How To: Combat Writer's Block

A few weeks ago I experienced a beautiful period of intense productivity. 
I was writing diss tracks and novel extracts left, right & centre and all was right in the world, until I hit a big ol' wall and now nothing I try to write is working. However, I refuse to resign myself to a life of mediocrity and underachievement, so instead of accepting my fate and switching tabs back to the baller documentary I've been watching about the Middle Ages, I have decided to compile a list - mainly for myself, but also for you (#payitforward) - of ways to combat writer's block. 


Pander to your dramatic inner child
God knows if I'm going to do anything I need to be in the right mood, so it's unlikely that I'll snap straight from horizontally watching Kardashians to writing our generation's most iconic work of semi-autobiographical quasi-fiction without some kind of intermediate step. Most of the time I'll get rid of any clutter that's stressing me out, take off my makeup, chuck my hair up, put on some trackies, open a window, light a candle or two and make tea. 
Alternatively, I sometimes find that getting dressed as though I'm ready to go out can also inspire me to be more productive, it just depends on my mood. Essentially give yourself a few minutes to get in the zone, however you need to.
It's called an artistic process for a reason, yall.

Clear away distractions
I touched on this in the first point, but beyond getting rid of clutter you're also going to want to remove anything that is not related to your immediate task.
The frustration of writer's block is a gateway to procrastination, and procrastinating will obviously make it even harder to get anything done, so just get rid of the damn distractions and give yourself a frickin shot.

Finish something small and simple
Never underestimate the power of just getting the ball rolling. Pick a project you know you'll be able to handle with minimal effort, whether it's something you've already done the bulk of the work for or an easy mini-idea you just haven't gotten around to yet. Finishing one task, regardless of its significance, will open the floodgates, restore confidence in your ability to get things done and make it a lot easier to move onto the next idea.

Write in a diary
Or anywhere else that you have no intention of ever being seen.
First of all, it's a good way to get back into the swing of writing without any pressure. Unless you imagine it being published as some kind of Georgia Nicolson-esque best-seller or scrutinised by your judgmental future children, but ha ha who would do that, am I right? Additionally, it also helps to get your excess angst/feelings/preoccupations out of your system so they can stop interfering with the process. I often find that if there's something I care about too much it's inevitably going to mess with my ability to think/write properly, and although a certain level of emotion can be a goldmine of creativity, once you bypass that sweet spot it just becomes a bit of a strain.

Keep an idea bank for emergencies
Whether you're in the middle of doing something else or you simply can't be bothered expanding upon an idea in the moment that it comes to you, have a designated space to document anything even vaguely useful that you might think up. Having somewhere to dump your ideas will free up mental space for you to come up with new ones, and also provides a convenient little library of choices when the time comes along that you do feel like writing.


Immerse yourself in things that inspire you
There's no right or wrong way to do this, but it does require being self-aware enough to identify and seek out your own specific inspirational triggers, even when you're not really feeling it. I believe in you. For me these can be anything from pictures of Italy in the rain, to things my friends have created, to youtube videos about other people's organised, productive lives. I'm also a very visual person, so sometimes I'll go scroll through my own tumblr and get amped off the aesthetic. 
If there's a location that inspires you, go there. If you have a friend who makes you feel capable, talk to them. If reading one specific page of some completely irrelevant book fills you with the fighting spirit to write one of your own, go read that one specific page. Read it 20 times if you have to, and do it while listening to All Star and burning a candle that reminds you of a beautiful memory. Identify the things that inspire you, and then drown yourself in them until it rubs off.
Inspiration boards are also very handy for this, and you can find posts I've done about mine here and here.

