Four Ways to Combat Writer’s Block

One of the first music videos I gravitated toward as a kid was “What You Waiting For?” by Gwen Stefani. I fully understand the absurdity of the choice: the song was never that big of a hit, nor was the video particularly highly rated. I, for whatever reason, just really liked it.

The video opens with Stefani talking to her agent, who is urging her to get into the studio to start writing her new album right away. “I mean I really want to do it, I’m going to do it, but I got to get inspired,” Stefani says into the phone. The next shot reads, “One Month Later,” and we find Stefani is no closer than she was before, with her still blaming her lack of inspiration. After her agent tells her, “Well here you go: you’re officially inspired,” Stefani winds up behind a piano, staring straight forward as she fails to put together a song.

After seeing a well-placed ad in her studio claiming to have the solution to writer’s block, Stefani winds up in a doctor’s office, where she answers a list of odd questions, watches a cheesy self-help video, and then winds up right where she was before: behind a piano, this time with no temptations. Rather than continue to fail, this time Stefani is able to connect with the inspiration that had always been just out of reach, and she churns out the song.

Writer’s block is nothing short of painful to those who are suffering from it, resulting in a downward spiral of self-doubt and missed deadlines. When you are suffering from it, it feels like something must be wrong with you, and Stefani even decided that the process of fixing her block would be found medically. However, as she demonstrates in her video, there is no clear way out of writer’s block. You just have to get out.

Helpful, right?

Well, lucky for you, I have compiled what I believe are the top four ways to try and overcome your writer’s block.

1.     Brainstorm. Have you ever considered that your problem isn’t you, but your story? Sometimes, writer’s block is a by-product of a story that really isn’t ready to be written. It isn’t that the words aren’t coming because you can’t find them, but because there are no words that can fix some of the flaws that only your subconscious has discovered. Before you try any more intense methods of overcoming your writer’s block, try just taking a step back and doing a thorough brainstorming section. Think of different ways you could approach that section of the story or could connect plot points A and B. You could either find that new solution that instantly restores your inspiration, or you will reaffirm your commitment to the track you were on. In either case, you know that you are ready to move forward.

2.     Just Do It. This is essentially what Stefani did to overcome her writer’s block in the video, and it is probably the most recommended advice on the internet for overcoming your block. Imagine your writing as you walking down a path, with your block being, quite literally, a block. Though it is going to be slow going and potentially painful, you just have to force your way through, talking things one word at a time and pressing your way forward at whatever pace you can manage. In many cases, you’ll be able to fully clear aside that block and be back to speedy cruising before you know it. If you are trying this method, it is best to set a timer and remove yourself completely from distractions. For example, lock yourself away in your room after warning friends and family what you are up to, and set a timer for twenty minutes. If you find yourself easily distracted, use a productivity app, like the Forest app, to block out temptation.

3.     Just Don’t Do It. “But you just said—” I know, I know. Here is the thing: writing is a deeply personal experience and what works for some to overcome a block will not work for everyone. If you can’t manage to force yourself through the block through dedicated time, try just taking a step back. Watch a TV show. Bake something. Spend time with friends. Do something that forces your story to the back of your brain where your subconscious mind will continue to work on it. When the inspiration comes, it will just appear suddenly, either in the form of the words themselves or a new story direction that you know will pull you out of your funk. If taking this route, make sure you set a limit for your break. Take an afternoon off before you return to brainstorm or force yourself back in front of the computer. Let your break go on too long, and you may never want to go back to your manuscript. Also, keep a notebook close. Jot down those words, phrases, or bits of dialogue that just appear out of nowhere. One of them might be the snap that inspires you to write pages and pages and pages…

4.     Exercise. What would a list of advice on the internet be without including exercise? The powers of exercise extend into all things and writing is no exception. When you exercise, your blood gets moving, delivering oxygen to the muscles around your body, including your brain, resulting in better energy, stamina, and cognitive function. Furthermore, exercise is proven to help reduce some of the issues tied to writers block, including poor sleep, tension, stress, and anxiety. Finally, exercise releases those happy fun endorphins, giving you a natural high that improves your self-confidence and optimism (Mayo Clinic Health Services). Plus, when you exercise you get a period of time where all you have is yourself and your thoughts, giving you a great time to subtly brainstorm ideas and reconnect with your story. Though there is no quick scientific fix to writer’s block, exercise certainly comes close.

If Gwen Stefani’s music video shows us anything, it is that there is nothing to be ashamed of if you are suffering from writer’s block. We all have moments where things do not go as planned, and all you can do at that point is to admit that you need to just keep trying and not give up. Eventually, your inspiration will hit you like a little pink bunny (seriously, watch the video), and you will be back on track.

How do you overcome writer’s block? Leave a comment down below to share your tips and tricks.