“Writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” — Charles Bukowski
Writer’s block. Blank page syndrome. The blinking cursor. It’s the bane of every writer. Sometimes it’s from the pressure we feel to create, while at other times we’re literally depleted of ideas or just lacking motivation. But don’t let it get you down!
Trust us when we say, writer’s block affects every writer, so you’re definitely not alone! Even our most beloved celebrity authors suffer from it!
We here at Fictionate.Me are dedicated to keeping our authors writing, so below you’ll find some great tips to give you the hammer you need to smash that writer’s block for good.
“I like to prowl ordinary places and taste the people—from a distance.” ― Charles Bukowski
Writing in the same place every day can get really boring. So maybe go outside and write, or go to a coffee shop to work. A change in scenery can be a huge breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively), and just being in a new place can be inspiring. Sip on a nice cup of coffee and people watch. You never know, someone at Starbucks might just spark an idea for a story.
“I never get writer’s block, because I always have a good dozen projects that I’m working on, so if something isn’t working I’ll just switch gears.” — James Patterson
If you’re writing a novel and you’re stuck, it can get very frustrating, and that frustration can make your writer’s block even worse. So try something new and different! Try writing in a new genre, maybe write some flash fiction, or start on that new novel idea you had last week. It’s ok to have more than one project; in fact, Fictionate’s own Jillian Karger has a great article here on why it’s a good idea to juggle a few balls at once.
The trick here is: Just. Keep. Writing. No matter what it is! Trying something new can help you break that barrier and get back to your main WIP.
“Inspiration is some mysterious blessing which happens when the wheels are turning smoothly.” — Quentin Blake
Yes, you read that right, I’m telling you to watch some TV or a movie to get inspired! There are so many amazing scripts out there, especially if you approach watching TV from the POV of a writer. What are some of your favorite movies or shows that are in your genre? Grab some popcorn, a notepad or your notes app, and start watching. You never know where inspiration may come from! It could be the character arcs in Game of Thrones, the rapier-sharp dialogue in The Gilmore Girls, or the heartbreaking family dynamics in Six Feet Under. Also, watching fight scenes (hello Neo and Agent Smith) will help you better write them if you write action. Whatever it is, enjoy while you watch and see if your brain soaks up any of the goodness.
Another thing that actually inspires me is playing story-heavy video games! Fantasian is a great science-fantasy game that has endearing characters, an exciting story, and the most gorgeous graphics. While I’m playing I keep thinking about how great the writing is, and that inspires me to look at my stories in a new way. Inspiration can be found everywhere!
“Even when all is known, the care of a man is not yet complete, because eating alone will not keep a man well; he must also take exercise. — Hippocrates
Exercise stimulates not only your body, but your brain as well, so going on a walk, a swim, or doing yoga could help get the creative juices flowing! I love to take long, quiet walks, and in the summer I take leisurely swims to get my body and brain moving, all while getting some vitamin D. Just ten minutes of movement can make a huge difference in your outlook.
“In the beginning, it was all black and white.” — Maureen O’Hara
I chose this quote because doesn’t all our writing start this way in the most literal sense? Black words on white pages? So it doesn’t matter if you don’t want to start at chapter one. The first word of anything is a beginning.
Are you stuck on how to start that first chapter but have tons of other scenes in your head? Go for it! Write whatever scenes you’re ready to write about, and worry about the order later. Start wherever you feel confident, and the rest will sort itself out in the editing stages. Writing out of sequence might not work for everyone, but you can try it and see if it works for you! If you are writing out of sequence, keep your outline handy so you don’t get too off track.
“If you have something to say, then say it. If not, enjoy the silence while it lasts. The noise will return soon enough.” — Hugh MacLeod
I think some of the worst writer’s advice out there is that you have to write every single day. If that works for you, that’s great! But for most of us, the pressure that you have to write every day can actually cause writer’s block. The demand to create and all that jazz.
Sometimes it’s good to take a break from writing altogether, even if it’s just for a day. I usually take one day off a week if I’m just not feeling it. I listen to my mind and body and just rest. And that’s ok! Let yourself rest, and you’ll come back refreshed and invigorated the next day. You also could try other writing-related activities that still keep you focused, like creating mood boards for your WIP, writing a new outline, or going back and reading some of your older pieces.
“Basically, the most raw, deep truth is shut up and write. There’s no such thing as a writer’s block. If you’re having trouble writing, well, pick up the pen and write. No matter what, keep that hand moving. Writing is really a physical activity.” — Natalie Goldberg
Write anything. Literally anything. Once the words start flowing, even if they’re nonsense, they might trigger something. You can even write about your writing frustrations. What is holding you back? How can you improve your writing? Go all meta on yourself and get it out in words. It might even spark a story.
Writing 100-word stories, called drabbles, has been one of the best writing activities for me to conquer writer’s block. It’s a small goal that can be met fairly quickly, because you won’t believe how fast you get to 100 words! And crossing off a goal on your writerly checklist will really help keep you motivated. I love to use picture prompts for these, which brings me to my next point.
“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”― Kurt Vonnegut
We all have something to say! But sometimes we just need a little extra kick in the pants to get the ball rolling.
Picture prompts are probably my favorite way of breaking out of writer’s block. As a sci-fi writer, I love to get on Pinterest, Pixabay, or Instagram and look at all the jaw-dropping art out there. Using prompts has helped me craft stories that have been published in literary magazines, so to me it’s a very powerful tool, especially since I’m a visual learner. Try finding pictures that go with your genre, and you can even create a board on Pinterest for your current WIP to help inspire you even more.
But if picture prompts don’t do it for you, try word prompts. There are literally thousands of ideas online for free to help spark ideas. Here are some great ones to get you started:
Science fiction prompts: Screencraft (One of my faves!)
Fantasy prompts: Reedsy (This one has a drop-down menu with lots of other genres too!)
Horror prompts: Masterclass
“Don't worry about not doing "it" perfectly right now. It's ok, just keep at it, you will soon settle in it and then you'll be glad you didn't give up. ”― TemitOpe Ibrahim
Let go of being perfect. We can pressure ourselves into being so perfect in our first draft that we actually end up debilitating our writing process. You will go back and edit, so first things first: just get the words out, then worry about the rest later.
This has been one of the most liberating pieces of advice that I got from a writer friend who has self-published his first novel. I tend to shoot myself in the foot because I’m putting too much emphasis on the end product while I’m still in the beginning phases. First drafts are never perfect, so keep writing, get those ideas out, and organize it all later.
“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”— Octavia Butler
I love Butler’s quote here, because it reminds us that if we quit, we’ll never get any better. So if writer’s block is getting you down, allow yourself to sit with those emotions, and then keep pushing! Not everything you write will be publishable, and it shouldn’t be. So it’s ok if you write badly sometimes. A writing career, like writing a novel, is a marathon, not a sprint. It might take a while for you to see progress, but if you give up you’ll never progress.
Keep writing, dear authors, no matter what.