Trying to overcome writer’s block is a bit like keeping a car engine running smoothly before it starts to seize up – it regularly requires a good run, good oil and good fuel.
Similarly, a writer’s mind runs on a similar principle – it needs feeding with ‘things’ that help pump the creative engine and keep ideas and stories flowing through it smoothly.
We are vehicles, creative vehicles and all the principles of basic mechanics apply.
Depending on what you write about, you might think of other activities that work better than some of the 11 listed below, but I think most of us would probably find at least a couple of these tips helpful, so in no particular order:
1. Have an opinion on everything – including how to overcome writer’s block!
Write down your views in a journal, your views on any and everything or anyone. Go through a magazine, watch a TV show, go somewhere, think about activities you take part in or ideas you’ve heard. Your random point of view could open the door to a meaty topic with lots of scope for discussion.
Forget about being politically correct or trying to come across a certain way, just jot down your gut reactions to things – it’s only for you to go back to later to help trigger ideas – you don’t have to put your name on it!
2. Collect hooks
No, I don’t mean the ones for your weekend fishing trips; I’m talking about the hooks that make your story attractive to a reader or editor. This is especially helpful if you’re targeting newspapers, magazines and other calendar governed publishers.
Upcoming events, news stories, strange facts, newly published statistics or some other related factor could trigger a story or the angle/take on a related subject – and spark a draft idea.
For example, a newly discovered type of apple in an exotic destination, might lead to your apple pie feature with an ‘apple pies are evolving’ angle or “Goodbye Bramley’s: there’s a new apple in town” – lol, I think you get the point.
The ‘hook’ is the new brand of apple – ‘as featured in ‘BBC Good Food Magazine’ or wherever, then you make it fit the thing you want to write about.
3. Give yourself some space
Take yourself away from the usual day to day distractions, and give yourself a change of scene. Stop trying to think of things to write. Step back, switch off, and see what comes to you for a while, but be prepared for when the inspiration hits – take you laptop, pens, writing pads and any other writing/blogging comforts. This tip is often overlooked when trying to overcome writer’s block – we naturally lean more toward trying to come up with something, when sometimes the mind just needs refreshing and rebooting.
Alternatively, dedicate some time away, specifically for writing. You decide how long, whether it’s an afternoon, a whole day or a writing retreat away somewhere, with the intention of soaking up a different atmosphere and focusing on your writing – a new destination gives you instant material to write about too.
4. Try something new, do something different
It might just spark something to write about, or a new interest to nurture until it’s mature enough to write about.
New foods, places, people, views, hobbies, lifestyles, attitudes and insights, new job, new route to work, new bird food for the garden, new pet, new books……the list goes on.
For example: lets suppose you take up kickboxing and find that your instructor has had the ‘most inspirational life story ever’ – and now you have a case study for your ‘You can Overcome’ feature on ‘How one man battled loss, depression, drug addiction, a failed multi million dollar business and took on single parenthood to baby triplets all in one year’ …..and now he runs a kickboxing programme.
Hopefully this is a gross exaggeration of what anyone is actually going through, and from a writing point of view – this story could end up having nothing whatsoever to do with kickboxing, but packed with plenty of material to start brainstorming one or more posts.
This outlandish example overlaps nicely with the next tip.
5. Be curious about people
Sometimes the things happening in the lives of people around you (and of course your own life) can offer topics to drive a writing idea, as well as first hand accounts, conversations and quotes to enrich your writing. So don’t underestimate that small talk at the bus stop, that nosey neighbour filling you in while you peg out your washing, or the life story shared with you while queuing at the supermarket.
6. Become a detective
Research things that you’re curious about (because that’s more fun) and treat everything like a potential story, put your journalistic hat and ‘go get that scoop’. Your ‘draft’ files will soon start to fill up.
7. Identify your strengths, weaknesses and passions in life
If you’re good at something – try and capitalise on it in any way you can. If you’re witty – incorporate more of this into your writing and choose humorous angles on an otherwise dry topic. The point is – try and use your talents.
Capitalise on your passions too. If you’re passionate about collecting retro vinyl, throw yourself into it as deeply as possible until you become an expert – seek and attend related events, find out where all the retro vinyl shops and memorabilia are in your home town, nationally and abroad – start planning some trips. Begin to source other experts in your field – interact with them, join groups about your passion…. I’m pretty sure you’ll be overflowing with ideas in no time.
Similarly, our weaknesses and insecurities also make for some of the richest writing material – since we can speak from the heart if we’re willing, and connect with those experiencing the same things. Connecting with a reader on an emotional level is a powerful thing, and hard to do when your content is simply factual or superficial.
Writing about yourself is very effective way to overcome writer’s block because nobody has ‘nothing’ to say about themselves. We can always find thoughts, views and experiences to air out through keyboard friendly fingers!
8. Recycle old Stories
Analyse what’s been written before and add the thing they missed, tell the tale through a different lens, take a different angle on it and add a more relevant and up to date hook if possible.
Look for the missing link, the updates, the new developments that the other bloggers or writers failed to pick up on – then produce a more relevant post.
You can do this with your own old posts too, and it’s a very easy way to overcome writer’s block whilst sourcing you next fresh feature.
9. Use photography
Sometimes thoughts and ideas come directly from a picture; photographs evoke feelings, moods and memories – perfect ingredients for a writer looking for material.
Read as much and as widely as possible – it’s a no-brainer. Make reading as much a part of your daily routine as eating, drinking and sleeping. The more things you read about, the more triggers you’ll come across for things to write about.
11. Just write
But that’s what you’re struggling with in the first place, right?
As a blogger/writer, you probably don’t go far without a notebook and pen. Get into the habit of pausing throughout the day to simply write your thoughts so far – about anything that’s crossed your mind, annoyed or amused you, any ideas that flashed up, small joys, disappointments, interesting observations…..just write, not matter how silly or irrelevant you think it seems on paper.
At the end of the week go back over your week’s scribbles – I bet there’ll be something in there that sparks the beginnings of something to write about or research further for a potential draft.
So that was 11 tips to help us prevent or overcome writer’s block, that dreaded brick wall we might come up against from time to time.
If we keep the creative engine well fuelled and well oiled with some or all of the above, I think it’s likely that the writing motor will give us plenty of mileage for some interesting creative journeys.