Writer’s block is that mental obstacle that prevents you from turning ideas into words. Sometimes the ideas are there, but getting them into a coherent form is problematic. Other times, you know what you want to say but are having trouble getting it to make as much sense on paper as it does in your head.
This phenomenon affects every writer, whether you’re a writer by trade, a student writing a paper, or a casual writer jotting down ideas. Writer’s block can be supremely frustrating, especially if you are working on deadline and need to finish. After about 10 years of writing, I’ve come up with six strategies for overcoming this obstacle and getting you back to your writing.
1. Do something mindless. When I come up against writer’s block, I do something mindless like washing the dishes. Doing monotonous activity can give your mind a break and allow your mind to wander. Because writer's block can often be the result of trying to hard or worrying about getting it perfect the first time, giving yourself a mental break can be just the break you need.
2. Do something physical. I like to take a walk outside if the weather is nice, and if it’s not, I try climbing the stairs at a leisurely pace. Physical activity is not only good for the body but can help increase oxygen flow to the brain, which aids in clear thinking.
3. Engage in conversation. Talking to a friend about whatever I’m working on helps me to verbalize what I want to write about and often leads to some great breakthroughs. Sharing your ideas with someone not only allows you to think out loud but also can provide you with new ideas. If I’m really stumped, I try talking to a fellow writer; this strategy usually provides me with a different take on an idea, which helps get my creative juices flowing.
4. Brainstorm. When I'm stuck on an idea, I use mind mapping or diagramming to help me get my thoughts in order. To draw a mind map, simply get a pencil and a sheet of paper and draw a large circle in the middle of the page. Write your topic in that circle and then draw lines connecting smaller circles to the central circle. In those smaller circles, write related topics or ideas. Seeing how all the seemingly random ideas are related can help you find a theme and focus your ideas.
5. Take a nap. When you're truly stuck and words just aren't there, take a break and sleep. Sometimes a refreshing cat nap can help you focus, and often ideas will come on their own after a bit of shut-eye.
6. Just start writing. The best strategy I’ve found to overcome writer’s block is to just start writing. It sounds difficult, especially when you’re finding writing in itself to be difficult, but it really works. When I’m stuck, I get out my laptop and just start tapping away at the keys. I type out the topic. Then I type a question that may or may not relate to the topic. Then I find myself breaking through the obstacle by the sheer act of writing.
The next time you’re stumped, try some of these strategies. Writing isn’t always easy, but overcoming writer’s block need not block your way to success.
Noelle is a professional editor, writer, and proofreader with six years of experience in the publishing industry. She has a BA in English and will receive her Master's degree in management in 2007. Noelle's specialties are medical editing, ESL editing, and business writing. She has a passion for language and is dedicated to providing top-notch editorial services with a professional, friendly attitude.
Noelle resides in suburban Maryland with her husband and daughter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .