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5 Ways to Combat Writer's Block

Most people think of writer's block as a complete drought of ideas.

For many writers, however, the block they experience isn't about having no ideas; it's about a lack of confidence. It's about feeling overwhelmed. It's about finding the perfect writing situation: the right time, the right place, the right desk-top snack.

Here are some block-breakers that work for me:

1. Go for a long walk.

There's nothing like physical exercise and fresh air to clear the mind and work out the tension in your muscles. Ideas will sort themselves out. Self-doubt will drop away with each step. You'll return to your desk with a new outlook.

2. Pursue another creative outlet

Grab your camera. Dust off your clarinet. Draw. Knit. Build a rocket. Anytime you create, no matter what it is, you get the juices flowing. This is especially useful when your outlet leads to a relatively quick sense of accomplishment. The pursuit works best if you keep your goals short-term and well within reach. When you finish that sketch, you'll have boosted your waning self-confidence.

3. Laugh.

Talk to a friend, watch stand-up routines on You Tube. We writers can take ourselves wayyyy too seriously, so lightening up your mood can make you better prepared for getting back to work. And that's just what it is: work. It's not magic. It's not heavenly. It's work, a mixture of exhilaration and drudgery. And a laugh might be just the thing to remind you of that.

4. Listen to music.

I prefer instrumentals: something simple is best, like a piano or guitar solo. Movie soundtracks work well, too. They can infuse you with a sense of the dramatic and help you focus on the scene at hand, forgetting the larger, seemingly insurmountable goal.

5. Write.

Anything. When I ask students to freewrite, the only guidelines I give them is to keep writing. Keep pen to paper. Don't look around the room or close your eyes, waiting for some idea to pop into your head. Just write. Don't stop. What to write? Anything. Blah, blah, blah. Write about how stupid writing is. Eventually, you'll work out the kinks.

Writers block is a dam keeping your ideas backed up, stagnant but ready to burst. And just like that big, concrete obstacle, the block won't budge unless you do something about it.


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