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Breaking Through Writers’ Block – 7 Solutions to 7 Types of Block

Breaking Through Writers’ Block – 7 Solutions to 7 Types of Block

If you write, you’re guaranteed, at some point, to face an empty page.

Even if you’re assigned a topic by an editor, the blank page can haunt you, making it difficult to get started. And for some, the blank wasteland becomes more daunting the longer they’re forced to confront it.

Don’t let the blank page cripple your production.

Often, blocks can be alleviated by determining their root cause. Knowing why the words won’t come can suggest methods to work through the problem. Here are seven common blocks writers suffer, and the solutions s you can employ to alleviate them.

1. The End Isn’t Clear

You find yourself finishing up a scene and, suddenly, the words are gone. You’re paralyzed. It’s possible you don’t know how your story ends. If you don’t have a clear idea of how the plot wraps up, it’s hard to write the words to get there.

Solution: Brain storm possible endings. Even if none of the endings you come up with is “perfect,” choose one anyway. Having a goal should suggest possible scenes which need to be written, and writing those scenes should spur additional ideas. If no endings come to mind, re-read what’s already been written while keeping the end in mind. Even if no ending is indicated, it’s probable that some advancement of the plot will be revealed.

2. The “Inner Editor” Won’t Leave You Alone

You’re happy to write and you’ve got great ideas, but they’ve got to be stated perfectly. You type a few words, delete them, reach for the thesaurus, type a bit more, backspace again, never putting more than a few sentences on the page after hours of work.

Solution: Understand that no first draft is perfect. Give yourself permission to write drivel. Be dramatic. Write purple prose. Ignore the compulsion to find a better way to say something or remove duplicative sentences. Allow yourself to get the idea down on paper while you’re still excited about writing it.

In the same vein, write whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about bad ideas, bad grammar, bad writing. Record your thoughts and keep the words flowing by reminding your inner-editor that everything can be polished during a re-write.

3. The Blank Page Syndrome

Sometimes it’s just the blank page that stops us. It can be hard to get past the hurdle of writing the opening sentence, of knowing the page needs to be filled.

Solution: Free write. Set a timer for a short amount of time, five or ten minutes, and write whatever comes to mind. Type the same word over and over again, if you have to, until your brain gets bored and directs you on another path.

4. The Idea is Too Large

You’ve probably heard this old joke: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Perhaps you’re blocked because you’re facing an elephant of an idea. The thought of tackling it all at once may be daunting, especially in the beginning of a project where you haven’t envisioned the whole.

Solution: Before putting pen to paper, consider all the parts of the project. Break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks and conquer those one by one. Create an outline or just jot down the tasks or scenes as they come to you.

5. You’re Too Tired to Write

Pushing through fatigue is difficult. The mind is numb, the words don’t flow. It’s a chore even to make the effort. This might be the toughest challenge writers face.

Solutions: Exercise. A quick walk, some calisthenics, or a jog around the block can be stimulating. Physical effort sends more blood flowing to the brain and staves off nervous tension. Or, take a power nap. Cornell University social psychologist James Maas discovered that a 15- to 30-minute nap not only brightens your mood, but improves alertness, memory, and overall cognitive performance.

6. You’re out of Ideas

Sometimes, the muse just doesn’t play nice. You’ve got the time and the desire, but you can’t think of anything to write.

Solution: Trick your muse into coming up with an idea. Find something by an author you admire and begin typing the opening few paragraphs of the story. However, instead of typing word for word, substitute your own words and ideas.

For example, Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glassbegins, “One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it–it was the black kitten’s fault entirely.” You may type instead, “Green glass had no bearing on the project. Red glass remained the rage, and was most desirable.” Keep substituting your own subjects, re-writing the sentence structure to suit your style, until your mind decides to take over. Once the words start to flow, stop copying and keep writing.

7. The Subject doesn’t interest you.

This type of block usually strikes when you’ve been given an assignment you are not passionate about: a paper for school or an article for a magazine or newspaper.

Solution: Change the slant. For instance, you may be asked to cover a small town festival, but your interest is food. Investigate and write about the various confections available. Or, maybe you’ve been told to write about Shakespeare since you’re studying his plays in school, but music is your forte. Write your term paper on musical of that period, and how it may have influenced Shakespeare.

Breaking through writers block isn’t effortless, but it doesn’t have to be debilitating. Learn the cause and apply the solution. Knowing the problem can make the difference.