Tips for Writer’s Block

September 12, 2022

Pale hands poised over an old-fashioned keyboard. Photo by Min An on

Hey folks!

Imagine this: you’ve come up with a writing project that you’re excited about. You sit down, get words on the page, and things are moving along nicely. And then you hit a snag.

Writer’s block has appeared.

It happens to writers for many reasons – maybe your plot isn’t working the way it should and you don’t know how to adjust it. Maybe you’ve written a few poems on a particular theme you want to explore, and you can’t come up with another one that you like the sound of. Maybe you’re just stuck, period, and don’t know how to get unstuck.

Luckily, there are things you can try to hopefully kick the writer’s block to the curb. Not all tips will work for all writers, but I believe all writers can find something that sparks their brain. Maybe the trick that works changes with the project, or with the cause of the writer’s block. Maybe you need a combination of tricks to get things going.

So, for those of you in need of some writer’s block banishment inspiration, here’s a list of six ideas you can try out. And if none of them work, maybe one of them can be tweaked to suit your needs.

The novel The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. Phot by me.

Tip 1: Read a book

Or a poem, or a journal, or anything that will get your head away from your WIP while still staying lodged in the world of words. Perhaps pick up a favourite book, and notice the things you like about it – what works for you? What doesn’t? What tropes are you drawn to, if any? For poetry, find some poems that resonate with you. What resonates? Why? Underline some lines that made you feel something.

Or just simply read for the fun of it. Don’t think about the craft, just lose yourself in the words. Seeing someone else’s work might kickstart something in yours that you wouldn’t have considered had you not seen it from someone else’s perspective.

This doesn’t even need to be done consciously. Note when whatever you’re reading sparks an idea, but you don’t have to treat this like a study session. Let yourself absorb what you’re looking at and have fun.

*This of course does not mean plagiarize what you read. But reading something and putting your own spin on it? Noticing that you actually really like a certain trope and adding it to your story sounds like the perfect remedy to your problem? Go for it.

Tip 2: Consume visual media

Screenshot of the Netflix home page. Photo by me.

Same sort of thing as reading someone else’s writing. Just consume a story. Let your brain wander and get lost. Maybe it’ll find something about your WIP in the process.

Plus, seeing something on a screen, acted out, might be easier for some writers to riff off of. Maybe you have a hard time visualizing words when they’re on a page, and so coming up with something from print is tricky. But seeing someone act a cool concept out? Hearing dialogue rather than seeing it? You might latch onto an idea in a way that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Screenshot of the Apple music app home screen. Photo by me.

Tip 3: Listen to music

This tip is twofold. One, much like other media, you’re giving your mind permission to wander and think of someone’s story other than your own.

But this is also a great opportunity to create a playlist for your WIP, or for your writing mood. Find songs that get you excited to work on your project, whether that’s in the moment or down the line. Speaking from experience, when I’m stuck or unmotivated, I put on my WIP’s playlist. Even if I’m not writing, I’m living in the story, connecting to the characters, and feeling the vibe. Sometimes I even try to come up with a scene based on a song from the playlist, which can help me get unstuck.

If you have the kind of writer’s block where you don’t even know how to begin a new project, consider turning to music. Maybe a song will inspire a main character, or generate lyrics of your own for a poem. Whatever the case, music might just be your solution.

Tip 4: Go for a walk

Tree-lined path. Photo by me.

I think you’re sensing the theme of the post.

Unlike with the other tips, though, this one lets your mind wander without the guidance of another story or turn of phrase. It’s just you and the sounds of the world, truly letting your mind do its own thing. You might even be stuck simply because you need a break – getting out of your chair and out of your door could do a world of wonders.

Beyond a break from your computer, letting your mind wander can be so beneficial. I don’t know about you, but when I give myself permission to let my brain go where it may, I can go to some wonderful, and sometimes strange, places. Then I’ll snag on one that I find interesting and want to follow. And pretty soon, I’m flushing something out.

