The hardest part about being a writer is sitting down and actually writing. Almost all advice to writers tells you that consistently making time to write is one of the biggest contributors to becoming a prolific writer.
But when you’re facing the blinking cursor of doom with that nagging feeling in your stomach that all your ability has vanished, it’s advice that just makes you feel worse.
Writer’s block happens to the best of us. The dreaded block can strike at any time, and often with no discernible reason. For self-published authors who often don’t have the same deadline pressures as traditionally published authors, it can seem easier to just abandon the work in progress.
Luckily, it’s not insurmountable. Read on for some key tips on lasting through that block and finishing your work in progress.
Tip 1: Just Write Something
Now before you throw up your hands in frustration, hear me out. Yes, you have writer’s block – so on the surface this is stupid advice. But you don’t have to write more of your WIP, or even begin a new one.
Write anything. Literally anything. A poem, a journal entry, a description of what’s in front of you, a letter to a friend, a brain dump. It doesn’t need to be good, and nobody has to read it. You just need to write. Put your fingers to the keyboard and type.
You’ll be amazed at how often this works. I usually write down whatever is in my head. So, on days where I have writers block the first thing I might write is: ‘Why can’t I write anything? This is so frustrating, I don’t have time–I have a million other things to do this week so why can’t I just get this done….’
None of what I’m writing is moving my work in progress on, and it’s almost never related to what I had intended to be working on. Yet after ten to fifteen minutes of typing I start to feel like maybe I could write the next scene of my WIP, you know? Suddenly it’s not so hard.
Tip 2: When the Brain Dump Doesn’t Work
Before I share this, I want to reiterate that you should always try writing something before you decide that it’s time for tip two. You must spend a minimum of ten minutes writing something before you move onto this.
If, and only if, the brain dump doesn’t work, do something else. Spend a few minutes examining your current emotional and mental state. Are you stressed or tired? Do you have other, pressing concerns that are taking up your mental space and rendering you unable to write?
If you’re stressed and can pinpoint why and take action–do that now. Immediately.
If you can’t take action now, write an action plan of how you will deal with each issue, and what needs to happen first.
If you’re tired, take a power nap.
If you’re just a little ‘off,’ do something nice for yourself. Take a walk, enjoy a coffee in your favorite café, read a book, watch a movie. Allow yourself some time for self-care. Afterward, come back and repeat step 1.
If there’s nothing obvious stressing you, and you can’t see a reason for your writer’s block, think about your WIP’s outline or plot. Sometimes, when your plot isn’t completely outlined you get stuck. And if you’re a pantser, this is exacerbated. It can happen to plotters too if something is niggling you about the plot in the back of your mind.
Resolve the outline issue and you’ll probably resolve the writer’s block. Sometimes closing your eyes and imagining the next scene in detail before you attempt to write it can really help you resolve any small plot niggles.
Tip 3: Still Not Feeling It?
If that still doesn’t work take a couple of days off, but don’t abandon your WIP or writing altogether. Set yourself a daily word count or timeframe and write as per step one. Keep up the habit of writing something even if it’s not your work in progress.
Read books on the craft of writing, or books in your genre to spark up your creativity. Watch movies that inspire you. Spend time with friends and family. Sometimes a short break allows you to recharge and you come back better able to finish your work in progress.
Preventing Writers Block
It’s not always possible to prevent writer’s block, but if you suffer from it frequently try and identify any common themes. Is it when you’re stressed, or is it when you’ve lost enthusiasm for a story? Can you take proactive steps to look after yourself and prevent it from ever happening in the first place?
Making time to regularly read books about writing, and books in your genre can help prevent that loss of momentum that can drive writers block.
Writer’s block is one of the worst things a writer can face. It’s what we do, we write. So, when your mind and your fingers won’t seem to cooperate, it can knock your self-confidence. Next time it happens, don’t let it drag you into a spiral of despair where you abandon your WIP for weeks on end.
Take some positive action to smash through it, and your WIP will be finished and ready for translating via Babelcube in no time!