To beat writer's block, a typical problem among writers, let’s tackle it with atypical solutions. Nine of them, because, well, nine is an atypical number.
We’ve heard the typical responses for how to overcome the seemingly over-come-able plague known as writer’s block:
“You just have to write every day.”
“You gotta push past those esoteric obstacles and believe in yourself and your writing.”
And, of course, everyone’s favorite: “Writer’s block doesn’t exist.”
It does. And, far from the land of the esoteric, it feels very real and straightforward when it leeches your energy as you face that bright screen every morning. So, to solve a typical problem among writers, let’s tackle it with atypical solutions. Nine of them, because, well, nine is an atypical number.
1. Do what you font.
Comic Sans gets a bad rap when used in design and as the primary font for the water tower in my town (seriously, look up Gas City, Indiana). But the easy-to-read font has proven productive for a number of writers.
Changing what font you use can switch up the blocked routine you’ve developed. Writing a romance? Try a curly, flowery font such as Harlow Solid Italic or Monotype Corsiva. More into sci-fi? Bauhaus 93 and Magneto can emulate a futuristic feel. Tinker with ten different fonts until you find which one works best for flow.
2. Map out your world.
Quite literally. Create a map.
Or if you have a second mastery in art, aside from writing, create portraits of your characters using watercolor or other artistic mediums.
Nothing gets writers more excited about their writing than ancillary material. Anything from creating Spotify playlists to match the tones of chapters to making t-shirt designs on Custom Ink can give a writer just enough enthusiastic gas to accelerate through that next scene. I personally creating book quote social media posts on Canva—a free and easy-to-use InDesign.
3. Treat yo self.
This may sound out of place. After all, why would you reward yourself if you haven’t accomplished as much writing as you intended?
First, as writers, we tend to overwork ourselves and forget to pause and realize how much we have accomplished already. Only wrote 100 words today? Congratulations, that’s 100 steps toward your goal.
Second, we will psychologically program ourselves to equate rewards with writing. Done in moderation, our brains will work harder to achieve these benchmark prizes. So set the bar. Once you reach an attainable goal (500 words, a completed article, etc.), don’t be afraid to gift yourself when you hit it.
4. Pitch perfect.
Want extra incentive to finish the next Great Medieval England novel? Twitter pitch parties have your back. Pitch parties such as #AdPit (adult categories), #Kidpit (children’s genres), #sffpit (Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres), and everything in between allow authors to pitch their novels in 280 characters, using the appropriate hashtag. If an agent or editor likes the tweet, authors are invited to send their manuscript, skipping right over the slush pile.
Here’s the catch: they have to be completed manuscripts.
So whether you need to get a move on those third draft edits or finish chapter twenty-eight, find a Twitter pitch party, mark it in your calendar, and make that your deadline.
5. Try a different genre.
Each genre, no matter how literary, comes with its own formula. Problem with formulas: authors tend to get bored with them. Perhaps your writer’s block stems from the need for a change of pace.
In that case, try writing something completely out of your comfort zone. Perhaps you do nonfiction and the idea of an epic fantasy sends you into shock, or you’ve tried short stories for a while, but poetry sounds daunting. Try it anyway. Odds are, you’ll stretch your craft, and you might just find your new favorite genre.
6. Give it a rest.
I write about 500-3,000 words a day (depending if I’m working on a novel or not). Multiply the average of that by about 300 days and you get . . . burn out.
Even writers need breaks. We need that Netflix binge (or two, or three), or just a day to spend time with family without worrying about how to come up with the ninth point for the freelance article. If this is the case, take a day, a week, or even (if you have to) a month away from writing. You might find this rest gives your brain time to heal. Who knows? Maybe ten ideas’ll fall into your lap during the time you took off.
7. Get anti-social.
I love writing, but I also love Pinterest. Take a wild guess at which one sucks me in for hours.
Although social media has allowed writers to connect with readers from across the world and share fantastic tips in various writing communities across all social media platforms, it takes us away from the thing we post about all the time: writing.
Various apps such as FocusON and Anti-Social allow for authors to turn off social media and focus on the writing. Don’t worry. Once you finish those last fifty words, you can turn social back on and beam at all the Instagram notifications to your heart’s content.
8. Write out of order.
S.L. Gorman, a literary agent and writer, says this tip keeps her on task and excited about her writing. Say you have an ineptitude when it comes to introductions, write the body and come back to that later. Write what scene you’re most excited to write first.
9. Hit the showers.
No, not because you smell bad. At least, I hope not. I can’t really tell from over here . . . but because most people tend to get their best ideas when practicing this hygienic activity.
According to a Business Insider article, “72% of people get their best ideas in the shower — here's why,” by Jacquelyn Smith, the relaxing environment of the shower allows for a conducive, creative atmosphere. So when you feel stuck in the middle of that fight scene between Danny and Hannah, consider standing in the shower a few minutes longer than usual. You might just hit a breakthrough.
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E., a professional writing (B.S.) graduate from Taylor University, and a soon-to-be published novelist. She has worked for various magazines, newspapers, publishing houses, and agencies, getting a taste of just about everything in the writing industry. More than 250 of her works have been featured in various publications, ranging from short stories to co-authoring a WWII Veteran’s memoir, published by Taylor University Press. Having combatted depression for eight years, she knows firsthand the woes and writer’s block and the several ways to beat it out of her system every morning. Her YA book Den comes out with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas this June. You can find more about her here: hopebolinger.com