Similarly, maybe you notice something on your walk that makes you consider a part of your WIP, and all of a sudden, you have an aha moment. Perhaps on a different walk, you go with a friend and start talking about your WIP. That in turn might unlock something you hadn’t considered, or maybe they provide you with a potential avenue to explore.

In any case, fresh air is good for you. Go get some whether or not you need to get out of a writer’s block 😉

But if you’re stuck and don’t want to take the break approach from these first four tips, give one or both of the next two a shot.

Pink floral journal. The cover reads "Write like no one is reading." Photo by me.

Tip 5: Create a character journal

I’ve used this one multiple times (it might be my favourite on the list). The first instance was when I needed to expand my contemporary fantasy, and didn’t know what my characters were doing in that expanded time. The other was for my epic fantasy, when I didn’t know what my characters needed, how they acted, or even how they thought and felt. With both WIPs, I opened a document and started writing journal entries from my characters’ POVs. In the first case, I found what my characters did and how they felt about it. I got enough material to write multiple scenes. In the second case, I got one step closer to finding my FMC’s voice, and learned exactly what my MMC needed from the people he was recruiting. It pushed me towards the direction I needed to go to actually start writing a better draft.

So if your project has characters but you don’t know what they sound like, or you don’t know what they think about their situation, or you don’t know what’s happening next in the story but you want them to tell you so you can get unstuck, write a journal or diary for them. It can be messy. It can be illogical. It doesn’t need to feel flowery (my contemporary fantasy MMC’s is in bullet points because he wouldn’t take the time to write more than that) or like it meshes with the plot or vibe of your WIP. It just has to be your character talking to you.

You might be thinking, that’s great, but I don’t write fiction. I write poetry. This tip can still work! Poetry is told from the perspective of a speaker. Sometimes that’s you, sometimes it’s a character, sometimes it’s an object. In any case, there’s a perspective to work with. Try writing journal entries for it to help flesh out the content, theme, vibe, what have you. You might just find a poetic spark in the mix.

Tip 6: Write something different

1000 Writing Prompts journal. Photo by me.

This can take many different forms. Maybe you’re stuck at one particular point in your WIP, but you know something else you want to write for it, some other scene or line or poem that’s further down the line. Try your hand at it – you’ll still be working on the project you want to be entrenched in, and you might find some way to move forward within the content meant for further in the WIP.

Or maybe you have another project in mind. Start writing it! Keeps your brain in the writing zone, but gives it a break from what you’ve been working on. Maybe you’ll write something for the other project that you realize fits better with your first, or maybe it’ll spark an idea that you can use in it. (But don’t abandon the WIP you’re stuck on – just because you have writer’s block doesn’t mean the idea is a bad one!)

Finally, you could find a random writing prompt. There are plenty of sites that list some, plenty of social media accounts, and even different journals you can buy (I have 1000 Writing Prompts). These might bring you out of your comfort zone, make you write something you usually wouldn’t, forcing your brain to think in a way it doesn’t normally think. And maybe that’s what your WIP needs – something you wouldn’t usually consider. Or perhaps you’ll find a writing prompt and decide to bend it to your WIP – perhaps you can use it to write a poem that fits your theme that you hadn’t thought of before, which in turn sparks concepts for other poems; or perhaps you discover some cute backstory for one of your characters, and knowing that piece of information actually helps you realize why you got stuck in the first place.

Or, quite simply, switching gears might provide a creative outlet for that writing itch that you just can’t manage to scratch right now with your WIP.

Whatever the case may be, focusing on something other than your WIP for a bit might let your brain consider what really works for your project.

No matter which of these tips you try, or if one gave you an idea for a potential solution of your own, I hope you find a way out of that writer’s block. And sometimes, the best cure for writer’s block is simply a break, if you can take one. It might be longer than a walk or a movie, and that’s ok. Whatever you need to do to figure it out is the right thing. Just keep pushing forward and let your brain do some wandering to find what you need.

I’d love to hear what your suggestions for beating writer’s block are, or if you’ve had any success with the tips I’ve listed here!

Published by Kaila Desjardins

Freelance editor, fiction writer, proud nerd.

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