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3 Tips for Breaking Through Writer’s Block

Writers blockThere comes a point when every writer has sat in front of his or her computer and stared at a blank Word document—almost willing the words to magically appear on the screen. The blinking cursor doesn’t help either. It just sits there… taunting the writer to come up with a brilliant phrase or just the right word to set an idea in motion.

Whether you’re a professional writer or just do it for fun, writer’s block finds us all. And while there are many resources out there and best-selling authors ready to give sage advice on how to have that proverbial light bulb moment, I feel breaking through writer’s block can be done using these three tips:

Read

Now you may be thinking, ‘I read every day. How does this help me become a better writer?’ By being intentional about your reading. Try reading various different kinds of material: fiction, non-fiction, your favorite author, or a genre you normally wouldn’t gravitate towards. Read magazines, newspapers, even the trending topics on Facebook, and do it as often as you can. In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, master of suspense Stephen King frankly tells writers that, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Think about it. Reading actively engages your mind and fills it with all sorts of imagery that you can easily access when it’s time to write. Simply put, what you read becomes part of you whether you realize it or not. A certain fact may lie dormant for a time, but it’s there. Waiting to be accessed at just the precise moment it’s needed. Constantly reading also helps you have a better understanding of what kinds of writing is out there, which equips you with the knowledge of what’s fresh, what’s overused, or perhaps even introduces you to new words you can add to your vocab arsenal. Just a small blurb or phrase could spark an idea and pull you out of your writer’s rut. Being well read can also give you more confidence in your writing and when dealing with potential clients because you’ll be able to offer ideas and angles to deliver exactly what he or she is looking for. Or as King puts it, “The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor.

Write

This is another tip that seems like a no-brainer, but when a writer is blocked the temptation is to stop writing altogether. We tell ourselves we’re taking a ‘little break.’ The problem is that break can stretch on for days, weeks, and in many instances, months. That’s not good. Trying to pick up writing after a lengthy cooling off period can only lead to more frustration for the writer. Just like reading, the act of writing engages your mind and creates patterns that you can recall and use later. So what should you do during those times when you don’t feel like writing? Write of course! Buy an inexpensive journal that you can carry with you and spend five or 10 minutes during a break in your day to write. It can be free writing or something more specific. Check out Pinterest and type in ‘Writing Prompts’ in the search bar. Find a few that appeal to you and use them in your daily writing. When you write is up to you. If you’re a morning person, do it then. Same if you’re more of a night owl. Vary your writing environment as well. Try a park, a coffee shop, a museum—you get the idea. Different surroundings can give your writing the spark of creativity it needs. But whatever time or location you choose, just keep writing.

Engage

The last tip touches on the importance of having a community you can plug into. Writing can sometimes be a solitary endeavor, and a writer that spends too much time alone isn’t necessarily healthy. Yes, sometimes writers need quiet to finish a chapter or meet a deadline. What I’m talking about is when a writer completely isolates or rather disconnects from the world and other writers. As a freelance writer, I miss having a creative community around me to bounce ideas off of. So, sometimes when I’m stuck on something I’m writing, I’ll touch bases with a trusted writer friend so I can get a second opinion. Usually, that quick phone call or email is the kick I need to keep moving forward. If you don’t have someone like this in your life, I would suggest finding one. It can be a more seasoned writer who serves in more of a mentor role, or it can be a contemporary whose opinion matters to you and his or her technique is solid. Another option is joining a writer’s group. Check with your library, local bookstore, or university to see if there’s a group of writers that meet on a regular basis to discuss the craft and business of writing. Not only is it a great way to share ideas and info with other writers, but it can also prove to be a useful networking tool that could lead to a writing gig. If other writers don’t know who you are, they can’t recommend or introduce you to others. Finally, try a writer’s conference or retreat. It can be a one-day workshop or a weekend getaway. Either way, it provides another outlet for increasing your creativity and interacting with other writers. And don’t be afraid to go because you are worried that another writer will steal your ‘million-dollar idea.’ We all have different life experiences, so even if two writers were given the same topic, they would tell the story in vastly different ways.

By no means are these tips definitive, but sometimes the easiest solutions to a problem are the ones that are simple and straightforward. Share in the comments your go-to tips for breaking through writer’s block.

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