We’ve all been there. Staring at the blank page wondering what we’re doing, how we got here, and what on earth to do next. For some it may be a few hours, for others it may be years. I was one of the unfortunate ones who let the Block chain me down for four years. Why does that stinking little cursor keep blinking when the words just won’t come? So, I’ve made a brief list of things to do when the dreaded Block strikes, and, hopefully, get you back to writing long before I did.
You may think this counter-productive, but step one is to stop writing. If you’ve ever experienced insomnia, you know that the harder you try to go to sleep, the farther away that blissful escape drifts. It can often be the same with writing. You can’t force that next word out, so let it go… for a while. Do not give up. Do not stay away from writing so long that it slips to the back burner in your life. But take a break and do something different.
Some people use this method for many different troubles in their lives from stress relief to pain management. Learning to clear your mind and give it a rest can be therapeutic for many struggles, including writer’s block. As you free your mind from the clutter of grocery lists, bills, relationship issues, and deadlines, you open it up to random thoughts that can lead to fresh ideas for your writing.
Get Out of the House
If you live in the country or even near a park, get outside and take in the scenery. Take a walk by a stream and listen to the water flowing, let it trigger a memory from your childhood and indulge in a moment or two of nostalgia. If you’re a city dweller, people-watching can be a vast fountain of ideas for stories. What is that couple arguing about? Will their relationship fall apart? How long has that elderly man been sitting on that bench? Was he once a handsome young soldier with a beautiful bride waiting for him at home? Look around you wherever you are; taking a nature walk, strolling the streets. Ideas can be all around you.
Why did most of us start writing in the first place? For most, it’s the love of stories. We’ve read books and been taken away to other worlds, and we’ve wanted to create worlds of our own. If you’re stuck in your writing, go back to what got you interested in doing it in the first place. Read the classics, contemporary fiction, non-fiction, whatever you can get your hands on. The more we read the more we open our minds to new ideas, ideas that can be used to fuel that spark that makes us want to write.
Watch TV or a Movie
Like reading, watching stories come to life on the screen can spark ideas for our own stories. Even most video games now have a storyline behind them. Taking a break from writing can be like taking a vacation from work. Relax and do something just for you. You never know where that idea that will break that chain will come from.
Okay, now that we’ve had a decent break, let’s ease back into writing. One of the best tools in breaking the chains of writer’s block is brainstorming. Sometimes called listing, brainstorming can be a good way to get the ideas flowing. Write down the first words that come into your mind about a particular subject you want to write about. Don’t worry about putting them in any particular order, just get them on paper. Once you’ve gotten as many possibilities listed as you can think of, search for a theme among them, what they have in common and narrow them down to a topic you can work with. Clustering is also a great way to brainstorm. If you have a certain subject in mind you want to write about, write it down on a sheet of paper and circle it. As other ideas related to the subject pop into your mind, write them down and draw a line linking them to the main idea. Link other thoughts to the branches you’ve already drawn out. Soon you’ll have a web of ideas related to each other on paper where you can actually see the connections and develop a theme. Freewriting and looping is where you just write nonstop for about five minutes or so about any given topic with no regard for grammar or spelling. Afterward, you can go back and highlight the most interesting and relevant points and begin over again focusing on those points.
There are many different ways to brainstorm. If you google “brainstorming for writing ideas” you’ll find numerous techniques.
These are just a few methods to overcome the dreaded Block. At the beginning, I said, “Stop writing.” Which, for a little while, can be the best thing to do when you’re firmly stuck. But the main goal is to get back to writing. You have the words inside you that can touch other people’s hearts, enlighten them, entertain them, educate them and perhaps even inspire them to create worlds of their own. The chains can be broken. Relax, open your mind and let fresh ideas in, and let the words break the chains.