Even the most successful and prolific writers can suffer from a lack of words.
It seems, too, that every writer has a few tricks to handle writer’s block. Some focus on outlining and sketching out novel chapters; others use apps, calendars and spreadsheets to hit daily word goal.
Sometimes it’s good to shake up your routine to find new creative energy. Try these tips if you find yourself with a case of writer’s block:
1. Go to clown class.
If you don’t have visions of big red noses and funny wigs, you don’t have to literally go to clown school. Still, trying an activity outside your comfort zone and your normal routine is a great way to shake things up and restore your creativity.
It doesn’t matter whether you take a clown class, sign up for a curling league, go to comedy improv night or take a kazoo workshop. Whatever you do, you’ll end up with something new and exciting to write about.
As soon as you return home from your new experience, write about it. Describe what you experienced and how you felt. Write a character profile of someone you met, detailing what they look like, how they speak and what they wear.
Be careful; there’s always a fine line between “shaking up your routine” and procrastinating.
Make sure you use your new activity as a mental refresher and inspiration to get the words flowing rather than as a distraction from writing.
2. Use your hands.
Writers use their hands to type or scrawl notes all day long.
To shake up your routine, try using your hands in a different creative way. Sculpt clay, paint a picture, crochet a hat, or make a collage to turn your brain on to a different type of creativity.
You can apply this technique to your projects.
If you’re writing a novel, sketch your characters. If you’re describing a room, draw the room. What does the sofa look like? How is the table set? Is there a centerpiece? Are there placemats? If you’re drawing a landscape, what types of animals are hidden in the frame? Are there birds, squirrels, insects or a friendly dog lazing about?
You don’t have to write words to make progress with your story.
3. Find natural inspiration.
I love to work outdoors, but you don’t have to bring your laptop with you to find outdoor inspiration and break out of your writer’s block.
Go for a walk or a hike, preferably in the woods, but even a neighborhood park will do.
Consider bringing a journal and freewriting about three different experiences you have along the way. Don’t overthink it. You don’t have to experience earth-shaking personal revelations to have something to write about on the trail. You can write about an interesting tree or a rain cloud or your experience with a blue jay that watched you eat your lunch.
It doesn’t matter what you write about. The important part is having experiences out in nature and putting those feelings and adventures into words.
After you get your creative mind flowing, you might find the words on your blocked project come along easier, too.
4. Find a prompt.
If you Google “writing prompts” you’ll discover more than 1.8 million results. If you’re visually inclined, check out Pinterest’s collection of writing prompts
Wherever you find them, don’t spend too much time trying to select the perfect prompt.
Just pick one, and start writing. Set a timer for 10 minutes (or whatever length of time you like), and write words. If the words don’t come, write about how they’re not coming. Describe your fingers sitting on the keyboard or tapping on the table. Describe yourself. Write about your desk.
Prompts are great, because your only goal is to write for a certain amount of time. Your writing doesn’t have to meet any standards, and no one ever has to read it, but it’s a great exercise to help get your brain going.
If the words still aren’t coming, grab a good book and start reading.
If you write about the book, it might be even more helpful. Read a chapter, and then write about it. Write about your favorite character or favorite scene. Describe your thoughts and what you might do differently. Hypothesize about a character’s motivations or what might happen next.
Be sure not to compare yourself to the author. Just enjoy the story; hopefully, it will help your own story keep spinning along in your mind and on the page.
However you work to conquer writer’s block, don’t worry about it too much. It’s only a temporary affliction. These techniques should help you shake up your routine enough to get back on track with your writing.
A version of this article first appeared on The Write Life.