I have on occasion struggled to get a character from Point A over to Point C where I need them to be in 1800 words or less. I’ve fought to make a character interesting enough, like is she just quirky just to be quirky or does it add anything to the story? But I’ve never once been completely strapped for ideas and felt unable to write.
Well, just this week, I experienced writer’s block for the very first time. And let me tell you, I know why everyone complains about it so much! What a horrible feeling, being locked inside of my brain and unable to do anything about it.
So what was going on?
For many years, writing has been a side gig. I’ve always written for myself and other people part-time after my 9-to-5. Although other people’s stories and articles and content take up some of my brain’s ability to create, I’d never run out of creative juice to continue my own works.
Now that I write full-time, I’m using my brain power all day to create for others. Once it came down to writing for myself, I had nothing left. I sat staring at the empty page, feeling foolish for wasting my own time. Never in my life have I ever felt so empty and helpless and less like a writer.
But I managed to get the ideas flowing again after a few false tries. If you have ever experienced writer’s block and don’t know what to do to get out of it, I feel your pain now. And now that I know what it is that others face, I want to help. So, here are some things that worked for me:
Drawing: I was an art major in college for a reason. I love graphic design, pencil, and Conte crayon. So I busted out my old doodle books and utensils and got to work. Doing something creative that wasn’t writing helped to loosen up my writing muscles.
Meditation: Sitting in silence isn’t something I’m good at; my brain is awesome at going a mile a minute the moment I am not actively doing anything. So I need guided mediation. Here are a few things that help me meditate:
- Search for “Moving Art” on Netflix. These are wordless documentaries about waterfalls, changing seasons and flowers. They are beautiful with gentle music in the background. Watching them while sitting cross-legged in front of the TV helps me to clear my mind and get meditating.
- Anything audiobook by Benjamin Bonetti. I love his voice and his guided meditation/trance/hypnosis session are all I need to be able to get into the zone.
- There are tons of great guided meditation videos for free on YouTube, like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7rCDZXSgxI
Giving up and reading/playing video games: Working as a freelancer, I put in almost as many hours as I was putting in before when I worked a full-time job with a big commute and a part-time writing gig at home. I work every day. So I took a day off and went to a coffee shop, went to the bookstore, played video games, read a book, and watched some movies. I ended up with so many ideas, I took notes! I was a little behind the next day, but I worked twice as fast after a nice rest day.
Grabbing a journaling book: There was a book at the bookstore called 642 Things to Write About. It’s a journal-style book that you write in and contains a bunch of prompts. It gave me some great ideas for stories. I even doodled in the book while I wrote. It was therapeutic and wonderful, too.
Grabbing really cute paper and other office supplies: A quick trip to Staples got me a few new pretty journals, new pretty pens, and other accessories. I limited myself to $20 but got some journals that I just can’t wait to fill up. Bye, bye, writer’s block!
Start reading new books: Some of the best ideas are influenced by whatever you are reading, so I started the critically acclaimed An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Talk about filling my head with ideas!
Downloading every plot generator app available for Android: There is a surprising number of them. My top three choices for excellent apps are “Plot Generator,” “Writing Prompts,” and “Writing Exercises.”
Cleaning the house: I have been incredibly busy and put off cleaning the house for a bit. So I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed every surface I could reach for about five hours. It not only made me feel better about everything going on my life, but it also gave me ideas for about 1,000 Cinderella-themed stories.
Cleaning my desk: I no longer have to shift things around to sit down at my desk, which makes a huge difference in how I’m feeling.
Going for a walk: Physical exercise, be it walking, dancing, biking, or other seems to help creativity. It has been suggested through studies that moving your body can improve your mood, your creativity, and your health. So go for a walk. Work the kinks out of your body and brain and do something good your yourself at the same time.
Walking through the bookstore and reading the back of all of the front-facing books: Most books have their spines facing you in the bookstore, but sometimes a book will be turned flat to draw your attention. Reading the back of some of these books with give you an idea of what’s popular, and might give you some ideas to boot.
Talking it out with someone who is also creative: My hubby is a very creative man and talking ideas out with him always generates more ideas. It’s something like a creative feedback loop that can go on for hours.
Going back to old sketchbooks, journals, and idea books: You once thought it was a great enough idea to write down, so reread them. You won’t believe how much you have forgotten!
Signing up for a writing class: There are tons of places to find writing classes online. And many of them are free! Classes give you writing prompts, ideas, and motivate you to keep working hard. Some great places to find free (or cheap classes) are:
- The Great Courses
- Skill Share
- Open University
- University websites, like Duke and Harvard, have free courses available for download