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Writer’s Block- Realistic Tips on How to Break Out

Writer’s block sucks. One day you’re going along, filled with ideas and directions for that short story, novel, or even fanfic. The next you’re staring at an unfinished paragraph, with one of those Windows pinwheels spinning in your mind. You read and reread and reread your previous pages over and over again, searching desperately for the inspiration you were bursting with just days before. But the pages blur together, the prose is simple and uninspired, and the future of your piece is bleak, destined to fail.

You think, “This is the end, my well has run dry and I might as well abandon this idea before it consumes me,”

Take it from a girl who hated everything she wrote for four months; writer’s block is awful.

As I write this, I’ve finally started to break out of that dreg. Ideas are once again blooming under my fingertips, plot threads reveal themselves to me with little coercion, and I can see the light of my worth shine through the darkness.

So how did I do it? And how can you?

The answer isn’t as simple as everyone makes it out to be. Sitting quietly and thinking long and hard about your cold, dead slab of a short story until your brain goes numb isn’t going to do very much, at least not for me. And hey, if that’s what it takes then more power to you, but for me, the best ways to break out of writer’s block can be summed about in five short points:

 Turn to Something Else, it’s Okay! – If that once brilliant idea has all but shriveled up and turned to dust, shelve it. At least for now. Excluding the dreaded deadline, there’s nothing wrong with moving on from one idea to the other. So what if your cyberpunk fae mashup novel isn’t giving you anything, that slice-of-life romance novella might be. Listen to it; give your mind a break for a while.

 Music can be Your Best Friend – Sometimes the playlist I’ve been relying on for months to get my fingers flying just stops doing it for me. A change in music is sometimes all I need to keep the word count growing; so try changing up your outside stimuli, maybe that’s the issue.

Talk to Others – Okay, before you reject this one completely, I know that telling others about your unfinished work can be mortifying. But trust me, finding that one friend or loved one that will listen to you ramble for hours about your ideas is the stuff of life itself. Don’t be shy, your friends and family will support you. Bounce ideas off them, ask them questions, even show them your work if you’re comfortable with it. And If no one bites, turn to online spaces, read discussion boards and post your own questions; someone is bound to answer. Sometimes you just need to hear things spoken out loud or get an outside perspective for the pieces to fall into place.

It’s Okay to go off Outline – Okay, real talk. Even the word outline makes my skin crawl. I’m a more in-the-moment figure it out as you go type of writer. I sit down with a vague idea and just go for it. But lots of people like to plan, and that’s great! But if you’re stuck on a sentence or a plot point, remember that your story isn’t set in stone. It might be scary, but sweeping changes in point of view, character development, and even the course your characters take are okay. If you find yourself realizing that a major plot point just doesn’t make sense anymore, take a breath, prepare yourself to grieve, then scrap it. No one sits down with a fully formed idea and then doesn’t change any part of it from rough draft to bookstore. I know it can be scary to abandon your plans and throw caution to the wind, but in the end, if it gets you writing again, then your story is better off for it.

Be Patient – The musical “Something Rotten” has this great verse in the song “Hard to Be the Bard” where Shakespeare sings “And you’re trying to find an opening line or a brilliant idea and you’re pacing the floor and hoping for just a bit of divine intervention” as he vents his frustrations about the pressure to write. I adore that song, and this line in particular; the frustration of being stuck is so universal. Sometimes as writers, the best thing we can do is sit back and let the ideas come to us. What do I mean by this? Don’t think too hard! Don’t worry if you aren’t coming up with much right now, you will. It may take a while, it took me almost four months to turn back to one of my pieces, but eventually, I was able to. You will too. Maybe inspiration will strike in the shower, or at a party, or when you’re sitting alone in your room working on something else, but it will strike. Be patient, keep your hopes up, and let your mind work its magic.

Lastly, and this isn’t on the list because I want it to be the last thing you read, the one piece of advice you should take even if nothing else in this article spoke to you. Keep writing. I know it can be hard, you may feel washed up on all fronts, but keep writing anyway. This is your passion, remember? You adore it, even when it’s difficult, even when you have to drag the characters kicking and screaming from scene to scene. You adore this. Take breaks when you need them, never let it become a stressful task, but persist. Keep on putting words on a page. There’s nothing worse you could do for yourself than to quit all together. Even rough prose and awkward dialogue are better than nothing. Your “worst” is still better than your nothing. So, keep on writing, you’ll thank yourself later, I promise. 

I am a College sophomore, majoring in history and creative writing. I love to write both creative and nonfiction pieces. I'm interested in social justice, feminism, and queer history.
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