Beating Writer’s Block: 5 things to do to help unravel your thoughts
In July, I put my big girl pants on and joined CAMP NANOWRIMO. I needed to force myself to sit down and write that novel I’ve been bouncing around in my head for the last 5 years. I needed to scrap everything I had written before and give it structure….life…work out a solid plot.
I always had an idea of where I wanted to take the story. Of how I wanted it to end….but it was the middle that I was blanking out on.
How do I make the connections feel genuine? How do I add high stakes without overdoing it? How do I make people care about what will happen to my protagonists?
The writer’s block was real. So much so that I had no idea on how to move forward with my story, I began to doubt my creativity.
Participating in Camp Nanowrimo helped unravel some of the years of blockage in my brain. I managed to write a good 11,000 words which was a feat in itself. It was the first time in literal years that I had sat down and written anything to the story.
It wasn’t easy. There were days where I felt like I was writing doo-doo. Where the doubt crept in and I didn’t want to write. Then there was the stress of everyday life knocking on my door….
Writer’s block isn’t something that goes away. Many things contribute to it and there are several ways to combat it. Not that these things work for everyone, but they are worth the attempt. I will confess that I haven’t touched the story since CAMP Nanowrimo ended because that wall has come down again BUT I have been doing things to help clear my mind again.
Below are 5 things that I’ve been doing to help me combat Writer’s Block:
Disclaimer: These are things that have worked for me. They are by no means something that might work for everyone. You do not have to do any of these 🙂
I know what you are thinking. “Everyone says that”. But the truth of the matter is that it actually does help. When you are reading, you are learning how authors stitch their stories together. You pick up how they made their characters interact, what they chose to do with their plots and how they ended their story. Not to mention, you get to learn how tone affects how the story is received by readers.
Even if you don’t particularly enjoy the book, it sets the standard for how you want to write out your own. Reading someone else’s story gives your brain a break for trying to create your own world. For a few pages (or many) your imagination gets to travel somewhere and see things that can inspire it to create.
2. Free Writing
Free Writing is a technique that I learned in High school. It’s a technique in where the writer continuously writes for a period of time without worrying about the structure, mechanics, and rhetorical concerns or conventions.
Sometimes there’s a prompt, sometimes there is not. It’s a technique that helps build confidence without the fear of censure and it’s a tool used to combat writers block.
You literally pick a prompt, sit down with a pen and paper (journal), put a timer for 10 minutes and write.
You do not stop to correct spelling mistakes or to think about what you are going to write; You write subconsciously, the first thoughts to pop into your head are what gets written down. Even if it’s the same word over and over again, sooner or later you will see a sentence pop in.
This is not brainstorming, which usually involves listing things down. Free Writing are sentences that end up as paragraphs about the first things that come to mind.
Free Writing Resource:
3. Reverse Engineer your Story
This technique might not work for everyone but it is something that I do from time to time when I’m stuck on my own story. I actually apply this when I’m building a website too.
What is Reverse Engineering? Reverse engineering is taking apart an object to see how it works in order to duplicate or enhance the object.
For writing, it’s taking the perceived ending of your story and asking yourself “how did we get here?”. Work from the ending to the beginning. Even if your story hasn’t moved from page three, you know more or less how it’s going to end.
Character A is going to die at the end? Okay, cool. How? Why? How did they get in that position in the first place? Find the events that lead up to that moment and write them down in bullet points. Those events can be used as chapters.
Ask yourself questions, write them down, and then answer them. Even if you don’t use them, you are still working toward building your story and it gives you more insight to who your character is going to be.
4. Mood Boards
Recently, I’ve been slowly toying with Mood Boards for everything. Graphic Design, Web Design, Books….etc etc
Mood Boards are a great way to visually represent your ideas. If you are a visual person, this might be a great way to help with writer’s block. If you are world building, making a mood board with pictures of places you want your world to look like or of cultures you are inspired by can really help you structure your novel.
Same thing with characters! Creating a mood board for each one of your characters allows you to build their personalities, who they are, and what they like!
Some cool Mood Board Resources:
- Canva: Canva has some great mood board templates! You can either create a mood board online or use the templates as a guide for a physical mood board.
- Milanote: An awesome online tool for organizing visually. You can create mood boards or simply organize your novel/life visually
5. Drop the Tech
I know, I know. Absolutely Crazy!
However, bear with me for a moment. The brain is a muscle.
When you overuse your muscles what happens? They become stiff, sore, and it’s an overall bad experience. The same thing goes for your brain.
We live in the age where Tech literally is our everyday lives. Our phones have replaced the morning paper since we have the world in our finger tips; Video games, streaming services, e-readers, social media, etc…. We scroll through twitter, Instagram, and Facebook mindlessly grabbing all this useless information that we might not even remember 2 hours from now. Our retention for information is not that great anymore because we have the crutch called Technology. If we forget, we can pull out of phones and look for it again in an instant.
Not to mention, it’s a distraction. I’m guilty of it myself. I tend to choose to peruse social media instead of actually writing. What starts off as “Oh, I need inspiration! Let me go on Pinterest real quick” turns to 3 hours later looking at DIY furniture restoration.
Our brains are working overtime for nothing!!! So take a moment and BREATHE.
Drop the Tech for an hour a day or if that’s too scary, an hour on the day you have off from your responsibilities. Find other things to do that don’t involve tech, like walking around the block or through your local park, sight-seeing, meditating or even pick up a new hobby like painting.
Even if it’s just laying on the floor staring at your ceiling; Give your brain a moment’s rest.
What do you do to combat writer’s block? Let me know in the comments below!