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Ten Top Tips for Beating Writers’ Block

May 12th, 2014

When people talk about writers’ block, I’m always reminded of one of my favourite quotes from author Philip Pullman:

“All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?”

And he’s right! If writing is your career then writers’ block just isn’t an option. If you’re feeling stuck and struggling to put pen to paper, take a look at our ten top tips for beating the block.

1. Take a Break: Writing is just like any other job, you can’t do your best work unless you take care of yourself. It’s important to take regular breaks and step away from your computer for a while. If you’re feeling blocked it might just be that you’re a little overworked, so give yourself a twenty minute break to relax and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes.

2.  Shake up your Routine: Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you get your best work done in the morning when no one else is up, or do you prefer to work late into the night? Whatever your normal routine is – change it. It’s easy to get bored when you do the same thing day in, day out, and boredom can mean that the ideas stop flowing. Try writing at a different time of day or on a different day of the week and you might find that your brain starts working differently.

3. Interview Your Characters: If you’re writing a novel or a short story and the plot just doesn’t seem to be coming naturally, it might be because you don’t know your characters well enough yet. Take a break from your writing, and interview your characters using a framework like this.

4. Do Something Different: You’ll have been told already to try things like listening to music, going for a walk or looking through old photographs, but sometimes this isn’t enough. To really kick-start your imagination, be brave and try something completely new. Drive to a new place, experiment with a new recipe or ask a friend to introduce you to a new hobby. You might even find something you like!

5. Get Back to Basics: Ask any successful writer and they’ll tell you that planning is the key, so if you’re struggling to keep the words coming, it might be worth revisiting your plan. Maybe you need to restructure things, or maybe you’ve missed out a crucial paragraph somewhere. Your planning is your foundation, so you need to make sure you have something to build on before you start writing.

6. Go Offline: Procrastination is a writer’s worst enemy, so once your research is done you need to eliminate distractions. Disconnect from the internet, turn off your phone and ignore the front door. Treat your writing as you would any other job and don’t let yourself be pulled away.

7. Try a Change of Scenery: Is the silence of your office driving you mad or are you sick of the sight of your own kitchen table? Pack up your laptop or a notebook and pen and go out for the day. Try coffee shops, libraries, or even a local park bench if the weather is nice!

8. Look Back: Every writer should have a collection of old articles and stories, even the ones you’re ashamed of now. When you’re struggling, look back at some of your old work and see if you can rework an old idea or steal a sentence now and then. You might find that something that didn’t work before is perfect for what you’re writing now.

9. Learn to Recognise a Bad Idea: Or, if not a bad idea, an idea that isn’t working. Don’t waste time on a story or article that isn’t working out as planned. If you’ve tried everything and it still isn’t working, put it away and come back to it later with a fresh perspective. Writing should be hard work, but it should never feel forced.

10. Write Anything: The best cure for writers’ block is to start writing, even if it isn’t good. Start typing and don’t let yourself stop until you’ve filled a page, you can always make it better. After all, you can’t edit a blank page.

 

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