On a recent Writing Wednesday, in an effort to provide hope to all those writers struggling to be published, we highlighted four of the harshest rejection letters some extremely successful authors have received. But what if you can’t even get to the stage of being turned down? What happens when your ideas just won’t make the jump from brain to page?
Writer’s block. We’ve all been there. In much the same way that a bout of insomnia is only made worse by the repeated attempts to get over it, writer’s block takes hold of your brain and won’t let go no matter how hard you try to put words to an idea. We won’t lie and say that it’s possible to avoid this mental hiccup altogether, but it is possible to conquer each flare-up.
1) Tell It To a Friend
Sometimes the pressure of eloquently stating your ideas in just the right way is so overwhelming that you can’t get out any words at all, yet it always seems so easy to recount a story or thought to a friend, doesn’t it? Even if you don’t want to call someone up just to spill your ideas, the act of saying out loud “Hey, guess what?” can get the storytelling juices flowing.
2) Know What You Write
Everyone knows the saying “Write what you know.” Of course, writing a story that hits close to home is more likely to result in a genuine-sounding tale. However, if everyone stuck solely to this line of thought there would be no science fiction, fantasy or fairy tales! Knowing what you write is equally important in crafting an authentic piece of work, so delving back into your research can be a great jumping-off point to beat the block.
3) Forget the Delete Key
Writer’s block is an ailment of the first draft, so why the pressure to be perfect right away? Allowing yourself to write some stream-of-consciousness ideas may not result in anything publishable, but will help to remove the barriers your mind has put up. A huge component of writer’s block is self-preservation under pressure, so allowing yourself to write something terrible in the name of getting the juices flowing is a necessary step in getting back on track.
4) Watch Something Mindless
There’s no better way to rebuild confidence in your own writing than to sample something truly vapid. Well, maybe that’s a little harsh, but watching something that doesn’t require a great deal of intellectual engagement on your part allows your mind to wander without pressuring it to find a direction. Often a key word or situation in an otherwise silly movie can trigger your creativity in a way that staring at a blank page or screen never could.
5) Get Physical
The flip side of allowing your mind to idle is to pushing yourself physically. Going for a run, playing with your kids or hitting the gym pumps your endorphins, which is a bonus for both mind and body. By physically addressing stress – a main underlying cause of writer’s block – you not only refresh your mind but give yourself a well-deserved break from forcing a story that just isn’t quite ready.
Have you ever dealt with a seemingly-insurmountable case of writer’s block? How did you overcome the hurdle?