At some point, every writer struggles with writer’s block. Getting past it is never as easy as other people make it sound. Sometimes, the brain will not write, no matter how much you attempt to force it to do so. So, what is a writer to do when the words will not come? Of all the advice out there, here are a few things that seem to work best for getting pen back to paper. This advice applies mostly to the novel and short story writers, but it can also be useful for writing out those annoying college papers.
1) Take a break. Yes, step away from the paper or the screen and don’t think about writing at all. Cook. Clean. Go for a walk. Go to the store. Talk to a friend. And the whole time, do not think about what you are attempting to write. Sometimes the brain just needs a break. Sometimes you just need a break. How long depends. Sometimes it takes hours, sometimes days. If you come back after a few hours and still have nothing, give it a night. If in the morning you still stare at the blank screen or page, try the next tips.
2) Write something different. Anything different, as long as it is not the work at hand. Start something new, just for a change of pace. Write out a childhood memory. Write nonsense, if it helps. The real trick is to get your mind off the other piece of work and get back to writing something.
3) Write about a new character or about a side character. When your current characters have stopped being interesting, start a new chapter with someone new. Fresh blood might be just what your story needs. It provides a change of view for you and the story. The best part is you don’t have to keep them. You can use them to jump start your writing and then take them out later if you want. Or, develop a character who has a small role in your story. Maybe a side character should become a main character in order to breathe some life into the plot.
4) Read. Reading is a good break as well as a good motivator. If you are reading a good book, it might encourage you to go back to your writing. A bad book might make you feel like you are a better writer than whoever it was who wrote what you decided to read. Either way, books provide stories and stories are what you are looking for. Some of the best ideas can come to you while you read other people’s work. Short stories tend to be the best, as they will be over soon and leave you with a quick look at a different world.
5) Watch a movie. Movies are good sources of inspiration. Watch a good movie, or a bad one. How would you change it? What would your characters do in the world of the film?
6) Relax. Sometimes writers take their work far too seriously. A misplaced comma will not be the end of the world. Try to get rid of the inner editor and just write. Don’t worry about it too much, especially if your worry gets in the way of getting words on the paper.
7) Back story. Write about where your characters were before they got to where they are now. It will help you to get a feel for who they are and what they should do next. An event from their past might also lead to events in the present.
8) Forward story. Write about the future. If your characters are stuck in the present, open a new document or start a new notebook page about where your characters are twenty years later. Maybe they are dead and the other characters are attending their funeral. Did they get to where they wanted to be? This approach might help you think about what happened in your current story line to get them to where they are in the future.
9) Make something explode. A well placed bomb is a good plot starter (think of Stephen King’s The Stand). Or, if explosions don’t work, make something else happen that will completely change the current pace of the story and give your characters something to react to. A car crash. A tornado. Something, as long as the pace changes.
10) Look at pictures. Any pictures. Look at random pictures online and come up with stories for what is happening in them. Imagine your characters in the pictures.
Every writer struggles with writer’s block. You are not alone and nothing is wrong with you if you are suffering from writer’s block. Sometimes words just won’t come and there is nothing you can do about it. And that is all right. Take a break and take a step back and relax. You can do this, even if not right at this second. Relax and have fun with your writing and good luck.