How to Conquer Writer's Block

By thatswrite 5 comments

Writer’s block can seem insurmountable. Luckily, it does have tried-and-true remedies. So when you are at your wit’s end and cannot seem to put a decent sentence together, give yourself the opportunity to try a few of these exercises for jump-starting your writing.

One approach: abandon the idea that you must write well.


Creation, or the process of writing words on a previously blank paper, is the single hardest step of creating content. In contrast, editing will always be easier because it begins with preexisting material. Writing itself always predates critique, revision, and correction. Often, writer’s block stems from self-inflicted pressures. Wanting to start a piece the right way or feeling dry of inspiration can result in fruitless brainstorming added to the ever-looming pressure to produce.

That said, remain vigilant against censoring yourself when you write. Broach a topic by writing down thoughts, ideas, and knowledge you already have without placing judgment or evaluation. Do not allow yourself to begin the editing process before you have something to edit. Capturing every illogical jump and knowledge gap will reveal your next step, so it is essential to allow yourself a free stream of thought beforehand. Your first goal in writing is to do just that: write.

If you don’t have any ideas whatsoever, explore topics by asking yourself – and others – questions that provoke honest, raw answers.

What are you most angry about right now?
What is the most important issue you’re grappling with?
What is the most exciting thing you can think of?
What do you find fascinating, outrageous, or annoying?
Let the answers and emotions direct your train of thought. Follow opinions and flesh out significant themes, ideas, and issues. Actively take an interest in the world, and in others. If needed, keep notes on your observations, even if they seem minute at the time. This will preserve ideas for writing when you need them.

Some ways to remain open to inspiration in your daily life include reading news articles (noting what you find interesting), doing simple searches online in scientific databases, reading books on subjects you want to understand, and making sure that you remain receptive to new ideas and opposing information. Unlike a magic genie, inspiration isn’t a product of rubbing a lamp or wishing for its appearance. Instead, it is a product of constant awareness and unbridled curiosity.

Another approach: Revisit something you’ve already written about.


If you consider revisiting an old topic, go back and critique your old writing. What did you leave out? Did you communicate effectively? Be critical of yourself, and use your past mistakes to create a new angle from which to write. The danger here is rephrasing older pieces instead of actually engaging in creation. You should always be introducing something original. If you cannot write about a familiar subject without numbly rewriting your previous work, don’t bother. Remember, expanding the subject is perfectly acceptable, too. Connecting missing details to a bigger picture can widen the scope of your work, and help you discover ways of deconstructing seemingly unapproachable subjects. In addition, many writers rely upon research to bring inspiration. Research can clarify misconceptions or reveal insight. It is absolutely essential to do some amount of research before (and even while) writing a piece, even if that research is fact-checking a childhood experience with a family member.

While it may seem like too much research could lead to unfocused or scattered writing, to restrain research is to risk constraining the inspiration it can give. After amassing a large amount of information, organize it. Note connections, relationships, and contrasts on your preferred medium. Discard interesting but irrelevant information until your database is whittled and intimate to your topic. Organization of research is what gives writing its core.

Freedom


In summary, writing needs a subject.


The approaches above are methods of gathering ideas and information about a subject. Yet, writing also needs that special spark, the effect of an individual writer on the flavor and quality of a piece. You’ll know you’re lacking “spark” when finished pieces sound dry or simply mediocre when read aloud or when the idea of re-reading your material inspires dread. The signs are unmistakable, and they all manifest in the final quality of the piece.

In the case of missing “spark,” make sure you are attending to your personal needs. Your writing always captures a big part of yourself. If you are tired, overworked, and neglecting real-life things which excite your passion and maintain your mental or emotional sanity, your writing will narrate that story between the lines. Take some time to reflect on how you choose to spend your time and make self-care adjustments as needed. No one ever accomplished their greatest writing by starving themselves of their own life.

Finally, turn to a powerful tool in the writer’s arsenal: others. The idea of asking for others’ thoughts or opinions is not new. Peer editing provides writers with different points of view from which to examine their own words. A similar process can be used to alleviate writer’s block at an earlier stage. Seek out others’ ideas about topics you find interesting, or ask them to help you brainstorm. Their ideas can inspire your original content without contaminating it. In-person research can help build a more dynamic picture of the issues raised by a particular topic, and help you feel less burdened with the creative process. The words of a piece must be your own, but isolating yourself in your own opinion can exclude many important ideas from writing.

When all else fails, writing can be born from difficult conditions. In other words, writing done when the writer feels drained, uninspired, or incompetent can be good writing nonetheless. Trudging through may be the best option when writing down ideas and doing research gives you nothing. In the moment, it will be torture. When you return to edit, you will likely discover that it is has good qualities and can be revised into a polished product after all.