Working through Writer’s Block

As a writer, you have probably experienced some sort of writer’s block at some point in your life. Whether that’s from figuring out where your story is going next or finding the next great idea for a new novel, we’ve all been there. It’s totally normal.

While writer’s block is a completely normal thing that happens to most everyone, it should never be an excuse for you to not write. This is why I’ve decided to share some ways that I combat writer’s block and showcase my writing habits (but don’t judge me for my bad habits. I’m working on them).

  • YouTube

So, I know that this sounds a little counter-productive, but it truly helps me generate ideas. When I’m feeling like I have no sense of direction for my writing, I get on YouTube. The catch with this is that I don’t watch the normal videos. No cute cat videos, no interviews with Jimmy Fallon and my favorite celebs, and definitely nothing viral. Instead, I turn to the dark parts of YouTube. You know the land where they store all the conspiracy theory videos. Yup. That’s the place. In fact, the novel I’m working on now came from a spark of inspiration I had while watching a conspiracy theory video about life on Mars. I also like videos that show what the world would be like if the sun stopped shining, if the world stopped spinning, anything apocalyptic. I watch videos that show strange lands/planets to draw inspiration for the worlds I build. Sometimes those completely off-the-wall videos spark one small idea that I can build on and create an entire story around. If you’ve never tried it, I’d say don’t knock it until you do. It may or may not work for you, but you’ll never know unless you give it a try.

  • Questioning

With this method, I pull out my handy-dandy dry erase marker and write out What, When, Where, Who, Why, and How on one side of my white board. Then, I take a step back and answer those questions. What do I ultimately want my story to be about? When does it take place? Where does it take place? Who is the protagonist? The Antagonist? Why are they motivated to do what they are doing? And finally, how do they go about doing it? I know these are basic planning/plotting questions one asks themselves in the beginning stages of the writing, but it doesn’t just work to think about it. I need to write it out. When I suggest a what for my story idea, I write out my suggestions and read them aloud. This helps me gain a clearer sense of the direction that I want to go in and create a more concise overview of my story. Sometimes just having the answer to one of these will help you fill in the rest.

  • Freewriting

I really hate this method because I feel like it takes me a long time (more time than I’d like to admit) to get the inspiration I’m needing. However, I still use this method because on the days that I just can’t decide what to write about, I don’t want to avoid writing. I want to keep going. I feel like if I stop writing due to writer’s block, I’ll develop a bad habit of going days, weeks, or months without writing at all and I refuse to let myself make that an excuse for not doing something I love. With that being said, I sit down for 15 minutes and just let my thoughts flow. Anything that pops into my head. It’s mostly just random things. While this hasn’t worked 100% of the time for me, I have found some great nuggets of wisdom or advice that I end up using for either short story ideas or dialogue inspiration for my characters. So, it can be very helpful.

  • Making Lists

I enjoy this writing activity because Lists are Life in my world. What I do is I take one part of my story (overarching theme, character, world, genre, anything really) and I make lists about everything that comes to mind when I think of that thing. This has helped me flesh out so many worlds, characters, and plots. It’s amazing. Then, once I feel that the list is completed, I go through each bullet point and cross out the irrelevant. At that point, I can figure out what I need to do with the relevant material and how to incorporate it into my story. Easy-peasy!

  • Reading

This is by far my favorite activity. If you don’t read, you’re not going to be a great writer. So, if you’re feeling less than inspired, take a field trip to your bookshelf or local book store. There are so many great stories out there waiting to be read. I have found so much inspiration from the stories of my favorite authors, but some of the greatest gems come from authors I’ve never heard of. I don’t consider myself a risk taker, but I will take my chances on a new author. My process for reading comes in two forms. 1. I read for pleasure. Sometimes, I just get too into my head and need a break. I try to only focus on the story and get drawn into a new world. There have been moments where something from someone else’s world has inspired an entire story. Other times, I’ve just spent the entire afternoon enjoying a good book. And then there’s the other method.  2. I read like a writer. I try to find the answers to questions regular people don’t usually see. You know the ones we ask ourselves as we write our own stories. Yea. I make notes in the margins about things I thought were good or things that could’ve been done differently as if I were a developmental editor reviewing this author’s piece. I create alternate endings to somethings or even seeing how the story would be effected if the character made one decision differently than they did. This helps give me perspective for my own work. I can see techniques that different authors use and then put my own little spin on it. This has been the most effective activity for me as a writer.

Again, it’s totally okay if you have writer’s block. It’s not okay to let that be your excuse for not writing. There are definitely other great ways to combat writer’s block out there, these just happen to be the techniques I use.

If you’ve ever tried any of these techniques, or know of any other great techniques, please let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for new ways to stay motivated.

Thanks for reading!

K.W. Riley

Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2018.

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