7 tips to overcome writer’s block

If you’re stuck in uninspired muck, break free by shaking up your routine, editing a messy rough draft or typing out a famous passage.

How to overcome writer's block

Every writer faces the terrible struggle of figuring out what to say next—or what to say at all.

The cause of your writer’s block might be fear, pressure or perfectionism. Sometimes it’s just lack of inspiration. Whatever it is that tends to thwart your thoughts or clog your creativity, here are seven suggestions to get the words flowing:

1. Find something to edit.

Don’t proofread as you write. Leave out words, abbreviate freely, and just jot like the wind in your rough draft. Save your editing for later.

Revisiting rough copy from the day before will spark your creativity and force you to consider new possibilities. Aside from easing writer’s block, reading through your messy first draft with fresh eyes tends to jar loose more coherent ideas. Never underestimate the power of embracing the crappy first draft.

2. Get a running start.

Many writers prime the pump by doing free-association writing—scribbling down anything that comes to mind. You could start by copying a paragraph from an author you admire, or you might type out a quote or passage that inspires you.

Sometimes, just getting your fingers and mind moving forward is enough to pry open the lid of creative energy.

3. Choose your stopping points.

Stop when you know what you will say next—not when you don’t. That is, don’t finish your scene or bullet point before stopping for the night; leave it ready to finish the next day.

Stopping the flow of words when you’re in a groove seems counterintuitive, but this way you can choose your own stopping point—instead of letting circumstances (or bedtime) choose one for you. You’re stopping at a point from which it’s easy to start again.

4. Write slowly.

Do you feel the need for speed? If you’re battling deadline anxiety, you might feel compelled to bang out sentences as quickly as possible, but that makes it more likely you’ll hit a wall.

Try verbalizing your thoughts before typing. When you do type, do so deliberately.

Walk around the room, and speak your words into existence. Craft your thoughts out loud, and then sit down to compose them.

5. Write like the wind.

To break out of a rut, you might also try writing at the speed of your thought.

Writing quickly lets unexpected thoughts slip onto the page. When fresh ideas are freely flowing, strike while the iron’s hot. This is where dictation tools can help.

If you use this technique, don’t worry about editing as you go. Never hit the backspace key more than once. Just keep the tap running until you run dry.

6. Mix it up.

Changing around the elements of your story will often spark inspiration.

You can try the SCAMPER method—which stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Magnify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, and Reverse—but there are many others.

Changing up your approach to writing will benefit more than yourself. Readability experts such as Rudolph Flesch have discovered that readability goes up any time a writer uses an unexpected word, such as “chicken” in an astronomy article, or “cucumber” in a web design article, or any time a writer uses quotation marks anywhere.

7. Recharge your batteries.

One way to break through writer’s block is to change your routine.

Research shows that you can increase your creativity simply by using your less-dominant hand occasionally.

If you’re feeling burned out, spend some time away from writing. Sometimes a walk outside will do the trick. Read a book. Pray or meditate. Visit another part of the world. Chop wood. Talk to a child. Do something that makes you happy.

You’re a writer, but you’re not only a writer. Becoming a more well-rounded human being will make you a more complete, prepared and effective writer, and writer’s block may become less of a problem.

A version of this post first appeared on Daily Writing Tips.

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