When Words Won’t Come

Writer’s Block is real and, if you haven’t already experienced it, you will at some point. It’s not just a time when you’re not writing. It’s a time when anxiety grabs hold of your brain, strangles your confidence, and convinces you that YOU CANNOT WRITE.

Writer’s block is indiscriminate. It takes down novelists, screenwriters, songwriters, technical writers and it’s been known to choke the life out of PhD candidates during dissertation writing.

Good news: Writer’s Block doesn’t have to win. Sure, it may derail you for a day or two but, with some effort, it can be defeated. Next time WB threatens, try one or more of these tactics and you’ll be back to work in no time:

  1. Nix the blank page.

Clean, white pages are daunting. What if your words aren’t good enough? Your thoughts aren’t clever enough? Instead of fretting, write anything. Type the first few lines of your favorite song or the names of all the pets you’ve ever owned. Once you have a few words down, you may find you’re able to move forward with your actual project.

  1. Change things up.

If you typically write at your desk, go to a coffee shop instead. If you usually write in the morning, try writing flipping your day so you can write at night. If you write on a computer, try writing longhand. Sometimes a simple change is all it takes to get the words flowing again.

* A note about writing by hand: If you’re one of those people who prefer writing longhand, ditch the hand-milled, hand-stitched, handcrafted artisan notebook. Those things are idea quashers. How could any first draft or plotting session be worthy? Instead, opt for a 99-cent composition notebook. Lower your expectations, increase your productively; it can all be cleaned up later.

  1. Get moving.

Go for a walk or run. Do some yoga. Swim a few laps. I’m a firm believer that exercising your body can help kick your brain into gear. If you’re completely opposed to exercise, take a shower. Wash away all those negative “I’ll never write again” thoughts and start fresh.

  1. Write with weights on.

No, you’re not actually going to do bicep curls while typing away at your computer but the concept is similar. Imagine you have to run a mile carrying a heavy backpack. When you take the pack off, running will be easier; you’ll feel nimble and light. Instead of running, your assignment is to write using only one-syllable words. Write the next paragraph of your book or the next chorus of your song. It’s going to be hard. The text will sound choppy – but that’s part of the drill. When you finish, rewrite the piece with no limitations; let the words flow.

  1. Talk it out.

It’s likely the words won’t come because you don’t know exactly what story you’re trying to tell. Put away your laptop, close your eyes and pretend you’re sitting across from your best friend. Tell her your story. Tell her about the characters, their flaws, their dreams. Tell her about the scene you’re writing. Tell her what happens next. Talk and keep talking until you know what your story is really about. Then, open your computer and start writing.