Unlike, say, baking a cake or knitting a sweater, writing is a type of creativity that truly demands something from nothing. It starts with your brain and a blank screen (or sheet of paper if you like to kick it old-school), and ends with... absolutely anything you can imagine. But no pressure.
It's not surprising that even committed writers get stuck once in a while. Here’s real-world advice from five professionals to help you power on through.
1. Step Away From the Screen
That disciplined voice in your head might tell you to stay put until you’ve written something (anything!). But creativity can’t be forced, said Sonja Dewing, author of Toy of the Gods , and liaison for National Novel Writing Month .
“Don't try to focus on the writing problem. Instead, talk a walk and observe the things and people around you,” she said. “That way, new ideas have a chance to develop.”
2. Ask the Right Questions
Perhaps your writer’s block is caused by uncertainty about a project’s purpose. This tip's especially useful for non-fiction writing, but can apply to fiction too if you think about it creatively.
Write down a list of questions you’re trying to address for your reader, then jot down the answers, said Halli Nicholson, assistant director of communications at Chapman University.
“This will help you start building an outline for your piece and ensure that your writing is strategic and goal-oriented — not meandering and aimless. Before you realize it, you'll be well on your way,” she says.
3. Talk It Out
Sometimes the ideas are there... but the writing just isn't. Switch mediums to see if it helps.
“Try dictating instead of typing, or call someone,” said Jamie Novak, author of Keep This Toss That . “Sometimes letting the words come out of your mouth instead of your fingertips is just what needs to happen.”
4. Pick Up a Book
A bout of writer’s block is the perfect time to revisit the treasures in your library, said Ty Belknap, author of Leadership for Introverts .
“Look at what others have done, not to copy them, but to see how you can do it better,” he said. “Write down the mistakes they made and what you would do differently. And guess what, you’re writing again.”
5. Give It 10 Minutes
There's no way around it. The final step to getting rid of writer’s block is to... actually write. Commit to 10 minutes and write whatever pops into your head — no stopping, and no judgment allowed.
“Even if you have to write ‘I don't know what else to write’ to continue writing for that entire block of time, it’s okay,” said Nihar Suthar, author of The Corridor of Uncertainty . “You will find that eventually, you end up writing down an interesting idea and getting over your block.”