Writer's block is one of the most annoying and dreaded conditions a writer could face. We live in an age in which it's easy to have your creative stores drained by the stress of the day and to feel much too tired to dive into a new artistic project. Writer's block often stems from a lack of inspiration, and it can be incredibly frustrating waiting for ideas to come to you rather than creating them.
In my own writing life, I've developed certain habits that help me write better, regain inspiration, and bypass writer's block, and I decided to post them here just in case they help someone else. There are dozens of ways to go about getting your inspiration back, but here I've focused on the techniques that only require your pen, and a notebook or laptop.
1. Don't edit in the middle.
I change very little about a poem or story while I'm still writing it. The most important thing to me is that I get the story of the poem on paper first. Editing switches my mind out of a creative mode and into a more critical one. It's difficult to polish a piece of writing if I don't have the whole story down first with all its imperfections and inconsistencies. When I say "story" I'm talking about the point or theme of a poem as well. This tip applies to all kinds of writing. Focus on telling your story first and edit afterward or (even better) when you've had time to let the story sit in the back of your mind for a while.
2. When you're stuck, focus on the senses.
Sensory details add a lot of depth to descriptions. If you're stuck, it can be helpful to list the five senses and think of a detail to go with each. Whether your list pertains to senses you're experiencing as you're trying to write the poem (sights in the room or smells in the café your writing in, for instance) or whether they're senses that apply to the situation you're writing about, this exercise can be a good way to tap into poetic language again and boost your creativity. Think about how those details may play into your poem. What train of thought does it put you on? Did you notice any strange descriptors that came to mind or poetic devices you used such as simile or metaphor? Consider using the descriptions you come up with or just use this technique as a way to get started writing.
3. Make a list.
This technique really works if I have no idea what to write about or if I know the topic I want to focus on but I'm really struggling to string the sentences together. If I want to write about a particular incident, I make a list of things I remember or thoughts I have about the situation even if the items don't seem especially useful. I just write them down. If I have no idea what to write about in the first place, I may just write a list of things I've noticed lately or thoughts that cross my mind in a stream of consciousness style. Writing a list in a stream of consciousness style usually helps me find something that interests me, and I write more about it to develop my idea further. Before I know it, I've written a decent chunk that can be turned into a creative piece in the future.
4. Write every day.
This one seems counter intuitive, I know. Writing each day can make you wonder if your depleting your idea tank and wasting your time if you're not inspired. I think the opposite is true. When I write consistently, even if it's just for 20 minutes a day, I find that more of my ideas make it on paper. I don't procrastinate on getting started on my ideas because I know I'll have to write something to check off writing for the day. I also find that just concentrating on getting my writing done for the day pushes me not to edit my writing while I'm still working on it. All of this combined makes for a really effective, brief writing session. Even if I write something that I'm not happy with, I always get the bare bones of an idea down to be revised later, so it still pays off for me to write despite a lack of inspiration.
5. When in doubt, skip around.
There is no rule that you have to write your book, article, poem, whatever in a particular order. Sometimes it's easier to start with the idea that jumps out at you the most and just rearrange your work later. If a particular scene or line is pulling at your attention, don't delay! Go ahead and start there if you want to. You're allowed to do whatever you want. It's your art. You may also be worried that skipping around requires more editing. I find that editing a story or poem that's written out of order isn't that difficult unless I've somehow written the same scene more than once and have to figure out which details to keep or move. I don't like doing the work twice, but that rarely happens, so I still definitely recommend this technique.
Writer's block sucks no matter how you spin it, but it doesn't have to be your demise. Don't let your art live or die by the muse. You can make anything happen if you stick to it and do a little bit of work every day. If you've ever struggled with writer's block, feel free to leave a comment and tell me about it and/or how you got your inspiration back.
Poet. Reader. Lifelong Student.