Writing Life

6 Techniques for Busting through Writer’s Block

“The subconscious mind is amazingly efficient – it wants to work your story out – and while I’ve never experienced it myself, my guess is that writer’s block is the result of the conscious mind having gotten too involved in the process.” ― Alistair Cross
Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it. ―Jack London
How time flies; another ten days and I have achieved nothing. It doesn’t come off. A page now and then is successful, but I can’t keep it up, the next day I am powerless. ―Franz Kafka

Ask ten writers how they handle writer’s block, and you might very well receive ten different answers. Some simply wait for inspiration to whisper in their ear again, while others push on through. Many write every day whether they feel like it or not, employing different methods to keep the creative muscles well lubricated. I’ll be honest; I fall somewhere in between. I try to write every day, but often my fiction projects are the ones that are pushed to the back burner when I’m not feeling inspired.

When I find myself stuck in a persistent rut, I’ll challenge myself with monthly or weekly word counts. Usually, like getting in a cold pool on a lukewarm day, the first jump is the hardest. Over time, I’ve found a few methods almost as helpful as someone pushing me in the deep end.

Read First

This may sound simple. But, one of the best things a writer can do before confronting that blinking cursor taunting them from inside a word document, is spend some time reading. It may seem counterproductive – you’re wasting precious time when you could be writing! Hold on; don’t dismiss it just yet!

Starting your writing sessions by taking ten to fifteen minutes to read can help you draw inspiration from other authors and ignite your creativity. You’ll likely find that you are more productive in the minutes and hours that follow.


Ready, Set, Writing Sprints

Having trouble focusing? Set a timer for ten to twenty minutes and write as much as you can without looking back. Don’t stop to edit, don’t check social media, don’t get up for a cup of coffee or a snack from the fridge. Just write! Keep writing, and don’t look back until that timer goes off. Take a short break, then repeat until you get through that scene that’s been tripping you up, or you hit your word count for the day.

Listen to a Writing Podcast

There are a lot of writing podcasts out there that are only ten to twenty minutes long, or if they are longer they can be listened to in short bursts. This is just enough time for a commute, or if you write from home, to listen to as you make your coffee, organize your things, and settle in. Often writing podcasts will center around a theme such as character development, perfecting voice, developing your craft, world building, or story arc. They are often conversational. Listening to a few writers chat about techniques they have used in their own stories, will get the cogs turning when it comes to your own. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself jotting down notes as you listen. A few favorites:

  • Writing Excuses – “Writing Excuses is a fast-paced, educational podcast for writers, by writers. It airs weekly, with new episodes appearing each Sunday evening at around 6pm Eastern Time. Episodes vary in length from fifteen to twenty-five minutes, but are usually less than twenty minutes long. The tagline, “Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart” isn’t super accurate, time-wise, but it’s a haiku so we’re keeping it.”
  • Creative Writing Career Podcast – “Turn writing into more than a hobby, make it your career. Stephan Bugaj (Pixar’s Brave, Wall-E, The Incredibles), Justin Sloan (Telltale’s Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, and Minecraft: Story Mode), and Kevin Tumlinson (Citadel, Lucid, The 30-Day Author) give you their advice on writing for books, movies, video games and more, and occasionally try to sound smarter by having on amazing guests.”
  • I Should be Writing – “Focusing on the emotional road blocks one finds in a writing career, this show speaks to over 8000 listeners every week.”
  • The Creative Penn Podcast – “Podcast episodes are posted every Monday and include interviews, inspiration and information on writing and creativity, publishing options, book marketing and creative entrepreneurship.”
  • The Self-Publishing Podcast – “Full time authors Johnny B. Truant, David Wright, and Sean Platt… explore everything related to getting your writing published… and making money doing it… in today’s new DIY digital publishing frontier. This isn’t artsy talk — it’s “authorpreneurial” business strategy that turns self-publishing from sideline into a rewarding career.”
  • Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert – “Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert returns for the second season of her hit podcast MAGIC LESSONS, ready to help another batch of aspiring artists overcome their fears and create more joyfully.”


Break out the Music Playlists

Make various writing playlists. These can be divided according to mood that you are trying to capture with each scene. Writing something dark and sinister? Make a playlist of a few songs that get your skin crawling. Working on a romantic scene and having trouble nailing the emotions? Try a playlist of love songs.


Use a Word Generator

Want a fun challenge to mix things up? Try an online word generator like this one. Type in the number of words you would like to have generated (I typically select 5 or 6), then challenge yourself to use them.

Don’t stop writing until you have typed every single word. It might take you one paragraph(unlikely); it might take you five pages. You might skip around and work on various scenes until you have used them all. You might change them later. But hey, it will get you writing.


Step Away from the Desk

Sometimes, we all need a change of scenery. Grab a notebook and pencil and go for a long walk, head to the park with a picnic blanket, take a bath, lay in a hammock, hike into the forest. Just go somewhere other than your desk, away from distractions and to-do lists. See what comes up.

Have other techniques that work for you? Share them with us on twitter! @Writing_Bloc

Please share!

By Jacqui Castle

Jacqui Castle is an author and freelance writer living in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC. Her dystopian science-fiction novel, The Seclusion, was named the winner of the North Carolina Author Project, a finalist for the national Indie Author Project award, and a Foreword Indies award winner in Science Fiction. The sequel to The Seclusion is currently in production. When not writing, she can be found consuming too much caffeine.