Writer’s block has afflicted many great writers including as F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote The Great Gatsby, Stephen King (the king of Horror Fiction), Maya Angelou, Tom Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway, and far too many more to list here. Some say writer’s block is merely a myth, and others believe it to be the most daunting experience a writer can endure. If you’ve been struggling with writers block, I know exactly how you feel. I’ve certainly been there before. But I’ve also learnt how to overcome it. So, I’ve put together a few tips for you about how to nip writer’s block in the bud so you can get back to writing that book.
1. Just Get Started!
Tom Wolfe once said “I now know what writer’s block is. It’s the fear you cannot do what you’ve announced to someone else you can do, or else the fear that it isn’t worth doing”. Writer’s block can be overcome if you are willing to just start. Just start writing something. It doesn’t matter what it is or if you think it reads horribly. Many people don’t realise that when you read a really great book, it has been through a manuscript appraisal, structural editing, copy editing, and proofreading to develop the writing into a work of art. Don’t be too hard on your self. This is presumably the first draft? Right? Just give it a go and let your creativity flow. Don’t listen to your inner editor in the first stages; that comes later on in the re-writing and editing stages.
2. Do as Hemingway did
Hemingway wrote in his book A Movable Feast, that to begin writing “all you have to do is write one true sentence”. Below is a little excerpt I want to share with you from A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, which happens to be my all time favorite short story.
“Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written” (Hemingway 2004, p. 7).
3. Dear Diary or Free Writing
Random writing in a journal or diary can help release negative beliefs you may have toward your creative abilities. Set aside at least fifteen minutes for random writing and let it all out. It will be rubbish! Expect that. But it will help you let go of the things holding you back and will bring clarity to your ideas. Free writing also helps you to develop your confidence, voice and writing style.
4. Brainstorming & Mind Mapping
Oh, one of my favourites! Brainstorming or mind mapping can inspire many great ideas for writing. Begin with a blank piece of paper and write a subject or topic in the center of the page. Then branch out from the topic in the center and write down anything that comes to mind. It may be sub-topics, questions, places, feelings, a character, an item, name of a song, a memory. Anything that that comes to mind.
5. Go to Sleep
Yep, go to sleep! Studies show that the brain is at its most creative just as you’re nodding off for a nap. This is called lucid dreaming. Famous surrealist painter Salvador Dali (1904–1989) would fall asleep on purpose on his couch holding a spoon in one hand which was hanging out. As he drifted off to sleep he would drop the spoon which would wake him up and he would remember what inspired him during the lucid dreaming phase.
6. Take a Break
If all else fails and you’re still stuck, take a well deserved break and relax a little. Take the pressure off yourself and go outside, explore, read a book, go see a movie. Just remember to take a pocket-sized notebook and pen for when inspiration comes to you. You better jot down that moment of inspiration or clarity before it slips away. Taking a break alleviates the pressure you place on yourself and opens up doors for unexpected inspiration. Ideas are everywhere. They are in nature, on a cardboard box, in the eyes of a heartbroken person, an old woman walking toward a mailbox to deliver a letter; ideas are everywhere. Writing a book can be a tough task if you’re not enjoying the journey. So remember to write from the heart, throw all caution to the wind, and let your creativity flow without judgment. I truly believe you have it in you to achieve your creative goals, no matter what.
Have you ever experienced writer’s block? I’d love to hear your tips with how you deal with writer’s block and your own experiences with it in the comments section just below.