Happy Independence Day to all of my American readers! The Fourth of July is an ordinary day here in Ontario, so I’m back to blogging about the sorts of topics I generally discuss here. If you haven’t already checked it out, why not go ask me a few questions about what it’s like to live in Canada?
Writer’s block is a topic I’ve been meaning to discuss on this site for quite a while now. I’ve had my own trouble with it in the past, up to and including brainstorming for something as simple as a blog post topic. Today I wanted to share a few techniques that I use to deal with this problem when it happens. If you have anything else to add in the comment section below, do speak up!
Balance Multiple Projects
On any given day, I’m brainstorming, writing, or reworking blog posts, my latest novel, future social media posts for myself, future social media posts for the organizations I volunteer for, book reviews, and more. If one of these writing styles isn’t working for me, I’ll switch to another one.
There is something about asking your brain to transition from one project to the next that can really get the creative juices flowing.
A tweet requires brevity while a chapter of a book might need me to dig deeply into the details of what is going on in that particular scene so that my audience will know exactly what is going on in it.
Do Something Unrelated to Writing
And when I say unrelated, I mean it! Pick an activity that you enjoy but that has nothing at all do with your current projects.
Go swimming or buy a ticket to the latest summer blockbuster you’ve been meaning to watch. Fly a kite, take your dog on an adventure, or have dinner down at the local pub. Book a weekend away at local campground or check out a special event in your neighbourhood that you’ve been meaning to attend.
Do these sorts of things without any sense of guilt or expectation that they will lead you to the next plot twist in your writing. Just enjoy those hours or days away without any thought of what’s going on with your characters at the moment.
Once you get back, there’s something interesting I think you should try.
Have a Conversation with Your Characters
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to my characters. No, I generally don’t speak out loud to them, although more power to you if that works.
One visualization technique that I really like is imagining that I’ve sat down with my characters to have a cup of tea together. The conflict and tension in their storyline is nowhere near us, and we have all the time in the world to talk about what’s going on with them and how they want to react next.
Don’t ask me why this works, but I’ve found it very helpful in figuring out why I’m stuck on a particular piece and what sorts of things I should think about trying with the plot in the future.
Write Scenes Out of Order
For example, I generally find it much easier to write the middle of a story or novel than I do the beginning or ending. Beginnings need to draw the readers into the plot quickly while at the same time developing the character’s personalities and giving a good overview of what the world they inhabit is like.
As far as endings go, I always want to know what happens next no matter how long a story is or how well it fleshes everything out. This is a good thing as a reader, but as a writer it can make it tricky for me to know when to wrap things up.
Middle sections are my sweet spot, so they’re often the portion I try to work on if I get stuck. There are so many opportunities to foreshadow the ending or make more references to things I’ll put in the first few scenes when I’m writing this part.
Interestingly enough, this also works just as well for blog posts and tweets! Can you guess which section of this post I might have figured out first?
Pick a Different Genre
No, I’m not saying you need to publish what you write or that you need to start an entirely new project altogether. I’ve written plenty of scraps of things that will never see the light of day.
Here’s the thing about picking a different genre: it can often require you to use a different set of writing muscles. A romance novel is usually nothing like a poem about a rainy day. A short horror tale has a completely different feel to it then an autobiographical essay.
If you can, choose a genre that is something you’d rarely to never read, much less write.
It’s been my experience that attempting to write a hardboiled detective story is a great way for me to start coming up with ideas for the genres I actually have experience writing. No sooner does my detective stumble upon the crime scene then he or she realizes that this isn’t the only genre going on in that snippet of a tale.
What are your favourite tips for beating writer’s block?