You’ve woken up, eaten breakfast, and have sat down in front of your laptop. You open the file titled Best Selling Novel and push open the door in your mind that grants you access to the fictional world you’ve spent the past few months creating. You poise your fingers above your laptop’s keyboard, ready to glimpse what happens next in your story. But fog swirls around you when you step through the door, concealing your view. You stumble forward, calling your characters’ names. But only silence greets you.
This horrifying scenario is known as Writer’s Block, and symptoms include:
- Staring at a blank Word document for extended periods of time
- Banging your fists against your keyboard
- Frequent trips to the kitchen and bathroom (aka procrastination)
- Slamming your laptop shut
- And, in severe cases, crying
Now having Writer’s Block is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s generally guaranteed that you’ll suffer from Writer’s Block at least once in your life—okay, probably more like several hundred times. One day, after spending weeks pouring words onto paper, you’re going to sit down and find that you’ve got absolutely nothing to write. Not a single word. Your mind is a complete blank. But don’t worry, there are ways to re-trigger your muse and gain access back into the world you created.
- Walk away
Staring at a laptop screen and willing words to appear may work, but it will most likely give you a headache—or make you want to toss your laptop over the balcony so you don’t have to stare at that blinking cursor in Word, which you’re pretty sure is mocking you. It’s better to walk away and do something else, because your subconscious mind is an amazing thing and will continue working on bypassing your Writer’s Block while you go for a run, clean the house, or even just sleep. If your subconscious manages to succeed in spying the next section of your novel, it’ll send you a memo—also known as a light bulb blinking to life above your head.
- Grab a pen and paper
If you’ve been typing your novel on a laptop, I recommend changing to pen and paper. There is something freeing about scribbling in a notebook. Probably that you can write without Word being a Grammar Nazi and underlining every second word in red or green, making your feel like you never should have graduated Year 1 English. Instead you can focus purely on the story and avoid being distracted by highlighted spelling and grammar errors—things you can correct later.
There’s also the added bonus that you can sit down and write anywhere when you’ve got pen and paper, like the beach or an isolated cabin in the woods, and you never have to worry about your pen’s battery dying like you do with a laptop.
- Try free writing
Free writing is basically where you write and write and write and write. Don’t panic, there is a time limit on how long you have to write for. I generally find 10 minutes is a good time to start with. All you have to do is set a timer, focus on your story, and keep your pen moving until the timer runs out.
It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you write something. If your mind is a complete blank when the timer starts, then write my mind is a complete blank over and over again until something else pops into your head—hopefully the next chapter in your novel. But if the best you can come up with is Charlotte likes ice cream sundaes sprinkled with chocolate flakes that’s fine. Set the timer for another 10 minutes, and you’ll probably find your mind is a lot clearer, enough to squeeze out one sentence that triggers a tidal wave of words to shatter your Writer’s Block.
Now before you run off to start free writing, there are a few rules:
- Keep writing until the timer runs out.
- Do not correct any spelling or grammatical errors you make—throw out basic English rules for this exercise. No one will read what you write but you, so don’t be embarrassed.
- Do not re-read anything you’ve written until the timer runs out.
- Have fun. Free writing is all about letting go and unleashing your subconscious.
I know sometimes it feels as though Writer’s Block will never pass, and that you’ll have to move your novel into a folder marked Dead Projects, but I promise it will. One day a vortex will open in the sky and suck up the fog surrounding you, revealing the fictional world you created as well as your characters. You just have to be patient.