Anyone seeking to craft stories, essays, or full-length manuscripts dreads writer’s block. This infamous hurdle can leave you staring at a blank page instead of seeing your work in print. Not only will this likely result in hours of frustration, but it could also lower your confidence.
If this sounds familiar, it’s probably time for you to start implementing some techniques to prevent writer’s block. Once you learn how to be productive even when you’re not feeling inspired, you’ll be on your way to healthy writing habits.
In this post, I’ll start by explaining the dangers of waiting for inspiration to strike before you start writing. Then I’ll share six tips for overcoming writer’s block that I’ve found helpful over the years. Time to put pen to paper!
Why You Shouldn’t Wait Until Inspiration to Strikes to Tackle Writer’s Block
Writing is a long process. First drafts, revisions, critique from readers, and more editing make for quality finished manuscripts, but they also take time.
The longer you wait to start putting words on the page, the longer it’s going to take for you to see your efforts pay off. When you don’t feel like you’re making progress, you’re even less likely to be motivated to sit down and put in the work necessary to reach your goals.
In other words, waiting for inspiration makes it less likely it will strike.
On the other hand, writing regularly can train your brain to switch into “creating mode” when it’s time to work on your draft. By learning to write even when you’re not in the mood, you can refine your skills and habits to build a productive practice.
How to Write When You’re Not Inspired (6 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block)
Staring at your laptop trying to force yourself to want to write might help you eek out a hundred words or so. However, if you want to really be productive when inspiration is scarce, one of these tactics might be a better option. Here are six ways you can try to overcome writer’s block.
1. Create a Writing Routine
Having a writing routine can benefit your craft in many ways. For starters, if you stick to it, scheduling time to work on your latest project could eliminate writer’s block from your life.
Sometimes, just overcoming the dread of sitting down at the computer to work through that tough scene is enough to give you the push you need to make it happen. Plus, when you write regularly, you’ll feel like you’re making progress even if you’re just banging out another draft that will need revising.
To build your writing routine, consistency is more important than frequency. If you can only commit to two hours of writing every Saturday morning, that’s better than saying you’ll write for an hour every day but not following through.
2. Plan or Revise When You’re Experiencing Writer’s Block
Just because you’re not feeling creative doesn’t mean you can’t be productive when it comes to your writing. There are a lot of other behind-the-scenes elements that go into crafting a story. Tackling one of them when you’re experiencing writer’s block can help you make progress despite a lack of new material.
Some writing-related tasks you might take on when you’re not feeling particularly inspired include:
- Revising a scene you’ve already written
- Creating an outline for a new story idea
- Writing character sheets to help you enhance your current project
- Set up a Pinterest board for your story and fill it with inspiring pins
- Build a playlist of songs related to your story to help get you in the mood to write
The possibilities are endless. There are plenty of writing tools and templates out there to help you along, too.
3. Try Writing In a New Location
While there’s a lot to be said for having a dedicated workspace, a change of scenery can also do wonders for your productivity and creativity. If you normally write at home, try heading down to your favorite coffee shop or cafe every once in a while to mix things up.
You can also write at your local library, in Barnes & Noble, or even in community spaces at nearby universities. If your laptop has decent battery life or you like to write longhand, venues like public parks also become viable options.
4. Do Something Active or Get Outside to Find Inspiration
Speaking of public parks, getting outside for a while can do wonders for your creativity. We all need to recharge sometimes, and fresh air and green space are proven to provide much-needed mental rejuvenation.
Even if you don’t consider yourself particularly “outdoorsy”, taking your dog for a walk or doing something active can help set the gears in your brain turning. If you’re not sure where to start, try looking for local community events. There are often free all-level yoga classes, bike rides, and other opportunities that can give you some direction.
5. Eliminate Distractions
Sometimes what feels like writer’s block is really just an inability to focus on the task at hand. Cutting out distractions can help you see that there are amazing ideas sitting in your brain just waiting for you to pay attention to them.
So, turn off the TV or your music, put your phone on Do Not Disturb, and buckle down. You might also consider trying a distraction journal to capture any passing thoughts that try to convince you they’re more important than your writing.
If social media and the internet pose serious temptations, you can also look into website blockers that will prevent you from wandering onto sites where you’re likely to become sidetracked. Some popular options include:
- StayFocused. This is a Google Chrome browser extension. It enables you to set time limits for specific websites. You can still access these sites, but you’ll be sent back to work after a bit of free browsing.
- Pause. Also for Chrome, Pause displays a green screen for five seconds that makes you consider whether continuing to your destination site is a good idea. It might be enough to send you back to your manuscript and away from Facebook.
- Cold Turkey. If you need something stricter, you can look into Cold Turkey Blocker. This app works across browsers, and collects statistics about your productivity so you can see your progress. There’s also a Writer app that works alongside it to turn your computer into a typewriter until you reach your word count goal.
StayFocused and Pause are free. Cold Turkey Blocker and Writer have free versions with basic features, as well as paid upgrades.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Fear of failure can be paralyzing. If you keep sitting down to write but aren’t making any progress, it could be that you’re blocking yourself – whether it’s conscious or not.
Take a little bit of pressure off yourself. Remember that no one has to see what you’re writing unless you want them to. You have nothing to lose by putting words on the page, but you’ll miss out on infinite opportunities if you do nothing.
Writer’s block can put a real damper on your workflow and your publication goals. Figuring out how to be productive whether you’re feeling inspired or not can help you make real progress on your latest project.
Just keep these six tips in mind:
- Create a writing routine.
- Plan or revise when you’re feeling blocked.
- Try writing in a new location.
- Do something active or get outside.
- Eliminate distractions.
- Don’t be afraid to fail.
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Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.