Sometimes your brain gets stuck and it doesn’t know what to do. That’s normal. Whether you’re struggling with how to write your next scene or lacking inspiration for a story, I’ve made this list of suggestions (not foolproof solutions) that just might help you.
Getting Stuck While Writing
Here are some things I do if I’m stuck while in the middle of writing.
Go back to the beginning. Especially, if you are having trouble with the plot. If it came up in chapter nine (like it did for me) it’s probably because you have a problem (or inconsistency) in chapter one. Go back and find it, fix it, and hopefully, it’ll solve your block. But that’s an oversimplification. The frame of your mind is important in this one. Don’t be “looking” for a problem to solve that’ll solve your writer’s block. This is digging. What in your foundation is cracked that is making the upper part of your structure start to crumble? Focus on the beginning (not the part you’re working on). Once that gets patched, then you can hopefully write through it.
Read over your notes. Look through old notes and ideas you have stored all over the place. I have random ideas in the notes on my phone, scraps of paper, notebooks, and even memos! Maybe you had the idea before but now just need to find it again.
Handwrite! Seriously, I use this trick a lot! It makes me slow down, consider words, and not get distracted by the internet. This is my first strategy when rewriting a chapter or scene; I turn to paper.
Write something else. A blog post, work on another story, free write from a prompt. Write a poem even! Maybe writing something else will help inspire your words.
Take a break! Get bored for a bit. It’s good for your brain to get bored because even if you seem like you aren’t doing anything, your brain is actually doing a great deal. Making connections and processing information.
Go for a walk. Let nature inspire you. Get some fresh air in your lungs. And yes, let your brain get a little bit bored!
Exercise. This is about letting go of frustration. It’s a vicious cycle: the more you worry, the more stuck you’ll get, and then you’ll worry more. Blast some tunes and work it out.
Brainstorm aloud. Imagine you’re giving a lecture on your book or story. Explaining the premise, what you want your readers to gather or feel. Talk it out. Out loud! Say it to your cat, to yourself in the mirror, or a friend.
Draw or Journal. Distract yourself from the writing by making something else. It’s still in the creative vein but without worrying about the writer’s block. Maybe creating will help inspire you.
Drive. Just drive (or ride) in a car. I’ve come up with some ideas on the road. Again, don’t be looking for it. Maybe it’s the boredom of driving that lets the ideas come to me instead of chasing the ideas.
Travel. If you can’t travel physically, travel via the internet. Look up images of places you want to go. Maybe a landscape will inspire an epic adventure. Or try google earth. Drop yourself in some random street and imagine who would live there. What’s their story? What do they look like? Are they out of place?
Talk to someone. Friends, family, strangers. Just to catch up or get to know them. Talking to fellow writers is a great way to brainstorm. Sometimes talking about the problem out loud really helps. If not, just getting away from the writing for a bit. Being a bit (gasp) social! Conversations are a great way to spark ideas. But don’t rely on this! If you’re constantly thinking about it you’ll never get over it.
Free write. Get a prompt and go with it. Learning how to free write is hard. You have to let go of expectations. It’s about practicing. The more you write, the more easily it will come.
Let little details inspire you. Write down little details and observations of your day. How does the kettle sound while boiling? The bird swooping in the street? It’s good practice for writing detail and maybe it’ll inspire you. I was once sitting in my car watching as a thunderstorm roll in and boom! Inspired to add a thunderstorm to my novel as they trekked through the plains. The devil is in the details, as they say (whoever ‘they’ are).
Get calm. Meditate, do some yoga or some deep breathing exercises. You could also treat yourself and do some self-care, like a DIY spa.
Sleep it off. Take a nap or maybe go to bed. Wake up the next day with fresh eyes and a new start. Sometimes there are no ways to get around a bad day besides a little shut-eye.
Stop thinking about it! Seriously you are not going to get over the hump by constantly thinking about it. It’s only going to block you more. All these “strategies” are doing one thing, letting your brain rest, reset, and hopefully refocus on the work at hand.
The Ultimate Advice
Read! Read a book, story, or article. Read good writing. Read really good writing. Learn from the best and get inspired by the best. Read some bad writing. Read what not to do in your writing. Read wide and read often. You never know if it’ll be a celebrity memoir to inspire your next great idea or your favorite children’s book.
Seriously, Persuasion is one of the most undervalued Jane Austen novels. Like, that slow burn and that letter scene! Come on! Jane Austen always seems to inspire me. What author inspires you?
Am I going through writer’s block right now? Well, actually I kind of am. I’m going through rewriting block. And writing this blog post has indeed been a welcome distraction.
Writer’s block can be so frustrating and I think everyone goes through it at some point. Whether you get caught up on something small (like a sentence) or something big (like a scene), it’s work out eventually. The hard thing is waiting for that to happen. Maybe some of these ideas or strategies can help you. Do you have strategies to get through writer’s block? What works for you? Tell me in the comments if you’ve tried any of these out.