Stream of consciousness/freeform writing
Just start writing. Whether it's on the computer or on paper (I find paper works better because I don't have the option to backspace so it keeps me moving forward instead of rephrasing things 50 times), just get out whatever's in your brain and keep going until you feel like that stream of consciousness has run its course.
Use whatever small spark you can find and just write absolute crap for as long as you need. Sometimes it will just end up being a cathartic brain dump, but it can also bring subconscious thoughts to the surface and help you to approach or phrase things in a way you otherwise may not think to. I personally find that eliminating the elements of overthinking and perfectionism helps me to look at things from a fresh perspective and explore concepts I otherwise may not have paid much attention to. Plus this also comes back to the idea of just writing SOMETHING to get back in the habit.*

Descriptive writing
If you really can not find a single scrap of inspiration just pick something and write about it. 
Object, person, occasion, feeling - doesn't matter what it is, just pick something and write about it in as much detail as you can.

Go the heck outside
Do it. You don't need to go near people, you don't have to do anything strenuous, just leave your house and go sit somewhere for a bit. It's easy to forget how much of an effect physical circumstances can have on your creativity/productivity, and staying in one place can trap your creative processes in a repetitive cycle. 
If you don't know where to start, just take a notebook to a park or a bench near some sort of body of water and free write everything that comes into your brain.

Alternative motivation
If you want to get creative with your writing, get creative with your motivation. As a cliched 23-year-old version of Stacey from The Babysitters' Club, one of the things that motivates me most is boys. Boys and vengeance. So if I think about a boy-related situation that's frustrating me I feel motivated to sort my life out by any means possible and BAM, we've got the first chapter of a scheme-related novel. If we're going to go for a less concerning, more relatable angle, I'll imagine the person I like reading whatever it is that I want to write. Wouldn't want them to do that if it were terrible or unfinished, would I.
Basically think of something you want and somehow create a reality in which literary productivity is the key to your success.
Doesn't matter how logical it may or may not be - if it works, don't question it.


Read something good you wrote in the past
Remind yourself how talented and wonderful you are.

Revisit and revise old work
If you're stuck for new ideas, find an older piece and rework it. Edit it, expand upon it, incorporate it as part of a new piece. It's your work, so use it.

If inspiration hits, run with it
This should be obvious, but a lot of the time when I feel sudden inspiration I'll second-guess or overthink the idea instead of just jumping in. This is an inconvenient tendency, but one that is fixable, so when you feel any kind of inspiration - regardless of whether or not it's at all related to what you're trying to get done at that moment - get it out of your brain and down on paper before it disappears. You don't necessarily have to sit down and see through the entire project start to finish, just write down whatever key points you'll need to come back to it properly later. A vague skeleton of notes is better than nothing.

Listen to classical music
Chuck on some Tchaikovsky so you feel like a genius and roll with it.
Imagine you are the undisputed literary champion of our time, seated comfortably in your tastefully decorated yet extravagant personal library, effortlessly blessing the world with yet another critically acclaimed and culturally relevant masterpiece. It's the same basic theory that was behind the fact I wrote almost all of my most successful history essays in high school whilst thinking in the voice of a british professor. Fake it til you make it, adapt as needed.
I don't know if that particular practice is a thing normal people do, but the classical music thing is universal.
Hannibal Lecter loved a bit of Bach, and he was well smart

Drink a ridiculous amount of caffeine
Get a lil crazy with the cappuccinos & see what comes out.
If there are any negative repercussions I take absolutely no responsibility.

Go off and do something else entirely
Get your mind off it, stop trying to force things and chill the heck out.

Make something terrible
Write something so truly horrendous that whatever you write afterwards will be a masterpiece in comparison.
We're talking acrostic poems of your own name. Songs that don't rhyme. Stories about what your pet would do if it understood technology. Spoken word poetry.
Whatever it is, just make it as bad as you can, and then appreciate the fact you are better than that.
Or realise it's so bad it's brilliant and sleep easy, safe in the knowledge that you have created art.

x0x0


*Speaking of habits have you ever realised that School of Rock is essentially just a whitewashed version of Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit? I think about that a lot.

2 comments

  1. I love this list. I've been searching for any kind of help with my writer's block, and your creativity never ceases to amaze me. Thank you so much :)

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  2. Whenever I have creative/writers block, I turn to blogs, thus why I'm here! This was a great post, so much fun to read and so fun!!

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