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Tips To Overcome Writer’s Block

Writers BlockDo you, like me, ever suffer from writers block?  You know, those periods when you gaze, for what seems like hours, at a blank piece of paper or a blank, opened Word file on your computer screen.  No matter how hard you try you can’t think of a thing to write and the more you try, the more hopeless it becomes.  Yes, this is what’s affectionately known as Writer’s Block.

There has been much advice written on techniques and strategies to overcome this fearful condition and in some cases the causes.

In the Writer’s Block article on Wikipedia, it is suggested that, “the condition ranges from difficulty in coming up with original ideas to more extreme examples in which some “blocked” writers have been unable to work for years, and some have even abandoned their supposed lifelong careers.”  It also goes on to state that the condition has affected, amongst others,  F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles M. Shultz.

In Charlie Jane Ander’s online article, she identifies ten types of writer’s block and suggests strategies to overcome them.  The types of block identified include, “You can’t come up with an idea”, “You can’t think of the right words for what you’re trying to convey in this one paragraph” and “You’re stuck in the middle and have no idea what happens next”.  I’ve certainly been afflicted with these at one time or another.

In her online article, Emily Temple identifies 13 authors who give their tips for overcoming writers block.  Authors giving advice include Maya Angelou, Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain and John Steinbeck and it seems to me that if writers of this stature have to have strategies for overcoming writer’s block, then we are all in good company.

If you Google “Writer’s Block” you will get over 8 million articles, so I guess there will be some solutions available amongst these which match your problems exactly.  My three personal tips are:

Tip 1:

I find song titles can be a source of inspiration, so I often look through my iTunes folders and look at some of the 7,000+ songs I have.  For example, what inspiration could I get from, “Flashback”, “Keep It To Yourself”, “Standing In The Shadow Of Love”, “She’s Leaving Home”, “Foolin’ Myself”, “The Modern Things”, “Paranoid”, “Black Heart”.  It would be quite easy to do the same with book or film titles.

Tip 2:

Brainstorm (or should I be politically correct and call it “thought shower”) – start with your blank piece of paper and draw a circle in the middle of it.  Now write a word in the middle – any word will do.  Then draw links to other thoughts emanating from those words, and so on. When you have exhausted your imagination or filled the page, start looking for connections amongst the words. The idea is illustrated below:

 Writers Block Brainstorm

So could you base a story on receiving a speeding ticket in Monaco and then finding out that the car you thought was yours was a stolen car?

Tip 3:

Get out and observe – go out to the pub/a café/ the library/ the supermarket/ the park/ etc. and listen and look.  It helps to take notes on what you observe, which may then inspire you.

So what are your tips for overcoming writers block? Please share your experiences with us.

About Tony At The Word...

In addition to my own reading and writing activities, I am passionate about promoting both.

I hope that through “The Word Runs Through It” we can encourage reading and writing and a connection between people.

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  • M J Knox March 24, 2014, 11:29 am

    I really enjoyed reading your article, Tony – and yes – I too know about writer’s block – as I am going through just that at the moment!

    It is a good thing I go to a writing group every week as that has at least produced a few words but otherwise I seem to be struggling to get any words down. I thought after finishing the novel I would be inspired to write more but it seems I need a break from serious thinking!

    Overhearing only a small part of a conversation can be good for ideas and going for a walk when it is just dark enough for people to have put their lamps on but not closed their curtains – little cameos of life in every window if you’re lucky!

    Another tip I have heard suggested is to open a newspaper and look at the headings for small articles and use that as a starting point. I have just looked in a paper from the weekend and spotted these headings, “Old Lady likes to take a bath in champagne”, “Skylight escape” and Careless with Wispas”!

    • Tony March 28, 2014, 8:14 am

      Thanks for your comments MJ.

      Talking about attending regularly at a Writers’ Group, at my latest Group’s meeting, one of the members had suffered writers’ block, but picked up on a saying he heard, the one about numerous monkeys each with typewriters eventually reproducing the complete works of Shakespeare. From that he wrote a very amusing allegory on modern working life – targets, time pressures, redundancies, etc. So perhaps sayings, maxims, proverbs and the like could also be a good source of inspiration too.

      I like your idea of using newspaper headlines too, although I thought it was all ladies, not just old ones, that would indulge in Champagne immersion if they could! Hmmm! “Careless with Wispas” could, I’m sure, lead to some very interesting tales, mostly unpublishable!

  • Sharon March 18, 2014, 11:25 am

    Great article Tony – I particularly liked the thought shower (I could have done with that a few weeks ago when I was on the wrong side of not so much a writer’s block but a 100-foot-high-concrete-damn).

    Personally I find walking to be a great way to shake out ideas, and if none bubble up naturally then to stop every say 20 mins and make myself write down 3 observations of three lines each. No expectations, but I have to write down something. By the end of the walk there’s usually something interesting to follow up on.

    • Tony March 20, 2014, 7:57 pm

      Hi Sharon

      The “thought shower” method ended in me once writing a story about a dwarf Roman Centurion who wanted to become a gladiator! Bizarre – but it got the pen moving across paper (well, words appearing on a computer screen)!

      I like your idea of walking. I’ll try it next time I’m searching for ideas.