Writer’s block. I still find it interesting how much fear and terror can be induced into a budding author by those two words. Even just looking at them typed up on my computer gives me the shudders. Because, honestly, writer’s block is every writer’s worst nightmare.
Just picture it: You’re halfway into a new book. Everything was going so smoothly not too long ago. You had a great, action-packed beginning. You introduced half a dozen funny, engaging characters. Your writing just sparkles with wit and humor.
But then—it all stops. Somewhere around page 110, you get stuck. No more words come to mind. No more interesting scenarios, or conflicts, or conversations. You’re trapped somewhere between a great beginning and a promising ending, with no idea how to bridge the gap in between.
I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the amount of times this has happened to me. And, judging by the complaints of fellow authors, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who faces this problem. It’s actually really common for writers to feel stuck and discouraged in the middle of a story, and not know how to overcome that block. However, just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s enjoyable. And nothing feels better than being able to plow through writer’s block and get back to crafting that fabulous story.
So, after being asked time after time about overcoming writer’s block, I finally came up with a list of ways to stay creative. When everything else fails, here are some ideas of how to bust up the blankness in your head and get your creative juices flowing again:
Step away from your computer.
Sometimes, when we’re looking at a story too closely, we lose sight of the overall picture. We get so caught up obsessing over the little details that we forget what the story is about as a whole. It’s crazy when I think about all the times that I have gotten unnecessarily frustrated with myself over little things like scenes, dialogs, or descriptions. If things don’t go one hundred percent smoothly, I want to throw in the towel and give up completely.
But you know what I’ve forgotten? I’ve forgotten what my story is about. I’ve forgotten what I love about it. All that original giddiness and excitement and anticipation that crowded my mind when I started out writing that book has completely vanished, and I feel washed-up and depressed over something as silly as an awkward dialog. And just because I can’t get that dialog to read smoothly, I want to give up all together.
You can probably tell by now that this is a really stupid way to think. And sometimes, the only way to cure myself of thinking that way is to shut my computer and take a step back. If you’re suffering from writer’s block, then just take a break from writing for a little while and think about your story as a whole. Don’t let yourself get bogged down in all the technicalities of writing. Think back to what you loved about the story, and let yourself get caught up all over again in excitement about that. By the time you’ve re-fallen in love with your story, it’ll be much easier to plow through those rough spots so that you can let that story shine. Trust me.
Try something different.
I have something embarrassing to confess. For about three years, I ate the same exact breakfast every morning. A bowl of Quaker instant maple-and-brown-sugar oatmeal, and a glass of cranberry juice. Every single morning. I was obsessive about it. If we were out of cranberry juice, I would freak out. And when Quaker changed their oatmeal recipe, it just about killed me. You can label me a freak or a loser or whatever you want, but that was me. The obsessive oatmeal-eater girl.
Then, one day, I tried something else. It wasn’t by choice. We were out of oatmeal, and my mom still forced me to eat breakfast. So I had scrambled eggs. They were surprisingly good. The next morning I had a bagel. Even better. Anyway, long and obnoxious story short, I stopped eating oatmeal every morning. I expanded my horizons. And you know what? I feel a lot better in the mornings. It’s exciting to have new breakfast foods and try new recipes. It stimulates my brain cells and makes me feel more awake and happy to be anticipating something new.
In a weird, roundabout way, the same can be said for writing. After a while, even the best writers get stuck in a rut of sameness. Their books get so predictable that people lose interest in reading them. Why read yet another book where the parent dies of cancer and the mortal enemies fall in love? Learn to shake it up.
If you always write sentimental, sappy-sweet love stories, try writing something a little more snarky. If medieval quests are your forte, why not try your hand at a contemporary thriller? Switch from third person to first person, past tense to present tense, prose to poetry—anything that will put your out of your comfort zone and make you think creatively.
Look for inspiration in unlikely places.
I once read a quote from author Stephen King talking about where he finds his inspiration. I wish I could find the exact quote to share with you, but it was along the lines of “between aisles three and four at the grocery store.” I just think that is so cool! One of the most successful authors of the twentieth century found his greatest inspiration just watching the everyday interactions between people at his local grocers.
I’ve found that the same is true for me. Things like movies, books, and pictures can be great for drawing inspiration, but so can conversations between friends in the booth next to you at the diner. Or the crazy antics of those adorable kids you babysit on Fridays. Or the way your grandfather holds your grandma’s hand when they cross the street together. Believe it or not, the idea for my second novel was entirely derived from a drawing a boy showed me when I was teaching his Sunday school class one week. Who would’ve thought, right? Sometimes, all you need to get out of a creative rut is a little unexpected inspiration. So keep your eyes open to the people and places around you, and remember that even seemingly mundane things can be interesting if you view them in the right light!
For those of you who are interested in more writing tips and advice, I would encourage you to check out my blog and vlog videos! And don't forget to order your copy of my debut novel Interrupted. :)