Writer’s block is the vocalist’s hiccups: a terribly annoying affliction that home-spun remedies (i.e. banging head on desk, tossing laptop off overpass) don’t seem to cure. Aggressive or just a tickling feeling, writer’s block keeps us from producing words. Words are our bread and butter. Here are some helpful, adventurous ways to combat block.
Read. This should be a writer’s second job anyway. If you’re not putting it out, take it in. I’m not opposed to reading just for the sake of it, because I know it to be relaxing and entertaining, but if you’re suffering from block then it’s best to immerse yourself in the text. Read as a writer; for form, sentence structure, themes; for each word, and have a dictionary handy; for every little nuance the author sprinkled in. If you read as a writer you will surely become either inspired or intimidated and one can work within a good dosage of each.
Do something else. When you step away from your notebook and cook a meal or paint a portrait or build a chair, the relativity of all modes of creation becomes apparent. You’ll find that writing a story is the same as cooking a meal. You have a pile of the makings, so the task is fitting them together in a congruent and attractive way. That’s it! With writing it’s often hard to see any tangibility amongst the mobs of words. Step away and build a birdhouse, and your story will be suddenly discernible. The birds will appreciate it too.
Walk, bicycle. If your mind is strained and stressed, your body is too. After all, it’s all wrapped in the same skin. Loosening up and releasing endorphins may be the thing to kick the block. Not to mention fresh air. Not to mention the time it allows you to think, observe, and be distracted.
Road trip. Personally, road tripping has been the most helpful when it comes to warding off writer’s block despite the price of gas. There’s something fruitful about being in a small box with the constant sounds of road and engine. By the time I park I have a slew of new ideas or approaches to old ones. The bonus of this trick is that if you go to a destination it fulfills what is quickly becoming the theme of this article: get away.
Nap. Why not? Recharge, then rebound.
Of course, these are all wonderful methods if you aren’t on a deadline. The best advice I have for writers who do have deadline pressure is to preempt block. Don’t let it happen. Map out your piece. Figure the important beats you mean to hit, then enact them. Hitchcock was absolutely bored during shoots because the movie was already made in his head.
If block should strike anyway, apply a smaller version of any of the aforementioned tactics. And remember not to force it. Best to take your time if you can. Good luck and good writings.
Illustration by Eva Avenue.