If you’ve ever tried to put pen to paper — or, more likely, finger to keyboard — you’ve probably encountered the frustrating monster that is writer’s block. It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur or a published author; the condition comes for us all at some point or another. Dealing with writer’s block isn’t easy, but luckily, you don’t have to figure it out on your own.
Author and writing instructor Laraine Herring provides a tool kit for coping in On Being Stuck: Tapping into the Creative Power of Writer’s Block. Her approach is unconventional, reframing what many see as a cursed state as a natural part of the writing process. She also offers a number of strategies for moving forward, and though they run the gamut from silly to thought-provoking, they’re all practical.
Herring cautions that you can’t expect an approach to work every single time, so she recommends keeping a number of unblocking tactics in your back pocket. With the smorgasbord of strategies taught in On Being Stuck, you should be able to get yourself back on track — and, I kid you not, you’ll have an excuse to blow bubbles.
Below are 10 ways to cope with writer’s block, based on On Being Stuck.
1. Own Being Stuck
When you run into a block, it’s OK to admit it. We all know the writing process isn’t easy, so there’s no shame in getting stuck. “Be real with yourself,” writes Herring. “Then you can be real on the page.”
2. Take An Affirmative Approach
It’s easy to be critical of yourself and your work, but that’s not going to help you get your project where you want it to be. Try to look at it through a positive lens. Instead of focusing on the weaknesses you see in your work and considering your time wasted, be proud of what you’ve done, says Herring.
3. Let Go Of Perfectionism
Perfectionism isn’t a virtue when it comes to writing. Although the trait “looks noble,” according to Herring, it won’t actually help you. “Perfectionism holds you in its grip and keeps you from moving forward and releasing your work,” she writes. Scale back on the judgment.
4. Find Your Motivation
If you ask Herring, there are three ways to increase your motivation: Recognize your autonomy, embrace the value of your work, and build your competence. After all, knowing that you’re in control, developing something special, and doing it well will make you more excited about your work. In turn, the more motivated you feel, the easier it is to press on.
5. Avoid Procrastination
I’m as guilty of procrastination as the next person, so I second Herring when she points out that it just adds to your stress and may reduce the quality of your work. “Procrastination is a form of self-sabotage, and it contributes to our frustrations with our dreams for our writing,” she writes. Too true.
6. Face Your Fears
Fear is the flip-side of hope, so when we examine what scares us, we can end up finding new perspective. Herring recommends listing your fears — not only for the project you’re working on, but for writing more generally.
7. Consider Your Intentions
Clarifying your intentions can prevent you from wandering, Herring says. She adds a caveat, though, which is that this technique isn’t the only way to go. Nonetheless, she argues that it has its uses because it can help you figure out what you need and how to get there.
8. Stay With It
It’s OK to take a break when you find yourself blocked, but stepping away immediately isn’t always a good idea. If you stay with your project a bit longer, you may figure out what you need to move forward. Herring compares it to sitting in the woods — as you remain still, you notice more and more details around you.
9. Ask Yourself Questions
When you can’t figure out where your writing is going next, start whipping out the five Ws and one H. “A question gets you and your story out of bed and into the day ahead,” writes Herring. “Questions are open doors.”
10. Go Back To The Beginning
Sometimes, you need a reminder of where you came from in order to determine where you want to end up. “When you’re stuck, it’s beneficial to return to the beginning of your book to find a new or renewed understanding of what the work’s intrinsic value might be,” argues Herring. Going back will help you remember why you started your project in the first place and what you hoped to accomplish.
Images: NBC; Giphy (10)