Welcome to the club! Everyone who writes hits a rough patch from time to time. You’re sitting there staring at your screen trying to decide what to write next. You’re fresh out of airspeed, altitude, and ideas. We call it writer’s block. If you write, sooner or later, you’ll experience it. When you do, you have two ways you can respond.
Some writers act like the sky is falling. They run in circles, wailing, “what will become of me?!” They shake their fist at the universe. That’s not a productive response.
Other writers recognize the problem. They say to themselves, “Oh, its writers block again. I’d better do something about it.” Then they take the first step.
The First Step
Step away from that troublesome project. You’re not making any progress, and you’re not likely to effort your way back to productivity. Once you’ve disengaged, you can choose one of three strategies.
Work on Something Else
Set to work on something else. Pick another project where you have momentum. That might be another writing project, or it could be a simple task of some kind. I keep a list of “easy projects.” An easy project is something I can do and complete in an hour or less.
While you’re working on that something else, your brain is still churning along beneath the surface, working on your troublesome project. You’re likely to have flashes of insight. Be prepared to capture those good ideas that may solve your writers block problem.
Try a Remedy Activity
I call anything you do to specifically solve your writers block issue a “remedy activity.” Here are two popular ones.
Many people love freewriting to attack writer’s block. Just start writing about whatever comes to mind. After a few moments, you may find yourself writing things that will move your troublesome project forward.
Another remedy activity is using a writing prompt to shake up your thinking. My personal favorite source for prompts is Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies.
Take a Complete Break from Work
Sometimes the best you can do is step away from work entirely. Do something completely different while you let your brain churn along below the surface.
Take a walk. Walking is one of the best ways to clear your head and let new ideas and insights bubble up. Nietzsche thought that walking was the best way to get good ideas. Be sure to have a way to capture those ideas when they come.
Take a nap. Even a short nap can refresh you and clear your head.
Do something mindless. Domestic chores like housework don’t need lots of thought. You can do them while your mind remains free to roam and come up with good ideas. Capture them or they will flit away like butterflies on the wind.
Everyone hits a rough patch.
You can shake your fist at the universe or recognize the problem.
Step away from the troublesome project.
Work on something else while your brain keeps working.
Try a remedy activity.
Take a complete break from work.