I don’t believe in writer’s block. I know that sounds like heresy, but I don’t. Are there days I just cannot write, not matter how hard I try? Yes. But all-too-often writers attribute their lack of ability to move forward to this mystical, mental block we’ve accepted into our writing path as authors: “Writer’s Block.”
“Oh, I’ve got writer’s block. Nothing I can do about it. Guess I’ll stop writing until the inspiration hits.”
The problem is, the inspiration rarely hits. I have discovered over the years that having “writer’s block” is more often a result of being exhausted, unmotivated or uninterested in what I’m writing than it does with some sort of actual, quantifiable “block.”
So when I’m faced with trouble writing, I try to stop and ask why? Then usually one of these seven hammers will smash through the “writer’s block” I’m facing.
1. Get a Due Date. If there was one hammer that could smash through any size writer’s block, this is it: Get yourself a due date. Sometimes writers try to set their own due dates. If that works for you, great. That doesn’t work for me. I just keep moving them. So instead, I ask any editor I’m working with to give me a due date if they haven’t already. That works for me. On personal items, I set a due date with my wife—a promise of when I’m going to finish something. A due date boils down to accountability, which is just what writers need to get the job done every time.
2. Eliminate Distractions. When I’m working on a project, I turn off my email notifier and check email only at the end of my writing day. Better yet, I often grab my iPad and get away from the Internet. I don’t answer the phone. I don’t clean (well, ok, I don’t need much motivation to stop that…). In today’s super-connected society, it’s all-too-easy to spend your day maintaining your life and relationships. But now’s not the time. You’ll be amazed how long you can put distractions like this off without missing a beat.
3. Change Your Venue. If you don’t own a laptop, netbook, or tablet with a keyboard—get one. Even a cheap one on eBay will suffice. Then get up and leave your house and go sit in a Starbucks or McDonald’s. It’s amazing how getting away from your surroundings causes you to focus. It also allows you to set a short-term goal such as, “Before I go home at 4 pm, I’m going to write one short story.” Plus, a jolt of caffeine from a Coca-Cola or cappuccino may be just what the doctor ordered.
4. Change Your Subject. Can’t seem to get your protagonist moving in your children’s novel? Forget her. Start a picture book. Or write a blog for your Web site. She’ll be there when you return (just make plans to return soon!). But don’t stop writing altogether. Just change what you’re writing and keep your production flowing.
5. Just Write Something. When you’re faced with the most severe feeling of writer’s block, at least write something. Maybe only one paragraph will spit out of your fingertips today. Who cares. You keep it up and in a month, you’ll a chapter or more completed. If all you can do is a page, you’ll still complete your Great American Novel in a year.
6. Get Inspired. Sometimes we just need something to pick us up. Don’t watch YouTube videos, catch up on Facebook or play Plants vs. Zombies. Instead, pick up a book of inspiring quotes, take a short and prayerful walk, or talk to a writing friend. It won’t be long before you’re ready to jump back into your work.
7. Give Yourself a Break. If you’re a prolific writer, then sometimes you really do just need a break. If you’ve been writing for six days, take a siesta day. Don’t even turn your computer on. When you learn to run, one of the first thing a trainer will tell you is that you must listen to your body. Sometimes you need to rest. If you’ve been putting in the miles, a good mini-vacation may be just the prescription.
If you’re facing “writer’s block,” don’t give it the time of day. Stop believing it exists. Instead, grab one of the hammers above and smash through it!