Writer's Block: Tips and Tricks from an Aspiring Author

Thus concludes the end of my first semester as a HerCampus member. And, on a larger scale, my first year as a college student. Within HerCampus, I have had a wonderful experience as both a writer and an editor working under the constraints of regularly generating content. As an English major with a concentration in creative writing, I have garnered a whole other set of experiences in the world of content creation, and my docket certainly includes both successes and failures (though I won’t elaborate on the respective numbers of each). In any event, as my career goals and extracurriculars show, I am a writer at heart. So as the academic year draws to a close and we find ourselves with much more downtime than we might have anticipated, I can’t help but begin to think: I should be writing. Like, a lot. 

In reality, there are a whole host of articles and authors who will remind you that we each handle these types of situations in our own unique way: not everyone has to paint a masterpiece or write the next Pullitzer prize winner while in quarantine. The expectation of advanced productivity under the circumstances is, at best, an utterly ludicrous and privileged notion, so I want to firstly stress that I am not writing today to guilt or pressure anyone into trying to accomplish more than they are currently ready for. It’s okay to take time for your mental health, and it’s okay to just watch Netflix sometimes. However, if the restlessness is really starting to kick in and you share with me a passion (or even a hesitant interest) in creative writing, I’d like to share some of my favorite methods to cure a rather pesky case of writer’s block. 

 

  1. 1. Develop a Routine

    Now, I’ll be the first to admit that self-imposed routines can be frustratingly difficult to stick to. It’s easy to get unmotivated or distracted, and don’t we just live in an age full of distractions? But in my own experience, setting content goals is a really great way to keep yourself on task. Whether it be a page a day, a chapter a day, or 1000 words a day, giving yourself an objective can not only increase your productivity, but it’s a self-affirming and satisfying experience when you meet that objective. 

     

  2. 2. Allow Your First Drafts to be Imperfect

    We might not always want to say it, but the truth about first drafts is that they generally suck. There’s a reason that we revise in order to arrive at a more cohesive finished product, but oftentimes we can let our drive for perfectionism get in the way of simply getting words on a page. Let yourself make mistakes and divulge from your original plan, and you might even stumble upon something you never expected.

  3. 3. Listen to Music, Read a Book, Paint a Lanscape. . .

    Basically, do anything but write for a while. Being creative in other ways can get your brain working again, and reading a book by your favorite author or listening to a carefully curated playlist can serve as inspiration for your own work. Nothing in the world makes me more motivated to write a bestseller than reading one of Gillian Flynn’s few (yet compellingly rich) masterpieces. 

  4. 4. Write in Comic Sans

    This one is a little odd, so bear with me. I first became familiar with this method when a friend suggested I use it to ease the unfavorable process of writing an essay I definitely wasn’t excited about. Based on a viral Tumblr post, this trick has been reported by countless online creators as a strangely effective way to stimulate creation. Maybe it’s the unique shapes of the letters that helps the words flow so gracefully, or maybe the collective human hatred for the infamous font simply uses our anger to make us write out of spite. Either way, give it a try. 

  5. 5. Use Writing Prompts

    Writing prompts are my absolute favorite tools. Some of my best work throughout the years has stemmed from sentence starters and scenarios that I might have initially deemed outlandish, laughable, or just not useful. My recommendation: find some prompts here, here, or any number of sources online and in print, and simply free write as much as you can. You might surprise yourself with what ends up on the page.

  6. 6. Look at Your Piece from a Different Angle

    Character profiles can be helpful. Starting your story in a different place or at a different point in time entirely can be enlightening. Point-of-view changes can be positively inspired. Sometimes the block doesn’t mean that your story isn’t worth telling — it just means that you have to tell it a little differently. 

     

  7. 7. Use Real Life to Inspire You

    People-watching is one of the greatest tools in a writer’s arsenal. If you’re struggling with finding a character or scenario that works, someone’s trip to the mall or afternoon coffee break could be exactly what you need. Observing the world around you (from a distance, of course) with a notebook in hand can give you the touch of reality you might have previously been missing. 

     

  8. 8. Take a Break

    Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many different word combinations you can muster up in an attempt to find that perfect sentence. And sometimes, you truly need to just step back from your work for a moment and breathe. Burning yourself out isn’t the answer; go for a walk or play with your cat. Do anything to give your mind a rest, and remember that writer’s block is a completely normal occurrence. If you haven’t experienced it, then you’re not human. But what matters at the end of the day is your drive and perseverance even when your writer’s block might have you believing you’ll never be able to write a decent paragraph again. Passion, persistence, tenacity — these are the qualities that make a writer, not perfection or infallibility. So grab a word-processing program, a pen and paper, or a good old-fashioned typewriter, and just create.  

     

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