Dealing with Writer's Block

Everyone deals with writer's block in one form of another. The cursor blinks, the page is blank, and your mind refuses to grind no matter how many cups of coffee you drink.

There's nothing worse than finally having that block of time in your busy life to write, and finding yourself uninspired and unmotivated. Writing is a creative process, and something it just doesn't happen

Your time is especially valuable if you only write on the side, and don't have 8 hours a day to type away. Here are three things I do to make sure my time is as productive as possible.

1. OUTLINE. If you don't know what you want to write before you sit down you're wasting your precious time. Your outline can be something rough:

  • John goes outside
  • Description of weather
  • John notes that his brother took out the trash too late
  • John thinking about stuff
  • John drives to work thinking about his brother

...or something more detailed:

  • John goes outside. Green grass, car in driveway, thoughts on the work he's going to need to do later.
  • Blue skies, grey clouds in the distance. It's fall, chill in the air, smell of chimney smoke, John wonders where the summer went because it flew by.
  • Two trashcans at the curb by the mailbox. One is overturned and trash is spilled across the asphalt. Would have been collected the day before, but his brother must have forgotten to take it out in time.

You get the idea. I write above my outline and start deleting parts from it as I accomplish them. Having an outline, no matter how detailed, will keep you moving forward instead of languishing in front of that dreaded blank page. And if you're a gardener instead of an architect type it can be helpful to have a road map, even if you end up deviating from it once you become inspired. I've detailed my outlining process here.

2. VISUALIZE. Browse your outline (you made an outline, right?) and visualize what you're about to write. Picture it in your head: your detective approaching the crime scene, or your hero walking into the cave to slay the dragon, or whatever it is that's going to happen next in your book. Watch the scene unfold like it's on TV. This can be especially helpful with exposition, when you need to set the scene and describe the environment. It may sound stupid, but if you can't picture what's happening in your book how can your reader?

3. SKIP. Writing isn't like baking a cake: you don't need to mix the flour and sugar, and then beat the eggs, all in a specific order. Whether it's a sentence, paragraph, or page, if you're stuck on something you might just need to skip it and return to it later. Highlight it yellow so you don't forget to finish it. I typically have a dozen or so yellow parts to clean up when I go back over a completed chapter. 

4. ELIMINATE DISTRACTION. This mostly applies to those of us with meager willpower, but it's still worth mentioning. Limit any distractions that will keep you from focusing. Go into an empty room, turn off your phone, and disconnect from the internet. Use Google Docs or any other cloud service to write? The StayFocusd browser extension can block certain sites for a specific time period, limiting the temptation to browse Reddit or Facebook.