How do you prevent writer’s block?
Honestly, if I knew that, I wouldn’t ever get blocked. Most writers get it at some point or another, and it can range from a mild case (can’t work for a few hours but eventually get on with it) to extreme (haven’t written in years). I’ve had novels that I didn’t plan a moment of that I hit the wall during, but I’ve also had novels I planned from beginning to end that eventually I halt on because while I know what I want to happen, I’m either having a hard time making it happen or I don’t know how to write about it.
There have been several novels I lose steam on. Ask my mom, she’ll tell you. They’re all the novels she wanted me to complete and never did.
So if there is no way to prevent it, no vaccine and no cure that keeps you from ever getting it, how do you deal with writer’s block?
Honestly, what I’ve come to learn is the answer to that question is as follows: It depends on you.
Nothing works for everybody. You might meet someone who just has to play their favorite album to break through their wall, and the next person might get flustered when there’s music playing because they need to work things out in silence. You can find a writer who needs to step away from the computer and take a walk, and then another who knows if they walk away from the computer that it will take ages for them to convince themselves to sit back down at it again.
The trick with many things involving writing is that you have to know yourself. All the books, articles, podcasts, YouTube videos, etc. that you watch can have valuable insight, but they’re not going to be able to tell you exactly how you should do anything. They offer tips, suggestions for you to try, and while I definitely recommend you reach out to those sources for those tips, you’re going to have to experiment. You might find that the way you get rid of writer’s block is to stand on your head for thirty seconds while kicking your legs. How in the world are you supposed to discover it unless you try anything and everything?
And there’s no right way to help yourself out either. For me, the way to combat writer’s block changes depending on what kind of block I’m dealing with. Being stuck on one scene in a book feels a lot different than being stuck on the book as a whole. And being stuck on one book is also different than not being able to write a word of anything.
So if I were to write a generalized guide on how to handle writer’s block, it’d go something like this:
Step One: Diagnose what kind of block you have
Step Two: Go through a list of popular tricks to get rid of writer’s block
Step Three: If what’s popular doesn’t work, start trying things no one’s tried before (or at least they’ve never admitted to trying it)
Step Four: Give yourself patience and time
Step Four’s pretty important because we as humans like knowing how long something takes. We need results in <insert time increment here>. But that’s never been how life is, and writer’s block is no different. I can’t tell you how long your block will last, and neither can you. Stressing yourself out because you’re impatient and worried how long it’s taking to get around the block isn’t going to help. All you can do is keep trying to loosen it and never give up. And realize that, once the block’s gone and you feel a lot better, it is likely to come back. That doesn’t make you a failure as a writer. It makes you like the rest of us.
Here is a brief list to get you started with ideas to combat the block:
- Dance party
- Play a video game
- Watch a movie
- Read a book
- Read articles on writing from other writers
- Rant to your friends
- Word vomit — get a paper or a blank document on your computer and just type/write out complete garbage with no worries about how it sounds or what it’s even talking about
- Read a book you don’t like and think you can do better than (might be an arrogant way of handling it, but who knows! It might be inspiring)
- Play with your pets
- Make out with your significant other
- Beat something up (stay in the realm of legality)
- Paint even if you suck at it
- Learn a new hobby
And my personal favorite that can be oddly therapeutic:
And hang in there! Nothing lasts forever. You’re going to get past this and you’re going to be just fine.