5 tips to combat writer's block
Updated: Feb 15, 2019
Every writer has had that moment of staring at a blank page with an equally blank mind. There are as many tips for getting past that moment—and back to the glorious flow of black letters and words—as there are authors. Here are a few of my favorites.
In the words of my beloved teacher and mentor, Lew Hunter, "writers write." He told us to print it up in large letters and to hang the sign over our desks. Since Lew taught one of the world's most famous screenwriting classes, and wrote a book to prove it, Lew Hunter's Screenwriting 434, it was advice that I took to heart. Did it stop me blanking out with deadlines looming? Nope. However, it reminded me that, when I was not writing I was not so much a writer as a sugar-addicted, deadline-averse grad student. Which, come to think of it is probably the same thing.
EAT THOSE COOKIES
Flying in the face of all the dieting advice your grandmother never gave you, is the belief that sugar can help you focus. It's true. However, and in keeping with the sad truth of most things in my life, sugar only works to maintain your willpower if you believe you need it. You heard it here first: I believe. Okay, time for cookies. Or chocolate.
GET THE HELL OUT
This one is a favorite of mine. When I'm stuck, I stand up and move my body through space. That can mean mopping the kitchen floor. More sensibly, it can mean walking the dog. Who cares about the kitchen. The dog will love you unconditionally. I used to rollerblade and, yes, I know I am dating myself, but the act of rolling smoothly down a bike path put me squarely back into the flow literally and metaphorically. Riding your bike probably does the same thing. Anyone have an old bike they can donate? There's bound to be a writer within a block or two who could benefit.
This one works for absolutely everything in life from a broken heart to a flat tire. Laughter won't fix the problem but it sure as heck will make it more bearable. Keep a collection of your favorite comic strips in a file folder. Color them in when you're bored. Turn the crap scene that has you tangled into a comic strip. Write down three jokes in three minutes. Cultivate your friends who know how to nudge your funny bone. Google "humor hotline" and call it. Or just pat yourself on the back, and tell yourself "that laughter is the best medicine but having written is better." Which brings me to my last tip.
When you get stuck, remind yourself that writer's block is just some more fake news. It's true: if you were a plumber, you couldn't phone up your boss and say "hey, I can't work today because I have plumber's block." He'll tell you exactly what he thinks of that. And it won't be pretty. So, in a full-circle kind of way, just sit down and write. Pretend you're a plumber. Just write. It doesn't matter if it's crap (that old bugaboo, perfectionism.) Just write. It only matters that you are doing it (and smashing that familiar foe, procrastination.
Oh, and hey, writing looks good on you. So go do it.