10 Tips to Combat Writer’s Block
Tips to combat writer’s block? Really? Why do I need those? I’m excited! The spark has ignited, a new story is growing in the recesses of my imagination, and it’s time to start writing!
Okay, I don’t know about you, but just having an idea for a book, sitting down in front of my computer, and typing like a woman obsessed is not my reality. It’s a spark, a tiny flame of creativity—blow on it too hard, and what’s going to happen? Exactly—poof—out goes the flame! And writer’s block can happen at any point in the creative process—it isn’t confined to the very beginning.
So, what’s a writer to do? Here are ten of my favorite writer’s block weapons—weapons that help me successfully combat writer’s block whenever it occurs; and they all center around organization and atmosphere.
I create an Ideas List for my potential book on iPhone. Of course, you could use any of your favorite mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Android, tablet). Any time, and I mean, ANYtime, an idea hits, I add it to my Ideas List using key words to create a short descriptive phrase encompassing the idea. I don’t judge it. I just add it. It might turn into something—it might not, but I can almost guarantee that it will never amount to anything if I don’t save it somewhere.
I never underestimate the importance of character sketches. Okay, so my readers may never see these; but they are an invaluable tool for me. Because, the more I know and understand my characters, the easier it will be to think like them, talk like them, and behave like them (or at least make their behavior choices for them). Therefore, if I’m trying to write a scene, and a certain character’s role in that scene is eluding me, I pull out their character sketch and read it. Sometimes, that alone can help my brain reset and zero in on that character’s perspective regarding the events of the scene.
Same tip as above—Knowing and understanding the various settings in which my story takes place can help in more ways than you might think. Ambience—how would this setting make my character feel? Mapping—how would my character move about in this setting? Strategic choices—what if my character needs an escape route? Resources—how are my character’s needs met in this setting? And the list goes on.
Go back to the beginning—again, this falls into the same category as the character and setting sketches. If I’m stuck, I go back to the beginning stages of my book’s conception and reread what I wrote in the plot outline. This resets my brain to those first, insightful and exciting creative stages. This can not only serve to remind me of where I’m going on this story’s journey but it can also inspire and motivate me out of the depths of despair that had me cringing every time I even so much as glanced at my computer.
Notebooks – Pen & Paper – Free Writing
There are times when I just think better with pen and paper. With all of the electronic devices available to us, we sometimes forget that a simple notebook and a pen can play a very important role in getting those creative juices flowing. For me, there’s just nothing that can compare to the freedom of expression that pen and paper empowers.
When free writing, I write whatever I’m thinking—continuously, non-stop, and without judgment. It’s often nonsense—unusable in the practical sense—but it can help to propel my brain out of the writer’s block slump.
If I use pen and paper for part of my actual writing process; however, the possibilities are endless. The beauty of pen and paper is that I can write the way I think—the words flowing freely, unfettered—formatted in whatever coded manner makes sense to my brain, fingers, and eyes as they work in concert to express the ideas that are literally evolving as I write.
Chapter Scene Outlines
Sitting in front of a blank screen, with a cursor blinking at me repeatedly, can be intimidating. Thinking about creating an entire novel that way is absolutely daunting. So, I break it down into steps. Outlines are the perfect writer’s tool for that purpose. What do I want to accomplish in this chapter? What important events will be covered, and in what order? I jot down the basics into an outline. It can not only help get the first words of that chapter typed into my word processor, but it can also serve to keep me on track all the way to the end of that chapter.
While writing my ecological science fiction fantasy novel, Koraalen: Planetary Symbiosis, I sat out in my backyard with a notebook and a pen. Listening to the birds twittering away in the trees, I would sketch out an outline of scenes for my new chapter. I didn’t sit in front of the computer to actually start composing those scenes until I was satisfied with my outline. The outline wasn’t written in stone (only ink on paper). Frequently I would change things up once at the computer, actually writing— sometimes deleting a scene, or adding a scene—sometimes just changing it a bit as I went along.
Soothe the Body—Soothe the Brain
One of my favorite ways to combat writer’s block is a soothing soak in a nice warm bath—Epsom salts are my favorite, but maybe some of you are bubble bath, or bath oil fans. I set my iPhone or iPad nearby. Then I just relax—let that spark kindle in my mind. Every time something promising reveals itself to me, I call on Siri and have her add it to my Ideas List that I created for that book.
Yes, I said corners—plural. I scoped out my favorite places to sit, think, and write. For me, while writing my ecological science fiction fantasy novel, Koraalen: Planetary Symbiosis, my favorite place to outline chapter scenes was my backyard. Once I finished the scene outlines, then it was time to move to the computer and start fleshing it out (another writer’s corner at my desk). And could I call the tub a writer’s corner? Yes, I suppose I could!
Sounds—Relaxing, or Distracting?
Every writer is unique. Every writer’s situation is unique. Some writers thrive in quiet offices with only the sound of the keyboard keys clicking away for inspiration. Some writers abhor silence. Does classical music inspire you? What about relaxing nature sounds?
What about, dare I ask, children? Yes, I said it. Some writers have no problem with sounds of any sort, even their children fighting over a board game in the same room doesn’t distract them from their writing. But, let’s face it, some people just need peace and quiet. Noise distractions could literally cause their brains to lock up, frozen in the desolate blankness of writer’s block.
If that’s you, and you have children, you may need to be resourceful to combat writer’s block. Maybe you need to write at night when they’re sleeping. If that’s not an option, perhaps an understanding with the family is needed. You literally schedule writing time, when the family knows you will be cloistered away in your office, writing. If your children are very young, you’ll have to schedule someone there to be with them—another family member, perhaps—allowing you the time and space you need to work.
What is MY Sounds Preference?
In my case, music can be helpful, as long as it doesn’t cause me to start singing; which, is another of my passions. I also find nature sounds to be extremely relaxing. Therefore, nature sounds in music is a double bonus.
The point is, you need to know yourself. You want your writer’s corners to be conducive to writing, obviously, and sound—or the lack thereof—is a significant part of the equation. Sound can be relaxing (helping to dispel writer’s block), or distracting (potentially causing writer’s block). It’s your call. This may take some exploration and experimentation on your part; but answering this question could be a key weapon in your arsenal to combat writer’s block.
Now, this is a subject close to my heart. How, you might ask, can scents combat writer’s block? And, here’s my answer. I absolutely love the scent of flowers, or various essential oils wafting across the room from a strategically positioned diffuser. Some essential oils are even purported to have particular benefits that could, potentially, help a writer struggling with writer’s block. Of course, I’m not saying that the experts literally say, “Hey! This essential oil will combat writer’s block!” However, I am saying that certain essential oils are touted to help with cognitive processes, soothe frayed nerves, and all manner of other emotional and mental balancing and clarifying benefits.
I am not an expert on essential oils, but I have done my homework, and I do have some reference books on the subject. So, I definitely tinker with that a bit. At the very least, as I stated above, I absolutely love the scents! So, that alone can certainly create a pleasant writing atmosphere for me. Writer’s block snuffed out by the sweet scents of plant essences!
So, those are my favorite proactive tips to combat writer’s block. Even better, they can potentially prevent writer’s block! With a combination of organizational skills—first creating, then utilizing valuable resources—and orchestrating a relaxing writing atmosphere, tackling writer’s block becomes a much less daunting prospect.
What do you do to combat writer’s block? Let me know in the comments below!