Writer’s block happens to the best of writers. While there are plenty of traditional ways to deal with it, we thought we’d focus on a few you might not have thought of. In fact, we were inspired by Dennis Upper, a psychologist from the 1970’s, who managed his writer’s block by submitting a practically empty academic paper to the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, who then published it, if only for its comedic value. We appreciated the reviewer comments in the footnote, which read:
I have studied this manuscript very carefully with lemon juice and X-rays and have not detected a single flaw in either design or writing style. I suggest it be published without revision. Clearly it is the most concise manuscript I have ever seen.
Who knew that even learned psychologists suffered from writer’s block (or that academic publication editors had such a sense of humor?)
While we don’t advise that you submit an empty manuscript to your publisher, we have brought together a few ideas that might help.
1. Do something mindless
Paint a room. Mow the yard. Take a shower. Weed the garden. Pick any task that you can do without much mental focus. You’ll be amazed at how well your thoughts flow during this time. In fact, this is why “Shower Thoughts” has an entire subreddit, where members can post the epiphanies they have while bathing.
But there is one condition. This task mustn’t involve screens of any kind. Your brain needs the space to wander without the “blinging” of notifications or temptation to check the score of the game.
2. Read someone else’s writing
Stop writing and start reading. (Hey, that sounds a lot like the title of our recent blog post!) Yes, a great way to get past writer’s block is to stop writing and read someone else’s work. Which authors do you most want to emulate? Pick up a copy of their work. Read just enough that you are reminded of their style, syntax, flow, and timing. This exercise will inspire you and perhaps remind you of what you are working towards.
3. Call your mom
When you were first inspired to write your book, who did you tell? Was it your mom, a co-worker or best friend? Who did you sit down with and gush out your story idea to? Who did you first confide in that you were going to embark on this crazy journey of writing? Call that person. Ask them to remind you of what you said in those moments.
- Why did I want to write this book?
- Who did I think it would help or delight?
- What made me take the first step?
- What was my inspiration?
Hearing your own words and thoughts from someone else can be very enlightening. You’ll be surprised how much the work of writing has caused you to forget the why of writing.
4. Read your own writing
Dig up your old journals. Find those ancient blog posts. Re-read emails you’ve sent (well, the long, letter-type ones). As you do this, pay attention to what you like about your writing. Perhaps it is your conversational style. Or maybe you’re witty in just the right places, or you have a way with a story.
Whatever it is that you like about your own writing, try it out in your current work. Look for ways to be more conversational or witty or narrative. Let your own strengths pull their weight.
5. Do some mind mapping
Sounds a bit painful, doesn’t it? Well, never fear. This one is simple. So simple that it works. Just take a piece of paper and write your topic in the center (the topic that you are struggling to write about). Then as fast as you can, surround that topic with everything you can think of about it, no matter how mundane or ridiculous.
For example, if the topic is childhood sleep habits, your surrounding words might include:
- stuffed animal
- dark room
- night terrors
- bedtime stories
- health concerns
- Circadian rhythm
Now that you have these sub-topics on the paper, you can begin surrounding each of them with their own associations, and so on and so forth.
While you may not write about everything you put on your mind map, it is a great way of quickly getting scattered ideas out of your head and onto paper.
Of course there are apps that do this as well. The Sweet Setup recently posted about several apps that might be helpful and they also have a great example on their page.
At Certa Publishing, we understand that writers get stuck. We love to talk on the phone, grab coffee, or Skype to help get your pen flowing or your keyboard clicking away again. Contact us today to see how we can help.