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Five ways to overcome writer's block

Gillian Leggat - Five ways to overcome writer's blog

Whether your mind behaves like a blank screen or a kaleidoscope, the effect is the same: you can’t write a thing. You have the dreaded writer’s block. How do you even begin to overcome it?

You’re staring at a computer screen. Your mind is blank. NOTHING is coming to you. You feel no inspiration whatsoever.

Or –

You’re staring at a blank computer screen. Your mind is racing. EVERYTHING is coming to you. You need to make that list. What are you going to cook for dinner? What about those accounts you must pay? You have plenty of thoughts – of the wrong kind. None that will help you with your writing today.

Here are five ways for you to overcome writer’s block:

Tip Number One: Take a break.

This may sound odd. You’ve just sat down to write, and now you’re being advised to take a break! That just doesn’t make sense. But think about it. Maybe you’re trying too hard today. Maybe you should play some music, dance around the house, do that ‘urgent’ shopping, or take a walk. While you’re on your walk or even in the supermarket, you might even see or hear something that will overpower your writer’s block. So much so that you regret not bringing a pen and notebook with you. You can’t wait to get home to write.

Tip Number Two: Draw on your memories.

Feeling refreshed after your ‘break’, you’re finding that memories, past events, people, and places are flooding your mind. You must jot them down, record them, make notes, and expand on the notes. As you sift through your memories, you might find that one particular memory is the springboard you need to set you off again on your quest to find meaning through words.

Tip Number Three: Do some research

If that blank screen is still not firing up, you can always choose to spend your time in front of your screen productively. Do some research about the places in your book. Or the time period in which it is written. Or search synonyms for words you want to use in your book. Or scour through book titles to see if any words or thoughts spark a theme for your story or an idea for one of your characters. Any kind of research, even if it’s not directly linked to the particular book you’re writing, will make you feel good about your project. You’re working on your book. Those neurons are unblocking. They’re finding new pathways. Hooray! You don’t have the dreaded writer’s block any more.

Tip Number Four: Try some free writing.

In my experience, free writing works better with a pen and paper rather than a keyboard and a screen, but everyone works differently. Set yourself a time – say, ten minutes – where you HAVE to write. No distractions. Just keep going. You can write about ANYTHING, even if you think it’s trivial or insignificant. The only rule is – you can’t stop writing until your allocated time is up. Something useful might come out of this exercise – or not. But it really doesn’t even matter if you write drivel. The point is you’re writing something, and that will give you the confidence to continue. Some writers have found the free writing process an extraordinarily useful tool for freeing those blockages from their brains.

Tip Number Five: Play a word association game.

Write down any word, then a string of words that come to mind after it. These words don’t have to be synonyms or antonyms. Think, rather, of the connotations of your original word. What does the word remind you of or suggest to you; what thoughts and feelings come into your mind when presented with this word? Often, one of the words you have recorded gives you a new idea.

Before I began writing my Young Adult Trilogy: The Golden Highway, The Diamond Pathway, and the Emerald Treasure Chamber, I took this word association/synonym/antonym idea to the extreme. I plotted all three novels – particularly the first one – using this method. I wrote down a string of words and their opposites for my main characters, the setting, the theme and even the plot – a rich source of ideas for my stories. Thankfully, I didn’t experience writer’s block while writing this trilogy; rather, I really enjoyed the process of writing this Young Adult fiction.

 If you do experience writer’s block, you can try any method to unleash your creativity. But I hope these five tips will help you to become more productive in every writing session.

Breath of God by Gillian Leggat
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