We’ve all been there. You’ve got an idea for a piece of writing and have finally carved out some time to get it out of your head and onto the page. You brew yourself a cup of coffee, light your candle for ambiance, and open your laptop. Your fingers hit the keys and…nothing. You rub your eyes, stretch a little, and refocus on the page, but the cursor blinks back at you in a mocking cadence on the blank screen.
You, my friend, have a case of writer’s block. Sometimes the words flow steadily onto the page and other times it feels like they are slammed up against a dam between your brain and your fingertips. Every writer, no matter how many publications they have, struggle with it from time to time. It’s an inherent part of being a writer, but what separates new authors from seasoned ones is knowing how to harness and push through writer’s block. As with many aspects of writing, you have to play around and find what works for you. There is no cookie cutter method to beating writer’s block, but I’ve found when I struggle with it, there are four main things I do to push through it and spark word flow.
01: Writing Prompt
Writing prompts are a fun, easy way to help you refocus and get the words flowing. They give you a starting point, but also the freedom and flexibility to go as in depth as you want in your answer. I have a book of prompts, but if you don’t have one on hand, you can google ‘writing prompts’ and several will pop up for you. The goal here is to simply get words out. Even if the prompt you choose is completely unrelated to the element you are stuck on, seeing words written on a blank page will boost your confidence in your ability to write.
02: Story Dump
Story dumps are particularly great for fiction writers. All you need is a piece of paper, a pen, and a timer. Set the timer (I will usually do somewhere between 2-5 minutes) and write down everything you know pertaining to what you are stuck on. Set the timer again, but this time, write down everything you don’t know. I will often do this several times with different elements of my story (ie: characters, scenes, plot points, etc.). The key is to not think too hard about it and write down everything that comes to mind, no matter how small or insignificant the detail may seem.
03: Style Read
Take a break from staring at the screen and pick up a book by an author whose style you want to emulate in your writing. For example, if you are stuck on pacing, read a book or section of a book by an author whose pacing you appreciate and try to mimic the flow they create. It helps if you use an author you have read several times and/or multiple books by because you are more familiar with 1) the story and 2) their writing style, but any book where the author demonstrates well the element you are stuck on works.
04: Mood Board
Create a mood board for your book and/or your characters. This can be a physical cork board you pin pictures to and set out while you’re writing, an online board on a platform like Pinterest, or a combination of both. The goal here is create visuals you can refer to and transfer into descriptions and other elements of your story.
What I like about each of these methods is they keep you in the realm of story, but turn your focus from being stuck to being creative. Creativity breeds creativity, so the next time you find yourself frustrated and staring at a blank screen, try one of these prompts or create your own. It might not spark the entire plot for the next great literary classic (then again, it might), but it might be just enough to get the words out of your head and onto the page.