Writer’s Block: we all get it. The question is how do you deal with it? Here are a few exercises to get your mind jogged in those times when you find yourself struggling to get the words on paper.
1) FREE WRITE
I know it may sound silly, but just getting your mind in a place where it is ready to start channeling ideas through your pen can be really helpful, even if what you produce is not. Grab a piece of scrap paper and just write something. Anything. Whatever comes to mind. My free writes usually start with something like “OK, so I am stuck again and so here I find myself free writing.” It’s like talking your ideas out with yourself without the threat of looking like an absolute loony, or worse, a jerk using a Blue Tooth in public.
2) WRITE A SCENE USING ONLY DIALOG
This is a challenging exercise that can sharpen your skills as a writer while you are trying to stir up some new ideas. Focus on a real conversation you heard in public or one you had with a friend. The cadence of writing real dialogue may well help you to find a rhythm that helps you in your more serious writing endeavors.
3) RE-WRITE AN OLD SCENE FROM A NEW PERSPECTIVE
Drag one of your old works out of the closet and look at it with fresh eyes. Toy with new perspectives, voices, or points-of-view in the piece. You may find yourself breathing new life into something you once thought tired, or at the very least, you will be providing your brain with very valuable, novel information on work you have already produced. Don’t have anything written to look at? Re-work your favorite classic essay or short story in a similar fashion.
4) WRITE A TWEET-LENGTH NON-FICTION PIECE
Sometimes all you need to get moving is a little bit of confidence, and completing a piece in less than 5 minutes may just be the boost you have been waiting for. The journal Creative Non-Fiction actually publishes a handful of these little gems in their quarterly issues. Worth looking at if nothing else.
5) START A DISCUSSION
Take advantage of those social media platforms and get some people talking. Linked In groups, Facebook, and Twitter all provide forums for writers to talk with other writers about whatever they choose. Use it—you just may be pleasantly surprised.
6) GO OUTSIDE
Take a walk and look around you. Listen to the sounds and voices, look closely at the objects, plants, buildings, and people around you. Think about how you might describe those things in prose. Bring a notebook if you like or just absorb it all until you get home and make notes then. The world outside, believe it or not, is often a better place to look for inspiration than even the internet.
7) READ SOMETHING NEW
Introduce yourself to a new writer or author and study their style. Try writing a paragraph emulating that style and compare your work to the original.
8) READ SOMETHING OLD
Re-read something you love and pay attention to what it is you love about it. Is it the language? The imagery? Are you fascinated or in love with a particular character? What about them draws you in? Examining the work you admire in a critical way is a great way to sharpen your own skill sets.
9) WATCH A BAD MOVIE OR TV SHOW
Again, this one is about confidence. Some of the stuff out there for which people are actually being paid is downright bad. Take it in and take some of that pressure to perform off of yourself.
We writers often feel some intense duty to create and a lull in that process can be maddening. But relax. Even the greatest of the great writers were human—they too had off days, though we do not read about those as often as the good ones. If all else fails, do something else. Just like trying to remember where you put your car keys, those great ideas will probably refuse to reveal themselves to you until you are elbow-deep in dishwater.