Sometimes it feels like I have writer’s block every day. I have the urge to write but when I sit down I clam up and procrastinate by checking the same three apps on my phone.
I chalk it up to being afraid the words on my screen or paper won’t sound as good as they do in my head. My favorites parts of the writing process is brainstorming and planning and then later revising and reworking. The actual writing part, while enjoyable, can also be frustrating.
Here are some tricks I use to power through writer’s block.
Carve out a specific time of day to write.
I know some people recommend writing the same time everyday to create a habit, but that doesn’t work for me. However, in the morning I will set aside a specific chunk of time I’m dedicating to writing. It’s like I’m scheduling a meeting with my boss or a doctor’s appointment; I’m not going to skip out on it because something more important came up. Scheduling time to write is important. Obviously if inspiration strikes and I have spare time, I’m not going to wait for 3 pm to roll around before writing, but sticking to a commitment helps force the words out of me.
Write for time, not for word count.
I don’t know about you, but seeing that pesky number at the bottom of the screen really discourages me. I used to tell myself I was going to write x amount of words or x amount of pages and that would ultimately take me forever because I would be more concerned with just getting random words on the page to meet my goal. Now I’ll write for a specific amount of time instead, usually between 25-30 minutes, but sometimes I’ll write for longer. Some days I’ll write 2,000 words in that chunk of time, and some days I’ll write 200. This helps me feel like everyday was productive, even when I could only muster up half a page. Progress is progress.
Don’t wait for inspiration to come to you.
So many times I found myself thinking, “I don’t have any ideas so I can’t write today.” My ideas are few and far between as my life gets busier, unless I’m standing still or my brain is quiet. Other times inspiration comes at inconvenient times where you can’t get to a pencil and paper (shavasana anyone?). During my scheduled writing time, sometimes I come armed with an idea and sometimes I’m staring at a cursor. When inspiration does come during the day, I’ll write it down on a small notebook I carry in my bag. Then later when I’m sitting down to write I’ll sift through it and choose something I can work with. I also use an app called Brainspark which gives quick prompts and I’ll choose the first one that comes up (be careful with writing prompt websites; sometimes I get too distracted picking a good prompt that I’ll spend more time finding an idea than writing). The point here is to get words down on paper or the screen. You can fix anything later on during the revision.
Cut away distractions.
If you scheduled your time, make sure you finished everything you needed to before then. Take out your dog, go to the bathroom, close the door, set your music playlist up, turn off the Internet if you have to. For me, the hardest part is getting through the first 5 to 10 minutes distraction free, but anything ranging from the phone ringing to your noisy neighbors can force your thoughts in different directions. Try to find a space where you can write with few distractions and hold yourself accountable to stay on track.
Don’t be afraid of sounding terrible. No one has to see the first rough draft. It’s rough for a reason. Your goal here is to write, free of criticisms, distractions, and worry. I believe that the real reason writers’ block exists is because we’re too afraid of being wrong or not sounding as good as well think we sound. If we learn to write without the self-judgement that often comes along with it, the block will slowly fade away.
What are some tips and tricks you use to battle writer’s block during your writing process?