Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Beat Writer's Block

Do you ever experience writer’s block? If you’re a writer, I don’t think you can avoid it, but how do you overcome the brick wall that keeps you from your muse?

I’ve written about this before but wanted to include the great ideas some of you suggested in my comments section. Plus, I have some new followers who may not have read the original post…

One way to over come writer’s block is to start a new document (so you don’t mess with the good one) and take the scene you were struggling with. Now, do your best to make this scene the worst scene you’ve ever written. Destroy it. Add all the adverbs you want. Make your characters one dimensional. Have floating body parts and talking heads. Dump all kinds of info and backstory. Get all that bad writing out of your system. Now, read it. Laugh. And realize no matter what you write afterwards won’t be nearly as bad as this. Sometimes what’s blocking you is a little thing called perfectionism. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and realize it takes a lot of effort to really create a writing disaster. While you’ll most likely have to tweak your work after you write, at least you’ve grown as a writer. Just think. If you know enough to purposely ruin a good scene, then you have the knowledge to fix it, too.

Another twist to this trick is to open a new document, then copy and paste the last scene you were working on before you became blocked. This time, try several different scenarios for this scene. Doing this gives you the creative freedom you need to experiment with the scene. Sometimes, we get blocked because we’re afraid what we write in our manuscript will be written in stone. Although we consciously realize we can always go back and change something, occasionally, our muse forgets. So, try writing “outside the box” and when you get back into the grove, copy and paste this new scene into your manuscript.

Ask yourself why you’re blocked. Are your characters saying you’ve taken a wrong turn and should go back and change something? Or does your block have nothing to do with your story but everything to do with your life? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you stressed out? Are you sick or not feeling well? Are the kids fighting in the background? If you can figure out why you’re blocked, it may be easier to fix the problem.

Other ways to overcome writer’s block are:

-take time away from writing
-remove yourself from your desk and go for a walk
-switch to a different computer or to a notepad
-change the font or color you’re writing with
-recite the scene into a digital recorder and play it back to see if it works
-brainstorm with other writers
-edit a different scene or project
-take a nap
-jump into the shower
-grab a cup of coffee
-read a book
-watch a movie
-put on headphones and listen to loud music
-remove the clutter around you—clean
-work on another story
-write a letter to your character about how frustrated you are with him
-have your character write you a letter to you about what he’d like to do in the scene instead of what you’re telling him to do

Unfortunately, finding your lost muse doesn’t mean you’ll write the perfect manuscript, but it’ll get you writing again. Worry about the editing later.

Maybe you can’t figure out why you’re stuck, but you know how to overcome the barrier. Take note of whatever works for you and keep that tucked away for the next time you need to overcome writer’s block.

Do you have any other ideas on how a writer can beat writer’s block?

Lynnette Labelle


  1. I personally believe the best way is to not stop writing, which is weird to say if a person feels they can't get the scene right, or cannot come up with anything, music helps me, I normally go back to my Kings Of Leon/Guns and Roses, 30 seconds to Mars etc to rejuvinate the muse, the problem I have is telling my characters to quiet down when I am at work, that's when I get inspired often.

  2. Another thing I do is spend some time with world-building or stepping back to work on the synopsis a little. And like Keisha, there's always some seriously loud music.

    Oh, and taking my laptop with me and finding a spot without so much as a byte of mobile connectivity...

  3. Keisha: Bring a notebook and take notes when inspiration hits. You can make more detailed notes when you get home.

    Dadwhowrites: Great ideas. Thanks for sharing!

    Lynnette Labelle