Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Beat, Cheat, and Swindle Writer's Block in 6 Steps

Like any writer or blogger I've had several bouts in the ring with writer's block. Just this week, in fact, I've spent far too much time staring at a blank word document as the typing bar appears and disappears like the computer is impatiently tapping it's foot while waiting for me to write something, ANYTHING.
Watching the sky look like a person trying to smile but crying anyway I was suddenly hit with inspiration like a cold fish slapped across one's face. "Hannah, you fantastic fool!" I cried. "You have writer's block, people have been asking you how to cure writer's block, and your blog is even named writer's block. THE ANSWER IS OBVIOUS: You need to go make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and that might give you an idea for your next blog post!" One classy pb&j later I was hit with yet another cold fish of inspiration and well, here I am.

Since you obviously stumbled upon this while searching for the solution to writer's block (that, or you googled "How to beat, cheat, and swindle someone" in which case...get help) the first thing to realize is that everyone who writes deals with writer's block. It doesn't matter if you write novels, screenplays, or automatic cheese grater operator manuals; even the greatest authors experience idea constipation.

"But Hannah," you accuse, "Isn't writing about writer's block only because you can't think of something else to write cheating?" 


Be quiet and lets pretend you didn't make that completely accurate observation. As this person who is apparently a writer but I've never read once said,

“Writing about a writer's block is better than not writing at all” 

So sit back, keep your smart aleck comments to yourself, and learn, young writing padawan.

1. STOP.

Staring at that endless blank piece of paper will only drive you insane and give you a blinding headache. Put down the pencil, turn off the computer, and...

2. Go Do Something.

It doesn't matter what, only that you go and DO. Take a bike ride, a bath, or if you're into petty larceny, someone's handbag (though this is not recommended if you don't want to end up writing on prison cell walls.) Basically any activity that will distract you from your dilemma and refresh your brain with new material. Leaving the house and going out among people can really help. Scary, I know, but worthwhile. 

3. Read.

The ultimate key to writing is reading. Reading a well-written novel subconsciously builds your vocabulary as well as installing the patterns of story lines and sentence structures. Not to mention that the right book can hold your breath and attention for hours. 

4. Brainstorm.

When you've spent a few hours or days living life elsewhere come back to that paper, sit, and write out everything that comes to your mind for the next 15 minutes. Random words, sentences, half-baked ideas, let no thought be left behind. When the times up sit back, re-read your paper, and briefly wonder if you're insane. 

5. Form an Idea.

80% of the time you will have at least the fetus of an idea after brainstorming. If the case of Writer's Block is particularly stubborn then repeat steps 1 - 5. Occasionally it just takes time. If you do have an inkling tackle it from out of the bushes so it can't get away then begin to expand upon it via writing.

For example: The scribbled words "Pooh Bear" and "sadness" become "Emo pooh bear" which in turn sparks the idea, "What if Pooh Bear turned emo?" and you begin to write a story. Voila, the brainstorm formula. 

6. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. 

Writer's Block is like a wandering kitten. It comes, it goes, it tunnels into your pantry and refuses to leave for weeks living off of cereal and baked beans. metaphor is exhausted. And so will you be if you battle Write's Block. A ray of hope in this is that when you do break the writing barrier if you continue to write often you can stave of blockage for a long time. Eventually you will improve as a word weaver to the point that you don't need that spark of inspiration, you will create it. 

Go forth and write, m'dears. Since I have a wildly exciting social life I'm going to go spend my Friday night as I often do: making dinner, dancing, and singing about cold fried rice to amuse myself. 

May all your goldfish be golden,



  1. This is basically the creative process of anything in general. I find myself doing these things all the time, just not specifically about writing - although the process DOES involve writing. I find that writing down all of your random ideas on paper works super well. Until you reread it thinking "I am the most retarded person I know..."

  2. Exactamundo, me amigo! The creative process is a scary beast indeed. But embrace the weirdity and you could make something brilliant.