Enlist your inner child to conquer writer’s block

Defeat your doubts and find your unique voice by going back to childhood—when everything was possible.

Do you remember how easy it was to tell a story when you were a kid?

All you had to do was pick up two mismatched socks and create a simple narrative around Mr. and Mrs. Stripey-Sock.

Back in those days, you always had an audience sitting on the edge of their seats. Good old mom and dad believed you were a best-selling novelist, even at age 5. My parents— bless their hearts—would probably still give me a standing ovation at 27 if I used Mr. and Mrs. Stripey-Sock to this day.

So what changed? Your audience inevitably expands beyond your family to a less forgiving, more intimidating and more outspoken audience. Eventually writing stories becomes more complicated.

Writers must experience growth, so ditching the “pair of socks” narrative is good for your craft—but should you completely abandon your childish impulses when it comes to storytelling? Saving at least one youthful inclination can keep writer’s block at bay.

The true source of all writer’s block

You’ve likely experienced writer’s block without understanding why. I believe the root of all writer’s block ultimately comes from doubt.

We doubt that our characters, our scene and our narrative make sense. Doubt keeps us from telling the story we want to share. The more we question our story, the more we abandon our true self.

When we focus solely on writing a story that will satisfy the mainstream audience, we lose the connection to our unique voice and our childlike creative freedom. That’s the aspect of our childhood we need to keep alive.

So how do we do it? How do we get back in touch with the fearless creative person we once were and rediscover our unique writing voice?

Five minutes of freedom

Take out a piece of paper or open a new word document. Set a timer for five minutes (but keep it out of sight).

For those five minutes, write every thought that comes to your mind. Don’t edit a single word. Don’t allow your brain to correct grammar, spelling, sentence structure or cohesiveness for a moment.

For five minutes, be a kid and dump your mind onto the page. Write a grocery list or a new novel. Get in touch with your most honest thoughts.

You’re probably wondering, How the heck will this help me unlock my creative self?”

After five minutes have passed, you may read your work and realize it’s lunacy. You may scoff and toss this technique aside. Not so fast.

Resuscitate your unique voice

When I first tried this method, I hated it. Over time, however, I became hooked. I discovered that fear of judgement buried my voice. It’s liberating to write without the burden of worrying what others will think.

As writers, we’re taught to structure our voice, but it’s all too easy to let fear of failure nullify your spirit. Try this process for at least a month and you’ll discover your distinctive tone.

Thanks to this technique, I reignited my passion for writing and rebuilt trust in my unique voice. I discovered that readers love honesty, so I am happy to let my voice take the reins more often.

Now I can clearly sense when doubt and fear start to cripple my creative flow. Creating unique fantasy worlds and interesting characters is fun once again.

Whenever doubt starts to suffocate my voice, I take out my timer, open a word document and give a nod to that toothy kid with the mismatched socks on her hands.

What about you? Is there a technique you implement in your writing routine to stay connected to the page? Let me know in the comments section below.

Rae Elliott is writer and editor for the Make Your Novel Fandom-Worthy podcast and the writing tips blog BarelyHareBooks.com. A version of this post first appeared on The Write Life.


Ragan.com Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from Ragan.com directly in your inbox.