Writer’s block affects all writers to one degree or another. Most aspiring writers can spend hours staring at a computer screen, while unable to enter anything more than a few sentences of sometimes incoherent dribble. Sometimes your head may be full of great story ideas, but you cannot express them in writing.
This debilitating mental state is the inability to put creative ideas on paper or a computer screen. In other words, you cannot proceed with an article, short story or book because something in the logical part of your mind will not cooperate with the creative side. This is where the block occurs. You must overcome the problem if you wish to become a successful writer.
Here are some suggestions for overcoming the problem. None are original, but they are methods I use with success.
- Don’t procrastinate. Force yourself to write something every day. Develop a habit of writing at least a thousand words per day. Two thousand words is better. If you are not working on a current writing project, write about any topic that comes to mind. Save these drafts, because they may be useful in the future.
- Pick a consistent time and place to write. The idea here is to invoke and kick start your creative state of mind. If you have children, pick a quiet time when you will not be interrupted. I find it easier to express ideas after breakfast. Your best time may be in the evening after everyone else has gone to bed. Consistency in time and location can be important. Do your research first. If a story is set in a specific geographic area, become familiar with the people, culture, and building architecture before you begin writing. To get a feel for an area you never visited, try using Google Street View to cruise down some of the streets. Prior research is important for techno-thrillers or any topic involving historical events. Write what you know based upon your research. Don’t make it up. Either take detailed notes as you do your research or print everything out and use a red pen to highlight important aspects of the research.
- Outline your stories. Most writers do not do this, but this simple preparation technique can help prevent meandering, which frequently takes a story down a wrong path or dead-end alley. Thinking about how a story will end is just as important as how it begins. One technique that works is to use a step sheet. Start by outlining the first and last chapters. Then fill in brief description of each chapter in between.
- Create character profiles. A character profile is a description of each character. A profile includes their physical appearance, their background, hobbies, interests, job history, preferences and anything that makes a character unique. Character profiles can evolve as the story builds and you discover new information about your characters.
- Do not edit while you write. This is one aspect of writing that more than any other tends to cause writers to freeze-up with writer’s block. Never try to write each sentence perfectly on the first pass. The story needs to evolve during the first draft. You will waste time trying to get everything perfect during the initial draft, and you will inevitably waste more time when you discover something new as the story progresses requiring a rewrite of previous chapters. The editing state-of-mind is different from the creative state-of-mind. Keep the focus on the creative part when writing a first draft. A story is far easier to edit after the story is written.
- Try free writing. Free writing is a simple technique taught in literally all speed writing courses showing you how to produce massive amounts of written material. With this technique you simply write your story without any regard for correcting spelling, grammar or punctuation issues. In other words, write without editing. Let the story flow from your mind to the computer keyboard without any thought given to making corrections while writing. If you’ve set up an outline, follow the outline and use free writing to expand it into a detailed view of your story. If you have no idea how your story will end, this is a good way to see where the story leads you. After the free writing version of story is complete, then go back and start the editing process
The most important part is you must find the right method or combination of methods to allow you to break through a writer’s block problem.