You’re sitting at your desk, staring at a flashing cursor and a blank, white page. You’ve no idea how you’ll fill it and the longer you sit there, the more difficult writing becomes. Sound familiar? The struggle to beat writer’s block is something almost everyone who writes experiences. Even Hemingway suffered, saying:
“Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would…stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.’” (Source: inc.com)
Now, we don’t all have Paris roofs to look out over. But we can all beat writer’s block. Here’s how.
When you’re sick of staring at a blank page, fill that page. But forget about filling it with perfectly crafted words. Fill it with anything you can. Allow yourself to write freely without worrying about the finished product. Once you have the words on the page, you can edit them without the pressure of all that white space. No-one’s ever heard of editor’s block, after all.
Make a plan
When writing anything doesn’t work, try the opposite: make a strict plan and stick to it. This is especially true of longer projects, where the end can seem so far away as to be impossible to reach. By planning out your work, detailing what you’ll write in each section and giving yourself a clear beginning, middle, and end, you’ll have done half the job before you’ve written a word.
Don’t worry about being restricted by having a plan. The plan can change as often as you like, but if you don’t have one at all, you’ll struggle to focus on where you’re going.
Do something different
When writing’s not happening, do something else. You might want to head out to a café to indulge in coffee and cake for half an hour, take a few hours to meet friends, or just get on with some housework.
With the pressure of a deadline looming, it’s difficult to allow yourself time to do anything other than write. But if not allowing yourself that time means you end up blocked, take a break.
Write something different
Taking a break from your writing works to beat writer’s block for some, but others find that stopping writing simply leads to more distraction and procrastination. If that’s you, keep writing, but write something other than the work you’re struggling with. If you’re working on an essay, indulge yourself with some creative writing. If you’re struggling writing a report for work, write a post for your personal blog. Remind yourself that writing can be fun, engaging, and easy.
Learn to live with self-doubt
Writer’s block happens when self-doubt takes over. If you believe that you’re a capable writer who’ll produce a quality piece of work, you’re much less likely to face writer’s block than if you doubt your ability to do so.
But even the most self-assured writers have some self-doubt. What can you do about it? Embrace it. Understand that it’s natural and normal. While too much self-doubt is negative, controlled self-doubt is healthy and positive. It keeps you asking questions, seeking clarity and looking for opportunities to improve.
Don’t allow self-doubt to take over, but don’t fight it so hard you can’t focus on anything else.