Writer’s block happens for a bunch of reasons. One of the most common is fear. Self-doubt is a normal part of the writing process, but without the right tools to deal with that, it can be paralyzing. You might feel like there are so many choices and things to do that you get overwhelmed. What if you make the wrong choice? What if you waste all your time working on this one thing but you really should be working on something else? Pretty soon, you don’t do anything. You tell yourself you should be writing, and then you feel guilty, so it’s even harder to get past the block.
Decide what you want to write ahead of time.
- Make a list of all the things you could be writing or working on.
- Once you have the list, or organize it in order of preference, not importance.
- Then pick something small that you can work on without feeling like you need to get it right or the world might collapse. If you haven’t been writing for a while, you’re probably thinking that you need to get back to the most important part of your project first, but this adds pressure and will just feed into your fear and guilt. If you start with something less significant, you’ll build up positive associations and a feeling of success when you finish. Then you can pick something else off your list than the people process.
- At the end of each writing session, make notes for yourself about what you accomplished and what you plan to do next. Include any new ideas or options that have occurred to you, but keep those in a separate column or different file. This will eliminate the pressure of needing to decide what you’re going to work on every time you sit down to write.
Write a scene list or topical summary.
Just like writing a list of what you want to get done, writing a list of scenes or section summaries for each project can help you feel more grounded and eliminate self-doubt.
Try writing summaries of all the major events you think should happen in a chapter a bulleted list of all the ideas you want to cover in a blog post or article. When I write these tips, I always start with my headings first. Then I go back and add to them or change them around if I find that things don’t fit for a come up with better ideas. The first draft doesn’t have to contain everything you want to say, and it doesn’t have to be organized the way you want to publish it. It’s just a matter of getting it written so that you know what you really working with.
Ask someone to brainstorm with you
Fellow writers are your best source for encouragement and testing ideas. My writing buddies are more than willing to help me, and a lot of my posts are based on brainstorm sessions with other bloggers. For fiction writing, whenever I run into a serious problem I can’t solve, I go to fellow writers for feedback.
Repeat these words: “Done is good. Perfection is the enemy of done.”
Give yourself permission to write a bad first draft and edit it later. Remember that if you aren’t sure of something or don’t have all of the information you need, you can go back to it and edit later.
Summarize problem sections and return to them later.
If you run into trouble, summarize the problem spot and keep going . My first drafts are full of stuff like, “And then the mountain started to shake and everybody went running for cover but Thad was awesome and stayed behind to help the kittens out of a tree.” There’s like a whole scene there, but if I’m having trouble writing it, I can summarize, change the color of the text, and flag it as something I need to come back to later. Then I can move on to another section that is flowing more easily. This signals my subconscious that there’s something it needs to be working on, and when I return to the trouble spot later, it will flow much more easily. If your knee-jerk reaction is “I can’t do that, I have to get it right before I move on, remember that the goal is to get done and you are not getting done because you’re trying to make it perfect before you start.
Do a web search for “Free Writing Prompts” or “Free Writing Exercises,” and commit to doing them ten minutes a day until you break yor block. This might not help you with your WIP, but after a few days you’ll most likely be ready to claw your eyes out–at which time, your WIP will be waiting.
Write about what’s bothering you
Take 10 or 15 minutes and write about the problem. Often, you’ll hit on a solution as you work. Other times, the release of anxiety will help you focus and see the issue from another perspective.
If there’s a specific fear like, “I don’t know how to write this type of scene,” then brainstorm some ideas for how you can learn.
And then, if all else fails…
Suck it up, buttercup!
After a while, fear becomes comfortable. It’s easier to be afraid and read a million tips on breaking writer’s block than it is to sit down and write. Your strategies for breaking writer’s block become avoidance mechanisms. Take a hard look at what you’re doing. Give yourself a day or two, and then write something no matter how you feel. Remind yourself why you started this project in the first place, and remember that you have a job to do. Part of being a creative professional is learning to do things when you’re afraid.
This post is a followup to: