Writer’s block is one of the most frustrating things to have to deal with as a writer. That horrendous pull inside one’s brain between the determination to write fighting against the stubborn refusal of one’s imagination and thoughts to cooperate. This often comes with the 1-2 punch of self-doubt and frustration that makes one wonder if one should bother at all.
I was writing stories since first grade but only really started suffering writer’s block in high school and onwards. Likely because, when you are super young, you don’t have the pressure to be perfect. High school and university were when I started seriously planning out my path to getting published, it was also the time I started receiving the heaviest criticisms, and also struggling to find willing readers for my drafts.
I began to doubt my writing and, even as I pushed onwards, I suffered from writer’s block more and more. Sometimes it lasted months, months where I couldn’t even write the simplest story. I would begin to wonder if I had tapped into everything I had. Maybe that I didn’t have any more stories to write.
Even now, having had several short stories published, I still worry. For me, writer’s block comes from two main causes: fear and perfectionism.
So, how do you get rid of writer’s block?
I have three methods.
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. – Mark Twain
My first method is, when I’m struggling, I promise myself that I only have to write 200 words that day. 200 words is nothing. It’s such a small goal but I still end up feeling accomplished afterward. I can tell myself that I got my writing done for the day and that I can feel proud of myself. Best of all, as I work towards my 200-word goal, I often get into the writing mood and surpass it. I would end up writing over 1000 words when, just an hour before, I thought 200 would be a struggle.
I also allowed that the 200 words didn’t have to be on my current project. I could use it to write a flash story or something for my blog, or an article for a website. The only important factor was that I wrote something that day and if I could even meet such a small goal, it was a success.
If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word. – Margaret Atwood
My second method is more of a wider picture method for when I am stuck on a story with no idea how to continue it. This is something to do during a walk, or when you’re at the gym, or on the bus. All I do is play out my story in my head like a movie, trying out different scenarios, endings, conversations, and actions until I find the combination that feels right. Having a concrete plan of how the story should go always gives me confidence to start writing again.
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work. – Stephen King
My last method is similar to the second but is one I use more for finding inspiration when I am between stories and am lacking ideas. Simply enough, I read a new novel, watch a movie, or play a video game. Experiencing a new story, meeting new characters, and watching their journey always gets me excited to write something of my own. Also, sometimes the film or novel will spark ideas in my brain that I can write down and use later.
Methods one and three can be used in tandem as I will often have something on the TV as I write. If my writing starts to slow, distracting myself with what’s on TV can prevent me from spiraling into frustration or self-doubt.
Honestly though, the first method is the most important one because the only way to break through writer’s block is to write. So, my darlings, maybe my methods will help you when you get writer’s block next. If so, feel free to dedicate any and all novels to me.
Until next Sunday! And always remember, sharing is caring!
x P.L. McMillan