
- Put yourself in the position that if you don’t write you don’t eat. It does wonders for writer’s block!