So you’ve got nothing to say?
Almost every writer has feared the moment where they have to sit down in front of the blank page and produce something from nothing.
It’s a natural fear, and it’s one you can overcome with a little thought, preparation and some good habits.
If you’re experiencing writer’s block, here are 33 surefire ways you can overcome it and finish what you started:
- Skip the introduction. Start your conclusion instead.
- Write down the facts and everything else you know about the topic you’re having trouble with.
- Consider what it would mean if one of these facts were untrue. What if the world wasn’t flat or we weren’t the centre of the universe?
- Use a writing prompt. “I remember the first time I…”, “I remember the last time I…”, “I can see…”, “I hate writer’s block because…”.
- Free write. This method will help you overcome perfectionism and unlock inner creative resources that you didn’t know you possessed.
- Take a break. No, this isn’t giving up but tiredness isn’t always conducive to creativity. Make a point to return to your work later on when you’re fed, rested and angry that you stopped.
- Run, swim walk, play football… Exercise is scientifically proven to encourage creative thinking. It’s good for you too.
- Sit on a large cushion, close your eyes and concentrate on your breath for five or ten minutes. If you meditate every day you will increase the dark matter in your brain. More brain processing power means this craft gets easier.
- Pick a fight with another author or expert. You don’t have to be nasty, but you can call them out and use this contrarian point of view to overcome writer’s block.
- Use the Oblique Strategies by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. You can find the full set of strategies here.
- Listen to music, preferably without lyrics. This is another activity that’s scientifically proven to encourage creative and expressive thinking.
- Do the work in a different environment. Ambient noise fosters creative thinking. You can become one of those people who likes to work in a coffee shop.
- Write down ten ideas every day and review them at least one a week. Do this for six months and you’ll never be short of ideas again. James Altucher considers this habit part of his daily practice.
- Make a list of 10 things you want to include in your current project. If that’s too hard. Try 20. Or 100. The harder you make your brain work to dump ideas onto the blank page, the more outlandish ideas it will give you.
- Use a swipe file. Ah, the non-fiction writer’s best friend. You can swipe headlines, openings, great lines, pictures and ideas for your articles.
- Keep a commonplace book. Record observations, pithy sayings, quotes, facts and snippets of information for use later on. I use Evernote for my commonplace book and for my swipe file.
- Write a journal entry about being blocked. You can write about what you did today in your journal. It’s still writing and who doesn’t love to talk about themselves?
- Use the Pomodoro Technique. Sit down at your desk, set a timer for twenty five minutes and don’t get up until the buzzer sounds. If you didn’t write anything useful, at least you turned up. Some days that’s enough.
- Disconnect. Plug out your internet cable, turn off Wi-Fi and close down your apps except the one you use to write. When the author Jonathan Franzen was writing his novel Freedom, he superglued his Ethernet connection so he couldn’t get online.
- Don’t want to wreck your computer? Neither do I. Use pen and paper. You won’t believe the battery life or the screen resolution.
- Hold yourself publicly accountable. If you’re a member of writing group, tell them about a deadline and your plans to meet it. The prolific blogger Leo Babauta is a believer in the power of public accountability.
- Write down what you’ve accomplished so far. Research? Done. Opening angle? Done. The day’s work? Doing it.
- Haven’t accomplished anything yet? Write down what you need to do next. Perhaps you need to arrange another interview, read a book or write an outline.
- Get your favourite piece of writing and reread it. Then write out the first few sentences. Now, go back to your work.
- Write how you feel about whatever you’re working on. Is it making you feel angry, sad, despondent or excited? Now expand.
- Write down the strengths of what you’ve written so far. Is your opening hook compelling? Is your research original? Are you on FIRE?
- Write down the weaknesses of what you’ve written so far. Is it too long? Is it too short? Figure out what’s wrong and fix it. This method works better if you do it alongside the previous one.
- Explain your topic from a different point of view. How would a reader, a colleague, a friend or even your cat (the internet loves cats) approach this topic?
- Annotate important sections in the books you read. Then, review these annotations for ideas, material and inspiration.
- Decide on the purpose of your work. Do you want to entertain, inform, educate or inspire?
- Outline your article. Use single words and lists to identify key themes or topics. If you’re a visual thinker, try a mind map.
- Stop editing. If you let your internal editor censor your writing during a first draft, you’ll never get started.
- Recite the prayer to the Muse. Not sure why this prayer is important? Read The War of Art.
What To Do Next
Writer’s block is a funny thing.
Somedays, the fear of writing is more difficult to overcome than the moment where you actually sit down and force yourself to work.
The next time you feel afraid of the blank page, or when you have a genuine case of writer’s block, try just one of these strategies.
Find what works for you and stick to it.
Remember, your job is to keep turning up and to keep writing.
Share your tips for overcoming writer’s block below.