10 Practices to Help You Overcome Writer’s Block
When an average person thinks of all the issues related to writing, the first things that come to mind are poor grammar and lack of proper punctuation. However, it often goes beyond that. While it’s fairly easy to memorize the FANBOYs and learn the difference between ‘their’ and ‘they’re’, there are many other problems that writers can face. The most widespread issue just happens to be, writer’s block.
Writer’s block can play a huge role in making writers lose motivation as they struggle to come up with ideas. However, several things can help you overcome that block and go back to being productive. One of which is to improve your writing skills by following these writing practices.
1. Write an Anecdote
For many people, finding an appropriate story to put into the basis of their writing piece can be a little difficult. So, essentially, it is the lack of ideas that hinders creativity most of the time. The main reason for this can be the subconscious belief that writers need to come up with all their stories themselves. This is simply untrue! Yes, it is important for a writer to be a creative human being so that they could come up with innovative approaches to story-telling. However, the story they choose to share can easily be borrowed.
There is a theory that all of the existing stories follow one of seven basic plots. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how hard you try to think of a story no one has ever told before. Chances are, there is a similar piece out there already written. To improve your writing, you need to be able to take a normal, maybe even borderline boring, story and make it more entertaining to the reader.
A great exercise that can strengthen that skill is telling stories you heard somewhere. Were you lucky enough to chance upon stories from your senior neighbor down the street? Has a stranger in the bar overshared some of his romantic drama with you? Or, perhaps, did someone you know have a pretty weird dream they shared on the group chat?
All of the above can be outstanding sources of ideas to incorporate into your writing routine. It doesn’t matter whether your entry is sad, funny or nerve-wracking, the main point you need to remember is to keep the story exciting. Therefore, don’t hesitate to spice your story up with some details that will keep your reader on tenterhooks.
2. Explain Like I’m Five
One of the biggest mistakes that many beginners and experienced writers make is not paying attention to the details. We aren’t talking about the mistakes that can easily be fixed with a simple grammar check. To strengthen your writing skills, you can make use of this practice: ELI5. It’s short for, “Explain Like I’m 5.”
There is a common belief that we write best about the things that we have expertise in. Which makes sense. After all, when we know something thoroughly well, we can describe it more efficiently. Now take that vast knowledge that you have and explain it to someone else. The simpler, the better. The practice of using your writing to explain something in the easiest way possible can require a lot of creativity on your part. But since it’s something you’re an expert on, it should be a fun challenge.
3. Use Writing Prompts
One of the best ways of combating your writing block and significantly improving your writing skills is by using writing prompts. These can be accessed on the internet and are available for free. Writing prompts often include the following information necessary to get your creative processes going:
- A setting.
- A dilemma or mystery.
- Questions that you need to answer.
- Considerations that you may want to make when writing the story.
The only thing you need to remember about these prompts is that they are unoriginal ideas. As such, you can’t use them without tweaking them here and there.
4. Describe Your Surroundings
Pathetic fallacy is one of the most intricate yet most effective literary devices out there. However, it isn’t the easiest to use in writing. That’s mostly because not only is describing the world around the main character dull, but it’s also difficult. In that case, you need to get into the habit of coming up with crisp and fresh descriptions of the world the story is set in. Start noticing those details in your own world. Look at the window. What do you see? Describe it in a paragraph or two and think about how it could work with the events taking place later on in the plot.
5. Write a Letter to Your Younger Self
One of the things that differentiate between an average writer and an excellent writer is the ability to evoke emotions. To make your texts evocative and believable, you need to learn how to incorporate emotions into your writing. The only way to learn and develop this skill is by understanding what these different emotions are by approaching them from a personal perspective.
Without a doubt, the spectrum of emotions people experience is incredibly large and they will differ for each particular individual. It’s easier to identify them if you’ve experienced them yourself. Try taking a trip down memory lane, by writing short retrospective letters to your younger self. Address some of the moments of your life that speak to you on a personal level. This will make it easy for you to use sympathetic language. You’re essentially talking about yourself and therefore are prone to employ more ‘realistic’ narration after all. Self-reflection draws out a lot of interesting stories you can later incorporate into your writing.
6. Write a Two Sentence Story
Hemingway managed to write an effective story in just six words. While you don’t necessarily need to copy him, you can try a similar exercise that will activate your critical thinking skills that are crucial for a good writer. Sometimes less is more, especially if you don’t want your texts to be watery. To truly understand this, try writing a story that would include all of the following:
Though, make sure the size of this piece is limited to just two sentences. This will not only awaken your critical thinking, but it will also engender several unexpected plot twists.
7. Use Different Points of View
Yet another problem frequently experienced by a lot of writers is badly written characters. You often dedicate all your time to the lead character as the main events are narrated from their perspective that you end up forgetting about the other characters. As a result of that, side characters turn out to be somewhat flat.
To avoid this mistake and amp your writing skills try to switch it up a bit. Create a couple of profiles for different characters that have some sort of connection. This connection can be as strong or as vague as you wish, but you should remember to mix it up from time to time. Outline their interests, their routine and other facts about them. Then, using each of their different points of view, describe the same event.
So, say for instance you’re writing about a car crash. You may write about it through the eyes of the driver, a passerby, a reporter and someone who found out about it from watching the news.
8. Conduct a Creative Interrogation
Just like with anything else related to human relationships, communication is important. With writing, however, it is communication between you and the text, you and the characters in your text, and communication with you and your potential readers.
Before you get down to the actual writing, you need to ask yourself several questions regarding what you’re about to write down. You should not think about the answers too long since we all know the first thing that comes to mind is usually the best.
Some of the questions that you might want to ask can include:
- Why did the character do that?
- How does he feel about it?
- How does this scene help in developing the plot?
9. Document your stream of consciousness
Sometimes the biggest problem writers face is not a lack of inspiration or motivation but the fear of an empty page. It is a real thing that stops a lot of great projects from coming to life. Many writers bail on writing simply because they think they will not excel in it. Or they bail because they don’t think they have an idea that’s good enough. Sometimes it’s because they can’t find the right words to convey this idea.
The best way of overcoming this problem and improving your writing skills is by letting yourself splash all you have on your mind onto a piece of paper (or a word document page, as the case may be). It doesn’t matter whether you have anything particular you want to write about or just a stream of incoherent phrases and thoughts that could potentially become something more. It doesn’t matter as long as you put them into words.
We’re often afraid of starting something, but as soon as we fight, it all starts falling into place. Therefore, dedicate some time for writing on a daily basis. Make sure you uphold yourself to it no matter what. You shouldn’t even worry about grammar as you can always edit it afterward.
10. Limit Yourself
Last but not at least, try to limit yourself. Often, you find yourself using too many words, which makes them become ineffective and redundant. Instead of ‘very old’ you could use ‘ancient’, instead of ‘walked quickly’ you could say ‘hurried’. Setting a limit on the number of words you can use in a single sentence will make your choice of words more concise and therefore more precise.
Besides, this is a great exercise for marketers and advertisers who have to come up with snappy sentences regularly.
When it comes to writing, losing motivation and inspiration is pretty common. It’s why there are many ways to counter writer’s block and help people get back into the swing of writing. If you find yourself facing this particular dilemma, follow the ten exercises we just mentioned and you’ll find yourself out of your writing slump before you know it.