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Overcoming Writer's Block

However seasoned or experienced, most writers will suffer from writer's block at some point.

In this publication, I give 10 exercises to help get the creative juices flowing again.

The beauty of these exercises is that they don't have to be permanent decisions in your writing; they're simply to get you back into the writerly flow and to rebuild your confidence in your ability to write!


#1 Re-Contextualise Your Characters

Take your characters and write them into an entirely different context. Force them into new, uncharted territories and to experience the kinds of people and situations you’d never think they would.

What would happen, for example, if your Ancient Greek goddess worked an office job, or if your murder-mystery detective ran a farm for a day? What new challenges would they face? What would they learn about themselves in their new roles? Or, more importantly, what would you learn about them?

Such discoveries, however minute, can inspire the next scenarios for your characters or help you to uncover personality traits you'd never thought of.

#2 A Different Point of View

Writing from a different point of view other than that of the main character(s) can bring a fresh and exciting new perspective on your story. What would the antagonist say, for instance? The neighbour, the cousin, the pet goldfish?!

Moreover, you could change the narrative voice as well. If you've written in first-person, try second-person, or perhaps try an epistolary narrative style, instead. It's a good exercise to find different ways to express the material you already have.

This is a particularly helpful exercise, as you don’t have to come up with too much new material, allowing you to practice the physical art of writing alone.

#3 Blow Something Up!

Maybe your writer's block isn't the problem; maybe it's something in the story itself. It's become stagnant, predictable or monotonous.

In this case, add some drama to the mix! Make a fire start somewhere, abduct someone's child, call for an alien attack, send someone to A&E (in your story, I mean; not in real life!).

Otherwise, try something far less extreme: a random emotion or memory is triggered out of nowhere for your character, unleashing a new direction for them…or they just step on their child’s toy building block and hurt their foot, or they stub their toe off of the bed!

Whatever you choose, make some drama, some conflict, some tension. Spice things up a bit and see what happens, how your characters react.

#4 Pareidolia

Pareidolia is the human propensity to notice patterns, forms, shapes and faces in places where they are only imagined to exist.

When I'm stuck for ideas, I look to the clouds. I see what shapes and forms I can identify in them, what patterns I can make out, and I use them to inspire what happens next in my writing. And it‘s the same for doodling, stargazing, forest-walking, portrait admiring…

Say, for instance, you spot a sword in the clouds. This might have a literal significance if you're writing a medieval period drama and inspire a war between your characters, or a symbolic significance in your romantic comedy, inspiring a lovers' feud.

#5 The Alphabet Method

A popular method amongst writers is to write each letter of the alphabet down the side of a page.

Then, for every letter, provide a noun or adjective that starts with that it, e.g. Australia, Blue, Cavernous, Dace, and so on.

Pick six of these at random and make a story inspired by them. See where it takes you!

#6 Automatic Writing

What's the best advice I have for a writer suffering from writer's block? "Write, write, write!", of course!

Automatic writing is the practice of letting out your subconscious writer, of writing with no self-censorship and no inhibitions. Allow whatever's lurking in your subconscious to blossom through and reveal itself upon the page.

Whatever you end up writing, even if it looks like this…

Err…not sure what to write…so, I'm just writing…and writing some more…

…will force you past that fear of a blank page and force your pen to paper. The more comfortable you get with the blank page, the quicker you'll get rid of that creative block!

NB: A pen and paper is recommended over typing for this one, as it allows for more cognition and time to think.

#7 Research!

Writers know some weird facts, a by-product of tonnes of research to make their writing seem more realistic, visceral and effortless.

When hit with writer's block, it's the perfect time to put away your writing pad and get researching. As many facts, figures, dates and peculiarities as you can find, harvest them all and use your research to inspire your writing.

Look over historical fashion trends, cuisines, architecture, meteorological phenomena…or do that specific research you keep meaning to do but won't!

For fantasy worlds set in the future, try researching depictions in art, film and television! Think about what draws you to their work –– and what doesn't.

#8 Look Over Your Writing

Particularly if you've written a lot, re-reading your work can help you to rediscover features of your story that you've forgotten about and which can inspire what happens next. Or maybe you'll find things that stand out as cringe-worthy or frustrating, and you can channel your creative energy into rewriting these, rather than stressing about coming up with new material.

This is also a great opportunity to do some proofreading and general editing. You just might happen to rediscover your mojo in making what you've already written sound catchier and more literary.

#9 Keep a Dream Journal

Dreams are factories of interesting and poignant content.

We forget 90% of our dreams within 10 minutes of waking up! So, every morning, write down your dreams in a journal immediately after rousing.

Such a journal will give you a collection of exciting ideas, and –– as a fun little bonus –– the repeated exercise of recording will also train you to remember your dreams in the future!

Even if the "dream material" isn't exactly fascinating to other people, you can use the emotions your dreams give you as inspiration.

Or why not just practice describing the dreams themselves, and in several genres? Again, the physical practice of writing without the fear of having to create material from thin air.

#10 Have a Break from Writing!

Taking a short break from writing, though it may seem counter-productive, is sometimes necessary to relieve the pressure you've been putting on yourself.

Take a breather and let the ideas come to you naturally and in a stress-free way.

However, this is a break from the physical act of writing only; remain open to inspiration still in images, objects, animals, persons and things around you. But just let them come at their own speed. Allow for a "Don't call us; we'll call you" approach from your ideas!

Remember: it's better to take a little extra time with your writing and for it to be polished and well crafted, rather than to rush it in a flustery stress and for it to be…well, rubbish.

Perhaps this isn't the most reassuring advice if you're a writer on a deadline, though…!


Thank you for reading, and I hope you find a good use for a few of these techniques!

Be sure to comment if and how you found any techniques helpful, and share more of your own techniques with other writers below if you have any!

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