We’ve all been there. Sitting, staring at a blank screen, an annoyingly smug blinking cursor taunting you. The word’s that just. aren’t. coming. That’s it. You’ve decided. You’ll never be a writer. You’re just stuck and you’ll always be stuck and you will never write another good story, another good paragraph, another good WORD as long as you live. Like I said, we’ve all been there.
But I’m going to say something you might think is a little heretical (at first): I think writers’ block is really important to our writing. I know, you’re mumbling Idiot! in your head. Writers’ block is the worst! But I mean it. Writers’ block is be a good thing. Let me explain. Writers’ block, or that utter stuck-ness we feel when our words don’t flow and the Idea Gods aren’t looking on us in favor, is essential for bringing about our best writing. Really. Writers’ block is just that — a block. Not a dead end. Roadblocks require us to stop, recalculate, and detour on a different path to our destination. Instead of cursing our entire journey, the detour allows us to see sights we wouldn’t have otherwise, and learn from the unexpected journey.
You need that on your writing journey — detours. You need new paths, new sights, new eyes. You need to see and experience differently to move past the comfortable phase to real growth and true inspiration. So don’t let writers’ block doom you into depression or discouragement. Work with it to come back to your desk, to your white, blank page, renewed, refreshed, and truly ready to write. Embrace and move past the blocks with these eight ideas.
- Read your old journals. I know. It’s entirely cringeworthy to dive back into your old adolescent diaries. You know the ones. The old lock-and-key things covered in stickers and KEEP OUT warnings written aggressively in Sharpie. The ones you spent pages-on-pages detailing theeee biggest crush you had on whats-his-name or a list of 100 reasons why you hated your sibling. But truth be told, in your journals you are your truest self, and you need to connect with that person regularly. The act of journaling, then re-immersing ourselves in those recordings are crucial practices for writers. In journals, you don’t censor yourself. In your journals, you express real emotions and experiences that can ignite your writing and remind you of meaningful memories. For me, journaling is crucial, as it helps me be more self-aware and better able to process emotions and experiences. Plus, all of our lives are full of experiences that inspire who we are as writers — and what we write about. The emotions surrounding my first heartbreak (and the VERY real nosebleed that happened during my first kiss), the first time I saw my children, and the seemingly mundane-ness in small daily moments have served as the best fodder for my writing.
- Get some vitamin D. I know, we’re writers. We don’t *go* outside. That’s why we write. Right? Ha. But seriously, I get it. I’m a writer AND I have four kids under three. So yeah. I never see the sun. In fact, my eyes burn when I step outside for 60 seconds to get the mail. Pathetic. BUT. Getting some fresh air makes a big difference. It gets you out of your office, out of your head, and earns you a wider perspective of the world. Go for a walk, watch a sunset, or have an outdoor picnic. Just get outside. Not only will nature rejuvenate you emotionally and physically, but it’ll provide you with lots of active inspiration for your writing. Take in sights, sounds, smells, but most importantly, the quiet sounds of your mind.
- Phone a friend. Not only does talking to friends benefit your emotional health but could also help keep your mind sharp. Dial your ride-or-die and talk about anything — could be writing — or it could be an in-depth discussion about the craziest celebrity baby names. It doesn’t matter. Just get chatty.
- Stalk people. Okay, not creepily. Go to the mall, the supermarket, Target, (or any public place where you can also get a good stalking snack) and people watch. Typically, my best story and writing ideas come from simply observing other people in organic situations. Listen in on conversations (politely and discreetly, of course), watch body language, and seek to really see the normally-mundane that others miss. People lead interesting lives — use them for inspiration. Jot (LOTS of) notes freely about what you see without censoring yourself and work on honing your observational skills. It’s not voyeurism OKAY it’s called Brainstorming.
- Step away. No, seriously. Push your chair out from your desk, shut your laptop, and get the eff out of that room. Go bake some cookies, watch an episode (or two) of that show you keep thinking about, or take one of those 15-minutes-turned-2-hour-naps. Give yourself a BREAK. You need time away from your writing not only for your emotional and mental well-being, but also to help you to come back to your writing with fresh eyes. Time away will help produce your best work — and your best you.
- Read someone else’s words. Go to the library, the bookstore, or your own living room bookshelf. Find a new book and read, read, read. Now, there’s no guilt-tripping allowed here. You’re not getting lost in someone’s else’s work to make you feel crappy about yours. Nope, not here, missy. Just read for the joy of immersing yourself in another world for a little while. (I recommend “Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk” or “Big Magic” for some of my favorite inspirational reading related to this topic.)
- Get jiggy with it. I’m not joking. Queue up my latest playlist (oh, you didn’t know? I’m also a DJ) and BUST. A. MOVE. Get the blood flowing and de-stress with a little dance around your kitchen. A shimmy in the shower. Or, if you prefer, blast Backstreet Boys from your Toyota Corolla at 10 p.m. while driving the backroads home from the grocery store, upper-body dancing from the driver’s seat. (Oh, is that just me?) Why dancing? Well, first of all, it’s fun. Second, it’s a great way to de-stress and come back to your work with loads of good-for-you endorphins.
- Get creative. Writing is definitely a creative endeavor. But to break through blocks in your writing, try putting your creative energies into another non-writing-related project to switch things up. Join your toddlers for finger painting. Bake bread. Put together that IKEA bookcase or a 1,000 piece puzzle. Make a clay sculpture of your pup. Use your hands for something other than pounding keys on a white, blank page. Do any other tactile activity that doesn’t require you to put pen to paper (unless, of course, you’re journaling or writing your pen pal fun snail mail). Creativity is creativity. The good juju you get from other inspiring projects will help you recharge your writing efforts.
And remember: embrace the block. It’s okay to step away and fill your bucket.