Believe it or not, writers’ block exists. And it is frustrating.
Think about it: you are on the wrong side of the deadline and you desperately want to write that story or poem or essay but the words won’t come. Every single line you have typed in the past thirty minutes doesn’t make any sense at all. You have probably hit the backspace button a thousand time already. Five thousand lines of trash, summarily deleted.
Sounds familiar, right? You are not alone. This abandonment by one’s muses is something all writers experience. But there is a cure for it. Yes, there is. Before I share my cure for writers’ block, I would like to say that creative writing requires a great deal of resilience and hard work. It is important for every writer to do their homework before they sit at their writing desks. Most of the time, you can’t write anything meaningful because you haven’t been reading well-written and challenging books or stories.
Other causes of writers block include::
- Schedule: You probably have a terribly tight schedule and you come to your writing table too exhausted to create anything worth reading. Consider changing your schedule. Wake up early and write before you go to that exhausting day job.
- Wrong Timing: The idea probably needs more time to crystallize in your mind. If the writing sounds forced, then it’s a sign that it isn’t the right time to write that story. Try something else. Give the idea time to blossom. I will suggest more tips in my list.
- Anxiety: Most writers struggle with anxiety and fear. While some have a healthy dose of fear, others allow themselves to be crippled and numbed by this emotion. Creativity flourishes where there is little or no fear. Get rid of your doubts. Try not to worry about things you have no control over. How can you accomplish this feat? I’ll share a few tips in my list below.
- Trying To Work Up A Flawless First Draft: Nora Roberts once said that every first draft is shitty. The writer’s job is to rewrite or revise that draft until it sparkles. This is one thing every writer must learn. Perfectionism often stifles creativity. Let the story flow unhindered. You can always rewrite your story and make it the best it could ever be.
The top 5 tips and tricks for writers trying to overcome writers’ block.
- Read: Now many writers might wonder why I have to start with this obvious tip. Well, that’s because reading is one surefire way to get your muse flowing.
The trick, however, is to read the type of stories you want to write. When Chimamanda Adichie called for entries for her Purple Hibiscus creative writing workshop, I published some writing tips for applicants. Of course, I asked them to read classic flash stories, because Ms, Adichie required very short writing samples. If you are primarily a writer of novels, you might struggle to write flash fiction or short stories.
Another trick is to read a wide range of challenging literature. Read across genres. Sometimes, reading poetry will teach you a lot about sentence compression and word economy. Reading creative non-fiction (like memoirs and autobiographies) can make you an expert in writing fiction from the first person point of view.
Finally, read across eras and continents too. Don’t read only contemporary literature. Read books written in the nineteenth or eighteenth century. Not only will you enrich your vocabulary, but you’ll also learn to explore unique themes and characters in stories. You’ll also get free history lessons to boot.
- Listen to Podcasts: I am a big advocate of podcasting. Yes. Podcasts make our lives easier. I enjoy listening to stories while cooking, washing, or even babysitting. When I can’t do plenty of reading, I try to make up by listening to podcasts.
How can podcasts help you overcome writer’s block?
- By feeding you creative stories. Sometimes, all you need to craft a good story is to hear one. Have you heard about the BBC Outlook podcast? That’s a good place to start.
- Podcasts help you overcome writer’s block by showing you different storytelling styles and how stories sound when read out loud. BBC’s From Our Own Correspondents is an excellent podcast for writers who are struggling to find the right voice and structure for their story.
- It is a simple way to hear what the most successful writers have published. Listen to the New Yorker Fiction podcast, The Writer’s Voice and The Guardian Short Story Podcasts
- Free creative writing lessons and classes for writer’s who are trying to find their way. A good number of podcasts get writers to give short weekly writing courses. Perhaps you should try my favourite. It’s called Writing Excuses.
- Exercise: Sometimes writer’s block is as a result of cognitive exhaustion. One thing you can do is rest. Get some sleep if you can.
Then go for a walk, a run or a dance. Do whatever you can to get the blood flowing.
Alternatively, you can engage in physical activity that will get your mind off your writing project. It’s a great way to overcome writer’s block.
- Listen to Good Music: The emphasis is on the word ‘good’. If you’re a fan of classical music, then go for it. If you prefer lyrical songs, then you can try highlife music or country or folk music. I like these genres of music because they incorporate a lot of storytelling in them. I consider this an interesting way to get your creative juice flowing.
- Spend Time With Someone You Like: Preferably eating a sumptuous meal. Food and hangouts gladden the heart. They also help you relax. If you can, avoid discussing your work in progress. You can, however, delve into profound topics that can help inspire you.
Overcoming writer’s block is relatively easy. All you have to do is apply the aforementioned tip and tricks. You can also do your own research and find what works for you.
What do you do to overcome writer’s block? Please share in the comments section.
Bio: Chioma Iwunze-Ibiam writes prose fiction and non-fiction. She blogs about opportunities for creative writers and offers writing advice on her award-winning website. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.