Writer’s block happens, occasionally, to almost all authors. The creative juices slow down to a trickle or just stop. Inspiration seems to vanish. The writer may be distracted by other events or some adverse condition, or may be under some personal pressure or stress. The block may last for a few hours or, worse, for a few years.
Overcoming Writer’s Block
There are lots of tips on how to beat writer’s block. But one of the best and simplest rules comes from the famous author Ernest Hemingway. In an October 1935 article in Esquire, Hemingway offered this advice to a young writer:
The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing … you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.
By quitting when you’re ahead each day, you can assure that you’ll have something to write the next day. Otherwise, if you write until you “run out of gas”, you have to figure out a way to “refill your tank”.
Breaking this down into specific ideas to keep your momentum going:
- Stop when you know what you’ll do next—leave your audience dangling for space
- Stop when you feel that you must finish what you’re working on—if you push to finish, you may not be writing at your best
- Stop when you feel that you’ve reached a peak in creativity—after all, if it’s a peak, the next is going to be downhill
- Stop thinking about it until your next writing session—give yourself a short mental vacation
Then, make finishing what you’re writing your next task. That way, you can let your subconscious to work on your project. A lot of creativity happens that way. You then start your next writing session by picking up your last thread and finishing what you left undone in your previous writing session.
Some other ideas
- Get away from distractions—the phone, family
- Change your environment—go outside, got to a coffee shop
- Do something creative, other than writing—shop for new wallpaper, paint. You can even read someone else’s writing, or write about something else.
- Get out of your chair and move your body—take a walk
- Write early in the morning, or whatever time you find that you’re most creative—try to stick to that time on a regular basis
As important as any of the above, write, don’t edit. When you sit down to write—a creative act—let it flow. If you interrupt that flow to be self-critical or to edit what you’ve just written, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Save that job for the end.
One tool that really helps prevent writer’s block is to have an outline, table of contents, or plot. If you’ve thought ahead, from beginning to end, you shouldn’t get writer’s block in the middle. Yes, you may get stuck on a detail or how to write a section, but once you push through that, it should be clear sailing.
However, if you find that writing is a grind, and you’re not having fun doing it, you may be writing about something that isn’t a passion for you. In that case, search your soul and write about something else, or spend your creative efforts in some other area.
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