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Bust Writer's Block: 6 Tricks You Won't Learn in School

What can be said about writer’s block that hasn’t already been said? Writer’s block isn’t just a condition; it’s also a feeling. It’s heavy on the shoulders. It makes the back ache, the fingers paralyzed and the mind numb. And it happens for a reason. It happens because you’re bored.

The challenge of writer’s block is to trick yourself out of it. Writer’s block wants to keep you in a box, but only you can set yourself free from it. Just know that you’ll only go free by doing what got you here: writing. 

These are the first-hand, hard-learned, not-so-proper techniques to bust your writer’s block that your English teacher never told you about.

1. Don’t Just Write, Write Hard

If you thought you were going to bust your writer’s block by not writing, well, too bad. You’re a writer and it goes with the territory.

When you can’t write about your topic, or if you can’t even think of a topic, you need to free write. Treat the paper or screen like a therapist. Open up wide and don’t stop until your wrists cramp and your fingers ache. Let your mind loose to explore its canals of memories and feelings.

When you’ve got the block it’s a sign that you need to take your writing from ho-hum text to ringing in their ears good, by any means possible. 

One of the leading causes of writer’s block is perfectionism. Here’s how you can prevent and break free from it:

Stop Being So Perfect

  • Are your emotions hemming you up? Are you trying to be too perfect?  The Center for Writing Studies says that perfectionism is the surest way to writer’s block, and that attempting a perfect first draft is much slower than writing several, quick rough drafts.

Stop Being Such a Comma Queen

  • Write out your complex idea in the blandest way possible using only the words necessary. Don’t worry about punctuation, complete sentences, flourishes of alliteration, simile or metaphor; leave those for the re-writes. Just get it down, get it out and then step away to take a mental rest.

2. The Time You Save May Be Your Own

Writer’s block is also attributed to having a slippery understanding of the topic. If you want to beat the block and prevent it in the future, then always use an outline. An outline makes your posts flow more logically, it keeps your topics organized and it creates small, manageable goals to conquer.

Here are two tips for creating and using an outline:

1-3-1 Method

Take a tip from your grammar school days and outline your post using the 1-3-1 Rule: One paragraph for the introduction, three paragraphs that detail what you mentioned in your introduction and a one-paragraph conclusion that wraps up everything you mentioned.

For example:

  1. Introduction
  2. Paragraph 1 topic
  3. Paragraph 2 topic
  4. Paragraph 3 topic
  5. Conclusion

Start in the Middle

The introduction is the most daunting section for any writer. The Capital Community College Foundation recommends starting from the middle of your draft instead of the beginning. 

Starting with a section that you feel most familiar with will help you flesh out your ideas in the body of the draft, which will help you write your introduction and conclusion in less time. Once you create an outline with your main points, expand it to include more details, like the example below.

  1. Introduction
  2. Paragraph 1 topic
    • Supporting description/fact
  3. Paragraph 2 topic
    • Supporting description/fact
  4. Paragraph 3 topicConclusion
    • Supporting description/fact
  5. Conclusion

Don’t get elaborate, instead use only a few words to get key terms and points down, and add as many supporting descriptions and facts as you can conjure up. As your outline grows more robust and you fill in the knowledge gaps, all that will be left is to connect the dots with your own unique voice and point of view.  

3. Dance, Twerk, Just Get Moving!

While writing is an important part of overcoming writer’s block, it’s not a silver bullet, and staring at your empty page isn’t going to make the words appear.

Research suggests that you should go for a walk. Some of history’s greatest thinkers and artists, from Aristotle to Beethoven, believed in the power of daily walks to inspire and motivate their creativity.

But you may not have time for a walk. When all you’ve got is the here and now, and a deadline, crank up some music and dance your heiny off. Get the blood moving—whip your hair like Willow and shake it like Bae to beat the block!

Dance until you feel like you’ve put a crack in the block, then sit back down and see where your thoughts lead you.

4: Bottoms Up!

This may be controversial, but sometimes a drink is just the solution to getting over the hump. Research has shown that alcohol reduces a person’s ability to focus on some things and ignore others, which frees up the thought process and lets the mind roam more freely for ideas. 

These findings are based on being slightly tipsy, not drunk, to let your mind relax just long enough to have an aha moment. If you can’t keep it to just one or two drinks, then make yourself a mocktail or a cup of coffee or tea. Writing while loaded will only create headaches.

5: Crack a Book with your Glass of Wine

The art and craft of writing is something that every writer struggles with, and plenty of books and essays exist detailing the writer’s struggles. If you want some company with your misery, then read about the craft of writing. It is a way to expose yourself to writing that is better than your own, including other styles, voices and genres.

Reading about the routines of writers gives insight into how their habits affect their writing, and maybe you can adopt some of these habits to improve your own writing.

  • Barbara Kingsolver wakes up at 4 a.m. to write, knowing that a lot of material she writes she will throw away. 
  • Joan Didion sleeps in the same room as her manuscripts.

6. Take a Forest Bath

Shinrin Yoku is a Japanese term that means Forest Bath, but probably not in the way you might expect. It doesn’t require getting naked in the woods, or showering at all. It’s a life-enhancing technique to immerse yourself in nature, either in the woods, at a park or your backyard.

This forest therapy is a cornerstone in Japanese medicine to increase your focus, increase your energy level and give you deeper and clearer intuition. With those results, I’d say it’s worth a try. Even the video is soothing.

Let’s start a discussion, get our creativity flowing and inspire each other. Tell us in the comments below what dirty tricks you use to bust through your writer’s block or Tweet us @mombloggersclub with the hashtag #bustwritersblock

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Comment by Ashley Owen on May 14, 2015 at 3:02pm

Great tips!

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