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  • Writer's pictureDebra Stang

25 Strategies for Smashing Through Writer’s Block

Even those writers who swear they never have any kind of writer's block (and don't you just hate them?) have probably had some days when writing was easier than others. They just gave those hard days another name.

Whether you want to attribute the more difficult days to writing block, a runaway muse, not feeling well, or even dealing with the agony of an assignment you hate, there are a few quick fixes for powering through this tough time and getting back on track. Here are some of my favorite methods.

1. Skip the part that's giving you trouble. If you have no idea how your characters are going to stumble across a fresh body in Chapter 1, don't worry about that and head on to Chapter 2 where they're being interviewed by the police.

2. Play Sudoku or work a jigsaw puzzle. Or if you like, you can play a computer game. The idea is to engage another part of your mind which may have some ideas to contribute to your writing.

3. Vacuum. Repetitive motion. Soothing sound. House looks good when you're finished. Yea.

4. Wash dishes. Again, a simple, ritualistic task that takes you mind off your story and actually improves your living space.

5. Take a walk. Many people think best on their feet.

6. Pay bills. Sometimes a low account balance can scare you into getting back to work.

7. Work on a different project. If you're hopelessly stuck on Project 1, don't spend your whole day agonizing about it. Just go on to Project 2 or 3.

8. Take a shower or bath. You'll feel clean, pampered, and ready to get back to the work at hand.

9. Sing. I've read that singing engages both sides of your brain at once, so when you're dealing with a thorny problem, it can be a way to get your whole brain focused.

10. Read. Read a book you love. Or read a book that is so hideous your youngest child could have written it better.

11. Take care of plants/pets. Take a few minutes off to water your plants, dig around in your garden, or play with your pets. It can help get you grounded.

12. Take a nap.

13. Call a friend. Better yet, call a friend who is a writer and who knows how to both empathize and give you a gentle kick in the tail.

14. Interview yourself. Imagine that the project your blocked on has been finished, and it's an international hit. (Harry Potter Who?) What would you tell a reporter who asked you how you did it?

15. Read the piece aloud. Stories and articles have the bad habit of going slightly off track in a way that isn't obvious on a silent read-through. Read it aloud, instead, to identify the moment when things started going south.

16. Take it one sentence at a time. Make yourself write one sentence. Just one sentence. Then get up and do something else. Then return and write one more sentence. Before long, you'll probably be writing paragraphs and pages without needing a break.

17. Make it awful. Use bad grammar. Deliberately misspell words. Be snide and snarky. Make the piece the worst you can possibly make it. In other words, have a lot of fun with it. You can pull out your blue pencil and get serious tomorrow.

18. Watch a movie. Go to a movie you've been wanting to see or pick your favorite DVD. You're not writing anyway, so you might as well do something fun. And the nicer you are to yourself, the easier it will be to start writing again.

19. Scream. Get in the car, drive to a secluded area, and scream at the top of your lungs. Once you've pushed past whatever else is frustrating you, the writing should be a piece of cake.

20. Play with toys. One of my best friends, an artist, kept a large aquarium on her desk and filled it with dolls, marbles, action figures, blocks, plastic animals, and every other type of toy she could find at a garage sale or thrift store. When she got blocked, she grabbed two of her toys and acted out scenes between them. It worked.

21. Bribe yourself shamelessly. Pick out your favorite activities and then use them as the proverbial carrot. "If I write one more paragraph, I'll stop and read ten minutes of my favorite Andrew Vachss book." "If I finish the page, I'll make myself a hot fudge sundae for dessert."

22. Banish your inner bully. You may have heard your inner bully referred to as your inner drill sergeant. Whatever you want to call him/her, it's time for the inner meanie to take a one-way trip to Siberia. Self-abuse rarely inspires positive change.

23. Eat a healthy snack. If it's been a while since you've taken your last break, your body may be dehydrated, protein-starved, or just plain hungry. Give yourself half an hour to an hour to have lunch and see how much better your writing goes.

24. Get away from your work station. Take your laptop to a bookstore or coffee shop instead, or walk to your favorite place in the city park and write longhand for a bit. You don't have to be chained to your ergonomic chair to be productive.

25. Meditate. The whole idea of transcendental meditation is to clear your mind completely and just sit in the present moment. I admit it–I can't do it. What does happen when I try to meditate is that my mind immediately starts thinking of ways to get back into my writing. I listen to the mental "chatter" until I find one that sounds promising, then I'm back to my computer. Mission accomplished.

How do you get through writer's block?      

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