Oh, my gosh! Yolanda needs help to unlock her writer’s block! She’s tormented by worries of failing as a writer—yet can’t get any words on the page. While she’s allowed swords of self-recrimination to stack up over her head, it’s probably not as desperate a situation as she believes.
Like many writers, Yolanda feels that if she’s stuck with her current project—short story, essay, master’s thesis—she’s “blocked.” But if she looked more closely, she might find she’s facing a more manageable problem.
In my wide experience as a writing coach, I’ve seen writers like Yolanda free themselves from the dreaded block quite quickly. They just need the right strategies.
If writer’s block is threatening, check out these common causes and their cures. You, too, may be able to unlock writer’s block and write with ease again!
Start here: Is it really a block?
At a crossroads? Maybe you’re actually just confused about what to do next. “Confusion” is not a block! It’s a reasonable response to the many paths a writer can take at any given moment. Uncertain of which way to go?
Try this: Pick any one possibility, set a timer for ten minutes, and write as if you were committed to that direction. If it’s not right, back up and try a different option.
Empty tank? Exhausted? Pushing forward when our creative tanks are empty is a sure way to grind writing to a halt. While fatigue is not necessarily a symptom of writer’s block, it sure can feel like it.
So, take note: Too tired to write? Give it a rest. Whether you need an hour or a week to recover your mojo, take it. Your restored future self will thank you.
Says who? Okay. Here’s the truth: I hate being told what to do. Maybe I’m alone in this. Maybe not. But I have noticed that when someone is writing a memoir because other people have told them to—“You’ve had such an interesting life”—the would-be writer generally loses interest at some point. Likewise with fascinating topics about which a person is an expert. Or when someone is naturally funny or a great story teller.
If you’re struggling to fulfill someone else’s literary ambitions for you, chances are good you don’t have writer’s block. You probably just don’t want to write a book. Or, at least, not the book other folks are telling you to.
Mix it up to unlock the block!
Pushing an agenda? When we come to writing with a too-tightly circumscribed agenda, we can write ourselves into a corner. Rather than trying to beat our project into obedience, we can play a bit. Free-writing on our topic can allow fresh ideas to surface, unlocking our writing progress once again.
Traveling the straight and narrow? New writers—particularly new novelists—may think their job is to start writing at the beginning and continue all the way to the end. Makes sense, right? But more often than not, this approach leaves them in a rut, wheels spinning.
Instead, imagine which scene might be the most interesting to write today. A novel is a long haul. Making it more fun makes it more likely you’ll actually get it done.
Play hopscotch! Rather than committing your focus to a single writing project, have two or three on the go. When you feel stuck with one, move to a different piece. Hopping from a stalled project to a fresher one is sure to reinvigorate your writing process.
I hope you (and Yolanda!) try unlocking your next bout of writer’s block with some of these strategies. While a little angst can make for interesting writing, I’ve found it’s best to keep most of the drama (not to mention the swords!) on the page, not hanging over our heads and inducing nightmares.
Would you like some more writer’s (un)blocking strategies from a top writing coach?
As a professional writing coach, I’ve boosted writers at all levels of experience out of their writing block slump. Maybe I can help you! Schedule your free consultation.and check out “Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.
Thanks to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for kind permission to use the image of the Nine of Swords from the RIDER-WAITE (SMITH) TAROT.