For a writer’s career, few things are worse than writer’s block. It happens to all of us. Whether we are in college working on a 20 page term paper due tomorrow, a newspaper journalist with interview notes next to a mocking blank page or an average Joe trying to practice creating his or her own short stories. No matter who you are or what your status may be as a writer, that frustrating absence or otherwise overwhelmingly complicated chaos inside our heads renders us paralyzed for hours and sometimes days. It happens to everyone. Writer’s block, unfortunately, seems to be inevitable.
As debilitating as writer’s block can be, though, as excruciatingly painful as it feels to try and exert some kind of productivity inducing pressure on your brain and pen, there are some ways to help overcome the stubborn thought blockage. Certain ideas work better for some more than others, obviously, so don’t be afraid to experiment with them all. And in all truthfulness, these tactics may not work for you successfully each time you encounter the detrimental writer’s block. But as an aspiring and struggling writer with an imagination that is sometimes too overactive for my own good, I’ve discovered the following strategies in overcoming writer’s block.
Turn on the TV
Television is a great stimulus for jumpstarting your creative thinking process. Spend some time channel surfing or pause on a program with many commercial breaks. The news shows and talk shows are especially good ways in overcoming writer’s block. I would guess this method works better for people who aren’t big TV watchers to begin with. I never watch TV so when I turn it on my thoughts start firing across my brain nonstop. Challenge yourself to determine your opinions or stance on the topic the people on TV are discussing. Do you agree or not? Let your mind branch off into other tangents of the original topic. Play little games with yourself such as guessing the product the commercial is for or analyze the personality of each Three’s Company character or a similar game with other shows. Let yourself be judgmental, opinionated, bitter, excited, angry, whatever you are feeling and thinking, let it happen. These challenging thoughts to your brain will surely give you some ideas of what to write about. So sit down and start jotting stuff down whenever you feel you can.
Strike up a conversation
Leave your isolated writer’s corner if you are in one and go talk to someone in your household. Do you have a roommate who would like to tell you about her new boyfriend or a brother who feels especially excited about his new car? If you are home alone, call one of your friends or family members. Instigate a discussion or let them do so and be assertive in providing your opinion. What works even better with this way of overcoming writer’s block is to bring up a topic you are thinking about writing about and ask the other person how they feel about it. This will allow you the ability to voice aloud the points you wish to make in the piece and the comments of your friend will likely get you thinking of even more.
Flip through a magazine
Do you have any magazines laying around your house? If not, consider going to a bookstore or library and browsing the giant collection they have there. Reading over the covers alone should already have your creative juices flowing but a further exploration of certain topics by actually skimming the articles should officially do it. Just like you did with the TV method of overcoming writer’s block, challenge yourself to form opinions on various topics covered in the magazine and maybe sit down and try to write some of them out, editorial style.
Note: It is important to remember that even if the first thing you start writing is not relevant to the particular work you got stuck in the middle of earlier, it is still sometimes a necessary catalyst to get you back into the writing groove in general. Sometimes our minds just need to switch gears from the project at hand by thinking from a different perspective about a new idea altogether.
This strategy in overcoming writer’s block works especially well for people who get a ton of junk mail and/or individuals who are on several newsletter mailing list. Basically, it works best for those who have a significant amount of mail whose subject titles and content is not just limited to things like “hi” or other personal sentiments that you may get in your inbox from a friend. If you get any newsletters whose subject matter varies from email to email, take the time to skim through it. And while you are reading it, consider even clicking on the advertisements. Or in the case of spam mail, simply read the subject title and perhaps that will get you thinking of something to write about. Some of that spam mail can be pretty creative and weird sounding. I used to get many spam emails inquiring about the state of my septic tank and as bizarre as that was, you better believe I had some thoughts on the ridiculousness (not to mention curious motivation) behind it alone. Whatever you do, just let your mind wander and your mouse click. Follow your instincts and if one email leads you away from your inbox and looking at random websites for random silly information, so let it happen. You may find a great article idea in this sidetrack.
Go for a walk outside
Take a little stroll. The fresh air will be good for you and just getting away from the place you have been sitting trying to write will allow you to have a fresh perspective when you return. Not to mention the fact that if you remain observant as you walk around the block or two, there are sure to be some interesting things to keep your brain interested. If all else fails, challenge yourself to remark on paper something particular you noticed while walking with the rule to blow it way out of proportion. (For instance, write about your transaction with the clerk during your cigarette purchase at the gas station and discuss in detail his or her personal life when returning home from the bland job).
This technique for overcoming writer’s block works similarly to the stroll around the block in that it gives you a fresh perspective, but it doesn’t require you to leave the house. I believe that leaving the house is the better of these two options, but if for some reason you cannot do that, moving to another location within your residence may help as well. Sit on your balcony perhaps. Or readjust your chair in your office to face a different way. You might be surprised that sometimes it’s as easy as staring at a new part of the wall.
Watch a controversial movie
Find a movie on TV, in your own collection, or rent one from a video store that deals with a topic of some kind of controversial nature. Depending on which stance you take on the movie, maybe you are absolutely appalled and have to turn it off in horror, or perhaps you find it fascinating and quite challenging to the mind. Either way it will hopefully help you overcome the writer’s block if you allow yourself to at least get into the story enough to form your own solid opinion. To get yourself writing again, consider writing a movie review as an exercise.
There is no doubt about it, writer’s block is the pits. Even worse is the feeling one gets during a writer’s block moment that the inability to put words on the page is going to be a permanent problem. In many cases, this thought makes people even more anxious to write something and the pressure to do it sooner builds up. The writer’s block just gets worse. Luckily, though, most of us finally realize that the writer’s block is not going to last forever. Hopefully, also, if you try and implement some of the above overcoming writer’s block techniques you can figure out some ways to make the inevitable situation go away much faster.