One of the most annoying parts of being a writer is when you suddenly find yourself completely stuck, staring at a blank computer screen with suddenly nothing to say. Most people have experienced this at some point or another, and it kind of comes with the territory: Writing is both a creative and logical/verbal task, and this can cause many conflicts in the mind that might bring productivity to a screeching halt. Luckily, there are a few ways to get over this age-old condition, and to help your imagination flow freely once again:
It may seem like inspiration is just something that “happens,” and that you have no control over it; it’s practically inherent in the definition of the word that inspiration just strikes you out of nowhere and provides you with this mental gift.
The fact of the matter is, though, that amateurs are the ones who wait for inspiration. If writing is just a hobby, you can afford to wait for the “perfect” idea to just come to you. By contrast, professional writers don’t wait—they just write, they grind along even when it seems hard or impossible because they know that they’re not always going to feel inspired. Does this mean that sometimes their writing is bad? Yes, absolutely. The difference between a pro and an amateur is usually that the pro has a huge desk drawer (or hidden folder on his laptop) filled to the brim with awful writing.
So don’t wait for inspiration—write more. Write anything. Sometimes you have to write badly before you’re any good.
2) Ask yourself important questions.
Why are you writing what you’re writing? What is the theme and purpose? A lot of the time when we feel writer’s block, what is actually happening is that we have no idea why we’re writing something or what we’re trying to say. If you have nothing to really say about a particular subject but are trying to force it anyway, of course, you will feel that you’re coming up dry.
Try to find a compelling reason to write what you intend on writing—and if you can’t find one, maybe you shouldn’t be writing it.
3) Open the window
For some people, being outside or being able to feel the breeze blowing in their face makes them more productive. Humans were never meant to be cooped up inside, hiding from the nature that created us. At the very least, if you insist on staying tied to your desk, open a window.
4) Eliminate distractions
People are annoying sometimes. Very often, writers are loners because of this. Try to find a place that is free of constant interruptions and you might find that you can concentrate better, and this will help your subconscious clear itself so that it can come up with some material. Speaking of which…
Your conscious mind is not the one that writes—well, most of the time—and if you feel that you are consciously struggling to string each sentence together, you might have a problem. It is true that we have to do this when we are first learning to write, but the fact of the matter is that once you’ve had some basic practice in whatever language you are writing in, your thoughts and ideas should be flowing from your subconscious mind—this is where that elusive “inspiration” comes from, and where truly effortless creativity takes place.
But before your subconscious can do its work, it has to be filled with stuff. If you lack real experience and don’t have a real understanding of the subject that you’ve decided to write about, your brain will tell you right away! The writing will be slow and painful, if not impossible. This is why they say “write what you know!”
The only way to fix this problem is to gain knowledge and experience about what you intend to write about, thereby feeding information to your subconscious that it will eventually be able to process and spit back out in a written form.
6) Stop judging yourself (at least while you’re writing)
You can (and should) be both an editor and a writer, but not at the same time! Write first—even if it’s bad, even if you know you can do better, but it’s just not “coming out right”—and then edit and judge all you want after you’re done, preferably the next day, when your mind is fresh again. Let your subconscious do the work of writing first, then edit with your conscious mind.
The problem with judging your writing or editing it as you go along is that it creates cognitive dissonance that will slow you down and make you get stuck in an eternal mental battle. You will second-guess every word. Your subconscious mind will want to spit something out, and your conscious mind will immediately censor it before you’ve even had a chance to consider its merits.
Do yourself a favor and don’t even read what you’ve written until you’re done for the day.
7) Get a decent amount of sleep
For most people, as soon as they are sleep deprived, the first thing that goes out the window is their creative capacity. You only have so much willpower, so much creative energy, and so long of an attention span, and all of these are greatly depleted if you don’t get enough sleep. You may be tempted to work late into the night and “catch up,” but that’s usually not worth it, considering that it can greatly affect the quality of your work.
8) Relax, and let go of your vanity
It’s often the people who are celebrated the most for their accomplishments, or who are the most externally proud of themselves, that have the most fear of failure. Do you consider yourself a “good writer?” Would it scare you to find out that actually you suck? Would this be a huge blow to your ego? Is being a “good” writer a big part of your identity?
If you’ve built yourself up too much, you may find that you are unable to write anything because you’re worried about trying to write and having it come out bad. Maybe you had traumatic childhood experiences where people made fun of your grammar or punctuation.
Stop that immediately. Let go of your perfectionism. No one ever got good at something before being bad at it first. Actually, even some of the best professional writers are secretly bad writers; they just know to only publish the good stuff that they’ve come up with.
Anxiety can very well be what is causing your writer’s block. If you are depressed or concerned about other things in your life, this can paralyze your creative process. Some people use writing as an outlet to get over their anxious feelings, but usually, the kind of writing that sells isn’t your personal sob story that you scribbled in your diary.
Unfortunately, dealing with external problems that cause you anxiety can be difficult, but something you might want to try to salvage your ability to write is to isolate yourself from the negative stimulus, at least temporarily. Use your writing time as an escape. Go to a mountain top to do your work, or go out into the woods. Visit the library or some other quiet, neutral place. Your brain might actually even come to view writing as a relaxing experience, and you might become conditioned to want to work on it more.
10) When in doubt, make an outline
Maybe you just don’t know what you’re supposed to be writing and all the ideas in your head seem like an overwhelming, amorphous blob of vague concepts. If you don’t give your mind a birds-eye-view of the main idea of what you’re doing, you can’t expect it to fill in the details. Write up an outline with all your main key points. Refer to it frequently. This will also help you to keep on track by giving you some kind of structure.
11) Look at the writing of others
Obviously, don’t copy people’s work, but think about the problem of how to approach the particular content that you are writing, and examine how others have solved this problem. Say you are trying to write an article on how to make money from home, how did others in this niche write articles about the topic? Did they use lots of bullet points? Did they make lists detailing a few different nuggets of knowledge? How does the audience seem to best digest the information?
12) Keep it simple
Don’t feel that you must blather on for too long. In fact, the more efficient that your writing is, the better. Focus on getting the point across and worry about the bells and whistles later. Sometimes the very thing that causes you to feel blocked and unable to move on with what you’re working on is that you’ve gotten off-topic so much that you’ve essentially written yourself into a corner. You may have introduced too many topics or points of discussion and now you don’t know how to follow up with them.
An outline helps with this but also keep in mind that you should stick to a specific focus for each piece of writing.
Maybe you’ve realized that actually, you don’t know what you’re talking about and you can’t or don’t want to write whatever it is that you’ve been struggling to write. No problem, you can always outsource it (often for pretty cheap, too) to someone with more knowledge on your topic or with more experience writing. There’s no shame in it see here now.
Hopefully, you’ll find some of these suggestions useful and maybe one of them will be enough to inspire you back into a creative state. I would have written more than just 13, but suddenly I have writer’s block.