By Alex Kava
According to artist, Chuck Close: “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”
But what if it’s not about inspiration? What if you’re really stuck in a manuscript. You can’t move forward no matter how many bad paragraphs you force yourself to write.
Technology has given writers some amazing tools. Anything you can think of, there’s probably an app for that. Storyist can track your characters and settings. You can “mind map” with Miro. Plottr can help create your outline. And 750 Words promises to clear your writer’s block with freewriting ideas. If all of that is overwhelming, maybe Headspace can help you meditate.
My recommendation? Unplug! Shut down, shut off and get back to the basics. Here are seven suggestions to get you unstuck and back on track without downloading a new app or learning a new software program.
1. Write in Longhand.
Try at least a chapter or two to get unstuck. Research shows that writing by hand increases neural activity in certain sections of the brain. It unleashes creativity not easily accessed in any other way. You don’t need a special journal. Just put pen to paper. My Five Star notebooks work great. However, I must admit, I do need a nice pen. I like Pentel’s EnerGel fine point.
2. Change Your Scenery.
Go to a coffee shop. Maybe the library. Stand instead of sit. Or it could be as simple as moving to a recliner in your living room instead of your office. I know an author who parks her car in a WalMart parking lot and writes for an hour.
There are many reasons why reading someone else’s novel can help you as a writer. But for writer’s block, try reading for the pure enjoyment of reading. Most of us became writers because we love to read. Let it refresh your memory (and imagination) of the things you enjoy as a reader.
4. Get Some Fresh Air.
Go for a walk. Do some gardening. Play ball with your dog. According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology, just twenty minutes a day outside reduces fatigue, boosts energy, and allows your brain to refresh, restore and refocus.
5. Go Back to the Drawing Board.
Whether you’re an outliner or a discovery writer, putting ideas up on a board works as visual brainstorming that can trigger creativity. If you’re stuck in a manuscript this can help you see to the other side of your roadblock. Here’s mine from my last novel.
6. Try the Pomodoro Technique
It’s a simple practice that encourages writers to focus on twenty-five-minute stints by using a timer. Sit down and write without letting anything interrupt you. No multitasking, no coffee break, no jumping on the Internet or sending a quick text message. Tell yourself it’s only twenty-five minutes and get to work. The timer gives it a sense of urgency, but your mind says, “Hey, it’s only twenty-five minutes.”
7. Still stuck?
I highly recommend Becca Syme’s Dear Writer, Are You in Writer’s Block? as well as her Quitcast Video Podcast. As a Gallup-certified coach, she has a fresh perspective on how our writer brains work. Syme describes writer’s block as, “just road construction. Anyone can get around construction with the right path, the right vehicle and the right attitude.”
One of the important things I’ve learned about writer’s block is oftentimes it’s not just about being distracted. Getting to the bottom of what’s causing it isn’t easy. Sometimes the only answer is to find a way around the roadblock.
So, writers, what gets you unstuck?