Dun, dun duuuuuunnnnnnn......
There is a form of this mental constipation in every type of creative outlet. Photographers go through phases of lack of inspiration, where nothing they see evokes a response or light to photograph. Artists, staring a blank canvas, willing their minds to cooperate with their desire to bring about the next great work. But the most iconic, and hated, form of this blockage is writers block. It doesn't discriminate. It doesn't matter your age, experience, or preference in genre. There is no way to tell when it will hit, or for how long.
So, when this wretched mental block finds you, and it will...what do you do? How do you overcome the empty mind, and turn the blank screen and blinking, immobile cursor in to your next great chapter?
Here are a few tips:
1) Step Away - you've been staring at that screen for what probably feels like hours. You've read and reread all the preceding chapters, everything leading up to the sudden brick wall you face, hoping your mind will keep on its track and the words will come. A way to help clear your mind of this vicious cycle, is to step away, and write something else. Even if just for ten minutes, turn your mind to something completely different. Write creatively, nonsensically, and inspirationally. Moving your mind away from what has it stumped will open up another avenue of thought, and maybe even a side route around the road block.
2) Turn to research - all writers need to research what they are about to write about. Whether it is locations, customs, or any little detail, backing your writing up with facts and knowledge, despite just winging it, will make your writing more authentic. If the words wont come, turn your attention to the research that inspires it. You are still being productive with your work, and supporting your process, but you are making your mind use a different area of your brain. Rather than creativity, you are learning and researching.
3) Sometimes, when feeling like you just cant make yourself write, give yourself a time. Literally, a timer. Set the timer on your stove, or even an easy, peasy little egg timer. Set it for an hour, and type. Just type and write, and create. Worry about editing and accuracy after that hour. But at least for that hour, you have written.
4) Channel your mind - Sometimes writers spend too much time thinking of the whole picture. They know they want to get to a certain point, to reach the next scene, but are too busy considering all the other issues and items still to come. It is overwhelming for any mind, so the best way to settle that overactive imagination, is to channel your focus. Think of a certain scene. Not all the extras, all the additives. Focus on a single scene. Picture it in your mind, as though you were watching a movie of your book. Describe it, feel as though you are there. Taking it that small, one step at a time, rather than rushing to the finish line, will not only settle your mind and make you less anxious, it will also make that scene the best it can be.
5) Take a break! - Probably the most important, most logical, but most forgotten option when facing writers block is this...get up, walk away, and do something else. Maybe for an hour, or maybe until the next day. But staring at that computer screen or blank page isn't going to help you move forward. If anything it will only make you more exasperated. So, do something else. Go for a walk, play with the dog, maybe watch some TV. Do and think everything and anything other than writing. This will calm your nerves, and open up other areas of your mind for stimulation. In turn, you might find that you get the inspiration you need.
Writers Digest (2010). 10 Creative ways to beat writers block fast. Retrieved from http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/beat-writers-block/10-creative-ways-to-beat-writers-block-fast
Writers Digest. (2011). 10 Ways to stay sane when frustrated with your writing. Retrieved from http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/karin-slaughter-10
Writers Digest. (2011). 4 ways inspiration helps you beat writers block. Retrieved from http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/4-ways-inspiration-helps-you-beat-writers-block
Writers Digest. (2012). 3 Steps for overcoming writers block. Retrieved from http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/beat-writers-block/3-steps-for-overcoming-writers-block