How to Cope With Writer’s Block

When you have writer’s block, it can be hard to describe the way you feel. There are no words—literally! But if you’re going to finally finish that novel, you need to force yourself to persevere through the emptiness. How do you counteract that weird, blank BLAH feeling you get when you’ve been writing for a while? How do you create a fresh start for yourself? How does a writer dedicate herself to something that feels half-dead? While I certainly can’t cure your writer’s block, I’ve got some ideas to help freshen up your writing routine and habits.

Change your scenery: Sick of writing at the same desk in your tiny, cramped apartment? We don’t blame you—and yes, it’s kind of starting to smell in there. Try getting out the house and working from a coffee shop. Perhaps you won’t find the colorful clientele a distraction; in fact, they may be a source of inspiration. Hey, that handsome guy with the sleeve tattoos and awesome jawline is just begging to be put on your pages, or in between your sheets. Whatever, same thing!

Study others: Whether you’re in a café with your computer or on an afternoon stroll without a pen or a scrap of paper on you, really pay attention to everything around you. Practice your expository skills by creating vivid descriptions of the people and places you see. If nothing else, writers should be superb observationalists with the ability to convey sights, smells, and feelings to readers. Perhaps there’s a story in the tattoo guy, or the tall woman reaching for quinoa at Trader Joe’s. Or maybe there’s a great place in your everyday life that’s just waiting for you to employ it as a scene location in your novel. Take a look around!

Re-evaluate your timing: When you’re balancing a paying job, relationships, and other responsibilities, it can be challenging to find the time to write. Many writers sit down at the same time each day. Some strive to meet a certain daily word count goal. If you’re in a similar routine and it’s starting to feel stale, try swapping things around. If you tend to write at night, try waking up early one morning, and see if it gives you a jolt of energy.

Organize a workshop: A supportive community of like-minded individuals is essential to the creative process. If you don’t already have a built-in clique of writer friends, and you’re feeling brave, try posting an ad on Craigslist and see what comes of it. You can also seek out new connections in a local writing class. This is an excellent way to create that fresh “back to school” mentality and meet new people. When the class is over (and your wallet is empty), you can keep the class going informally by meeting your favorite classmates at each other’s houses and apartments. If you’re not ready for that step, keep an eye out for the writer type everywhere you go—who knows, maybe the next girl you share a martini with is a closet short story writer!

Keep reading: Surrounding yourself with greatness and great writing certainly won’t hurt your situation. Sometimes a truly amazing author can lead you down the path of amateur imitation. If her influence is apparent in your new work, just go with it. Instead of worrying about this little private plagiarism on your personal laptop, see where it leads you. You will have to go back and tear it up when you edit, anyway.

Be a part of the scene: If you live in a big city, you have the extra benefit of being able to network with writers. Attend readings, whether by big names at your nearby Barnes & Noble, or a group of local authors staging something at a bar. It’s important to surround yourself by working writers and grand storytellers. These meetings feed our little souls, and make us feel more optimistic about writing, the process, and the end product. If you have the opportunity to read at an event, never pass it up no matter what your nerves think! Remember, the opportunities are endless, even though it doesn’t always feel that way.

How do you beat the block? We want to know the ways you cope when your brain is shutting down! Please feel free to share your tips and tricks with fellow floundering writers.

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