How many times has it happened that you really want to write something but keep staring at the blank page until your eyeballs start to hurt? You are not alone. There are so many others like you who go through the same pain. It hurts more because you suddenly feel demotivated to continue because your mind doesn’t seem to work.
The good news is that you can overcome this writer’s block and get your clever brain to write on cue. You get a writer’s block because you know in your mind that you cannot do it. Most of the time, writer’s block is only fear. You are afraid that people will not like it. You are scared that you won’t write well.
Let’s try and change that by following these tips and sharpening the blades of our virtual pens. There is a quote in each tip by a successful writer, to let you know that we all feel the same.
1. Don’t focus on results.
You need to tell yourself that not every bit of writing penned by you has to be pure gold. If you have a deadline, it automatically means that your mind will go into fear mode and go haywire. Relax, and stay calm. Even if it is a deadline, it will pass for sure, and in the words of the great Douglas Adams,
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
This does not mean you should go ahead and compromise with your writing. The idea here is to stop thinking about how people are going to see it, put all your best efforts into the piece of writing, and then publish to see how people find it. Sometimes the results might surprise you!
2. Don’t start with a blank page.
Since psychology is putting you down, why not play tricks with psychology? Start your writing by jotting down a few points on the paper and make a general outline. Staring at the blank page will feel like you haven’t done anything. Once you have text in front of you, you can edit it and add or remove points.
It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.
– C. J. Cherryh
I know many successful writers and journalists use tools like a pocket that allow them to save the page for later. Just make categories, and when you plan to start writing something new, go through your pocket, and in most cases, you will find something interesting that you can start with instead of starting from a blank page.
3. Don’t compare yourself.
It is very essential for writers to be themselves and have their story to tell. Mark Twain describes it best:
“Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use.”
Once you remind yourself that your story is unique, you will feel a power within you to tell it to the world. People follow and read unique stories, and someone, somewhere in the world resonates with what you said. We grow up reading Dickens and idolise Hemingway, but that should not mean we forget our talent in the process.
I believe that the best person you can compare yourself with is you. Compare yourself now to yesterday and see if you are any better. If you are, great! Keep moving.
4. Revisit your older writings.
In the case of severe writer’s block, put your keyboard/pen away for a few minutes and re-visit your older writings. Who knows, something beautiful may rise from the ashes. Most of us loathe our older writings, but they can be like seeds. They can grow into a fruit when utilised.
Half my life is an act of revision.
– John Irving
Trust me; this works every time. I have a closed blog where I dump all my older post, and whenever I feel like I am not coming up with anything new, I read those old unpublished blogs with funny grammar errors and sometimes, I manage to write a piece like this.
5. Write every day.
Write every day. As cliché as it may sound, it is very true. Your mind will be in practice and turn you into a more curious thinker who never stops connecting. Once again, the writing does not have to be brilliant or mind-blowing. It just has to ‘be’.
People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it is not like that. You sit in back of the typewriter, and you work, and that’s all there is to it.
– Harlan Ellison
I can’t agree more here. The more consistent you are with your writing, the more powerful and well-crafted pieces you will be able to create. Also, read a lot and make writing your habit as only these two things differentiate average writers from the extraordinary ones.
6. Manage your time.
Time management is very important with writing. You need to have a routine, even if you burn the midnight oil. You can use technology to keep updated and fit many tasks during the day. Time tracking will especially benefit you in deadline work.
Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.
– Jane Yolen
Moreover, I know we all have busy schedules and if writing is not what you do for a living, taking the time to write something that you love is difficult. If writing is your love, take time for it. Use online time tracking and have at least a quick 30-minute-date with you, your pen and the paper.
7. Don’t be afraid of rejection.
Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil—but there is no way around them.
– Isaac Asimov
If a rejection letter is made of paper, it can be burnt. If it is an email, it can be deleted. There’s a whole wide world out there that may love your idea! Don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up!
Check out this list of stories that started out as self-published books, but became a hit.
8. Take a break!
If you are on a deadline, don’t fuss about it and take a break to sit with your friends and family. Relax by walking your dog or watching your favourite movie. The boost in your endorphins will help your brain think of new ideas. Move to another location, like a coffee shop, a friend’s house, a co-working space or just by a cool scenic view. See if inspiration hits you.
Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.
– William Faulkner
9. Turn the internet off.
The Internet can be a deal breaker during writing hour. Log out of Twitter and concentrate on your writing. Put your phone on silent and create an atmosphere where you can work efficiently.
No one can write decently… whose attitude is patronising.
– E. B. White
Just do the right thing. Kill all distractions, and you will see how it will positively affect your writing.