Ah, writer’s block.
Most of us have faced it. Sometimes it hits us as soon as we open up a blank page, but other days it can be patient. Sneaky, even. It creeps up when we’re five pages, maybe even fifty, into a story. The well dries up, and you’re staring at the screen…with no idea how to proceed. You want to write, but the words won’t come.
Maybe you’ve been pushing yourself too hard. Maybe you’ve had a string of failures and are feeling discouraged. Maybe you keep falling out of love with ideas. Or maybe it’s none of these. Maybe you feel totally fine, but something just isn’t working. That’s okay. You’re human, and it happens.
I’m not here to debate whether or not writer’s block exists for everyone. But if you are suffering from writer’s block, know that there may be ways to ease yourself out of it. I won’t pretend I have a magic cure, because I don’t believe there is one way to fix it. It’s differs from person to person, and even day to day.
Instead, I’ll tell you what works for me.
My personal experience with creativity is that it tends to be tied to my health. I wish I had figured this out years ago, but it didn’t really click until this year when I cleaned up my diet and started lifting weights again. I noticed that on days where I drag my lazy butt to the gym, I tended to get the best ideas and I could write like the wind. Go figure.
On the flip side, if I’m feeling under the weather then the writer’s block hits me hard.
Which brings us to right now.
I just came back from a fantastic trip to New York last week and woke a few days later with a sore throat and a head so congested I thought my ears might pop. I spent most of Sunday on the couch, wallowing in snot and self-pity, and when I tried to write the words wouldn’t come.
It’s just how it is with me. When my body is struggling, so does my creative side.
Which brings me to the thing that doesn’t always work for me, but it’s been the most successful so far.
But don’t just read.
Read genres you don’t typically read or write.
An example: I consider myself a fantasy writer that occasionally, tentatively, dips her toes in the sci-fi waters.
But when I was sick yesterday I decided to go for something totally outside of my typical pool of books.
Amazon prime has this feature where it will allow you to purchase some older titles for free. I consciously avoided sci-fi and fantasy books, and ended up “buying” (is it really buying if it’s free?) a book called Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. I was leery at first since YA is where my heart is, and this is geared more towards MG. It also didn’t sound like what I typically read.
But hey, it was free, and it won the Newbery way back in ’61, so it had to be good, right?
And it is! The book is based off of the true story of a young woman who lived alone on an island near Ghalas-at and fended for herself for eighteen years. I’m not typically a survivalist story kind of girl, but the voice of the main character sucked me right in. There was something incredibly appealing about reading a survivalist story featuring a young girl instead of your typical Strong White Dude. The main character, Karana, is resourceful in a way that makes you cheer for her. Also, she loves animals. So she immediately had my heart.
It’s a short read, and if you want a taste of something different and you’ve got amazon prime, I definitely recommend grabbing your free copy.
But wait, maybe you have writer’s block, and you’re not up for committing to a totally new book?
Then try short fiction! I’ve become a huge fan of flash fiction especially because it’s perfect for exposing yourself to different styles and genres without investing too much time. Flash Fiction Online is a great resource because they publish a myriad of genres, and they’re a pro-market so you know what you’re getting is quality. Every Day Fiction is another great flash fiction magazine I’m a fan of.
If you read Sci-Fi or Fantasy, then I absolutely recommend Daily Science Fiction. Of all the magazines I read they’re probably the one I return to most frequently and one of my favorites. They’re a pro-market magazine whose stories are always 1500 words or less, so it’s a great way to get a bite-sized taste of something new. I read every story they publish as I’m having my morning coffee during the work week. I can’t tell you enough how much I love this magazine.
Not in the mood for fiction? That’s okay, too. Sometimes I turn to autobiographies, other times I turn to poetry.
I don’t know why this works for me, and I can’t promise that it will work for you.
But it also can’t hurt.
Happy reading, and hang in there. Sometimes writer’s block isn’t a curse—it’s just permission to try something new.
Have you experienced writer’s block? What typically helps bring you out of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!