Whether you write for a living or just enjoy getting creative in your spare time, writer’s block is without a doubt one of the most frustrating problems to run into.
Researchers are still divided on whether the problem is neurological or can be chalked up to anxiety caused by pressure to produce, and some psychologists are even convinced that writer’s block is simply an excuse we make for poor discipline.
Regardless of what causes it, though, experiencing a creative block is only natural from time to time, and while there are many different ways to tackle it, what works for one person may do nothing for another. So if you’re in need of some inspiration, here are a few strategies you can try.
1. Allow yourself to daydream
Your subconscious mind is good at coming up with creative ideas and solutions, which is why sometimes, it’s best to stop thinking about what you’re going to write and let your mind wander.
In one study, researchers found that when writers are unhappy, either due to stress and anxiety, anger and irritation or apathy and disengagement, they are more likely to experience writer’s block and less likely to daydream in a constructive way.
To tackle this problem, they asked a group of writers experiencing writer’s block to sit in a quiet, low-lit room and visualize specific things such as a piece of music or nature setting. Then they would try to describe it. After becoming accustomed to the exercise, the writers were asked to do the same thing some aspect of their current writing project.
Sure enough, those who participated in the intervention found that they were more motivated and self-confident in their writing and were able to get more done.
2. Experiment with different brainstorming techniques
There are countless brainstorming techniques, and these days, even apps you can use to generate ideas, but it’s important to find a technique you feel comfortable with. For writers, some effective brainstorming techniques may include:
- Mind mapping
Mind mapping can help you develop vague ideas into something more concrete. Start by drawing a circle with your main topic or idea at the centre, then, use lines to connect as many related thoughts and ideas to the main circle as you can think of.
- Free writing
Get out an empty note book or open a blank word document and start writing whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about whether you’re making sense or even staying on topic, the goal is simply to free up your mind and push past whatever anxiety is preventing you from writing.
- Star bursting
Star bursting involves coming up with as many questions about your topic as possible. You can start by answering the journalistic 5Ws and 1H: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? Once you’re done, go down the list and answer each question as best as you can.
3. Try social writing
Writing is usually a solitary activity and most writers wouldn’t have it any other way, but if you find yourself stuck, it can help to write in a more social setting.
You could either find a writing partner or create a little writer’s group, but the goal is to find someone who can critique your work, listen to your ideas or just provide some moral support. Social writing isn’t for everyone, of course, but sometimes simply getting another writer’s perspective could be just what you need to move forward.
4. Do something completely unrelated
This might be difficult if you have a hard deadline coming up, but since writer’s block often stems from the pressure you’ve put on yourself to produce, it can help to step away from your writing for a while and do something completely unrelated to give your mind a break.
Psychologist Susan Reynolds explains that when you’re feeling pressured to write, your anxiety level rises and your brain releases stress hormones, which triggers your fight or flight response.
Once this occurs, the limbic system stops transmitting messages to the cortex, which is responsible for conscious thought and creativity. So the more you pressure yourself to write, the more anxious you’ll feel and the worse your writer’s block will become.
So whether you go for a run, listen to music, paint, make a scrapbook or clean the house, doing something unrelated for a while will help calm the anxiety you’re feeling and help you get over the mental blockage.
Figure out what works for you
This is one point that just can’t be emphasized enough. We’re all different and that means there is no right or wrong way to get creative in your writing. Once you’ve experimented with a few different techniques, you’ll have a better idea of which one helps you generate the most new ideas or leaves you feeling less anxious and ready to get back to your writing.
Do you have any weird or wacky techniques of your own for tackling writer’s block? Let us know about them in the comment section.
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