All of us struggle with what to write, or what to write next, from time to time. If you're feeling stuck, or you're writing but you're not as excited about it as you want to be, these tips to get past writer's block might help.
1. Learn Something New
If you're out of ideas, or you're not thrilled with the ideas you have, try learning about a topic, person, or activity that's new to you.
For instance, while right now it may be difficult to take up water skiing (either due to weather or travel restrictions because of Covid), you could still learn about it.
Find instructional videos on YouTube. Order books or get them at your local library (which may lend ebooks and audiobooks without the need to visit in person). Follow someone on social media who water skis and read their posts.
Does that mean you'll write about water skiing?
But that's not the point. I'm in the midst of reading a book one of my brothers recommended about a former United States president. He's one I didn't vote for, and in reading it I'm learning a ton about how his career and ideals evolved over the decades, his relationship with his family, and about foreign affairs.
None of it will appear directly in any book I'm planning, but already it's given me new angles on certain characters and several new story ideas that aren't about politics, but do involve conflicts similar to those in the book.
2. Let Yourself Be Bored
This is the opposite of Tip No.1 in a way. Sometimes we're so eager to fill every moment with TV or podcasts or news that we're not allowing our minds to unwind and become peaceful.
Just sitting and staring out the window feels like a waste of time. And it's boring!
But letting yourself sit for a while as your mind wanders could be just what you need to allow your creative mind free range to come up with ideas. Or to unconsciously sort through the ideas you have and improve them. Or winnow some of them out so you can focus on one.
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Doing nothing (see No. 2 above) may help you relax. But it may not work for everyone.
Try some other ways to relax. It can be a challenge these days when most of us are limited in what we can do as we try to keep Covid-19 from spreading further.
But some things that work for me include taking a half hour walk (even in the icy cold, which I just got back from doing), reading a mystery or horror novel, playing solitaire or memory card games, rewatching favorite TV shows, yoga, and paging through magazines with beautiful pictures.
(Yes, I still get some print magazines. That and a glass of wine or cup of tea equals a relaxing evening for me, which equals a more satisfying writing session the next day.)
This type of relaxation can help you get past writer's block.
4. Stimulate Your Senses
If you can safely go to an art museum, you might want to fill your brain with stunning visual art. Whether you like what you see or not, it's bound to absorb you. If you can't go in person, there are lots of online art forums and sites.
You can also listen to music. Find a comfortable spot, shut your eyes, and listen. It's a great way to free your mind and fill it at the same time.
I find certain scents, like vanilla and lavender, help me relax. Others remind me of specific times and places. Making a point to smell candles, spices, food, or pretty much anything can stimulate your thoughts and spark your creativity.
Finally, be aware of sensations. If you're outside, take a moment to feel that wind across your face. Focus on the fabric of your clothes. Go through your closet or your cupboard in search of different materials. Smooth, rough, textured, satiny.
It sounds a little odd, but all these sensations can bring back memories, spark your imagination, or help you enhance details when you write a scene.
5. Set the Stage
Before they start cooking, chefs prepare (or have assistants prepare) ingredients. They sort, measure, and chop in advance so when it's time to cook they're ready. (Which is why it looks so easy on those cooking shows.)
This is known as mise en place, and it's part of writing too. It's essentially getting all the prep work out of the way, or setting the stage, so you can focus.
Take a moment now to think about what you need to get started with, or return to, a writing project.
Does one of your characters still need a name? Do you know what the next major turn is in your story? Is your computer keyboard at a comfortable height?
Whatever you need to be ready to write the first word, or the next word, take 15-30 minutes to take care of it now. Then when it's time to write you'll be ready.
That's all for this month. Hope these tips on overcoming writer's block help your 2021 start well!
P.S. Trouble getting a novel started or stalling out in the middle? You might find Write On: How to Overcome Writer's Block So You Can Write Your Novel helpful.