History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Fighting Writer’s Block

Chopped vegetables in purple, white, orange, and green

Mind you, I don’t chop veggies nearly this nicely.

Like most writers, there are days when I stare at the blank page, the cursor blinking at me, like it knows that I have nothing to say to it. It’s the dreaded writer’s block, or at least the temporary shut down of my brain that doesn’t want to let me write. Since I try to write five days a week, and have a lot of projects that I’m trying to complete each week, a day of not getting much done can really slow down the whole process. So I have some go-to activities that are bound to unlock my brain.

  1. Taking a shower/bath. Why is it that people always get their best ideas when they’re in a position where they can’t really do much about them? I can develop elaborate scenes and dialogue when I’m in the shower. I’ve considered getting a grease pencil to keep in the shower for when the really good ideas strike me, but then I’d probably just have a smudgy black wall in the shower. Or I’d wind up in there until the water runs cold. So maybe writing in the shower isn’t the solution, but if it can get my brain unstuck AND I can get those ideas transferred to paper (or my phone, or the computer), it’s a good technique to battle writer’s block.
  2. Driving. Again, another solution that involves being in a place where you can’t do much writing. I’m in the unfortunate position of being one who gets carsick if I try to write or read (or even use my phone) as a passenger, so even if I’m not the driver, I’m somewhat limited in what I can do while in the car. I’ve considered turning on the recorder on my phone and narrating my ideas as I go, but that’s not necessarily a safe option. Mostly, I just end up thinking and rethinking the ideas, and then hope I can make it to paper (or the equivalent) before they escape!
  3. Cooking prep. There’s something rhythmic and slightly mindless about doing food prep, like chopping fruits and vegetables, or making a recipe you’ve made countless times before. (It’s better to not try to make a recipe that involves counting, as working on a plot and counting can cause all sorts of mix-ups.) Sometimes, when I’ve been stuck on a story, heading to the kitchen to do a little prep work can be the thing that jiggles the pieces loose in my head. And unlike the previous two suggestions, some cooking prep is the sort of thing that could be paused while you hurry to scribble down an idea, so long as you’re able to rinse the messy or smelly bits of food off of your hands and not get them all over your paper or device.
  4. Doing something else. Some days, I just have to live with the inability to get writing done. Sometimes I can redirect things to working on writing-related things (like writing a blog post instead of fiction, for example), but other days, I just have to accept that it’s a wash, and do something completely different. Every once in a while, giving my brain a break is just the thing it needs in order to return to productivity. Maybe I’ll get something done later that day, or maybe it’ll take me a whole day of doing something else, but the occasional breaks tend to be one of the better forces to fight writer’s block. (And another reason why I don’t try to make myself write daily!)

Got any other ideas? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

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