Most writers experience writer's block at some time. Writer's block attracts a plethora of helpful and not-so-helpful solutions, among them suggestions to take a break from writing, go for a walk, drink coffee … the list goes on. With Unblocking Your Creativity Creatively, we're moving away from the traditional solutions that address issues with boredom or procrastination and instead offer solutions for when the block is in your creativity.
Whether you're struggling to make a story work or cannot come up with a new idea, your creativity is overworked and needs time out.
Five Creative Steps for Overcoming Writer's Block
Step 1 – A Change of Scenery
Enjoy the following unusual and inventive methods to kick-start your creativity back into gear.
Moving out of your normal workspace is a great start, but walking around the same boring park you know like the back of your hand won’t do you any good. (You’ll know a change of scene is needed when you start using clichés like ‘the back of your hand’…) Make sure your displacement is worth the effort.
Try to get to the highest point that you can reach. Take a notebook and pen for scribbling down the ideas that flow. Can you access the roof of your building? Are there any hills or natural features around that you can safely climb? Think about where the best view in your neighbourhood is and go there. To save yourself some legwork, challenge your friends on Facebook to come up with the best local view – you might receive some interesting responses!
Step 2 – Distract Yourself
Once you have given your eyes something new to experience, give your other senses the same treatment. Go to the busiest, loudest, most inappropriate public place to write that you can think of, and do not leave until you’ve finished at least 500 words. Francine Prose, a contemporary American author, is most productive when she finds her environment boring. If you are the same, then go somewhere that you find deadly dull and boring, not somewhere stimulating. Instead of working on your current project, which you need a break from, pick a random person and invent their life story. Keep safe. In your car on the motorway might not be the safest place.
Step 3 – Live a Day in Your Character’s Skin
Having broken out of old patterns, it’s time to return to the work you’re stuck on. Don’t start writing again just yet. First, try experiencing your story in a more practical sense. Pick a character, major or minor, and go about your daily routine with the idea of them in your mind. Imagine how they would behave if they were experiencing your everyday reality.
When you speak, think about what they would say and how they would say it. Pay attention to the choices you make – the clothing you wear, the music you listen to, the meals you eat –and think about what they would choose in your place. If they were narrating your day, what perspective would they offer? Putting a character inside your mind is a great way to get yourself inside theirs.
Step 4 – Borrow Someone Else’s Story
If you are struggling with a character, take them out of their comfort zone by moving them into another author’s world. Altered circumstances and rules will make your character behave differently. To get them through their altered circumstances in a way that is true to them and to their new world, you will need to contemplate fresh aspects of their personality.
This works best if the world you choose is from a completely different genre from the one you are currently writing. Bear in mind that the focus isn’t on the other author’s work, but on how your creations react to it. How would the hero of your romance novel handle being named captain of the Starship Enterprise? What if tomorrow your action heroine woke up in Mr Darcy’s guest bedroom? What would be different if your entire story took place in the world of Disney?
If you don’t want to focus too strongly on a single character, or you prefer to stay within the world you’ve created, try taking a single element out of another author’s work and sticking it right in the middle of yours. What would happen if a gateway to Narnia opened up in your character’s workplace? What if Batman roamed the character’s neighbourhood every night?
Step 5 – Destroy Your Story
…a little. It’s just a writing exercise. Take a step back from trying to find the perfect words and instead deliberately find the wrong ones. Stephen King has some suggestions about knowing when not to write. Open up a blank Word document and play with your story the way children play with toys; think of it as a holiday for your imagination.
Here are some ideas you might like to try:
- The world will end in ten minutes. Be as concise and as absurd as you like, and resolve every plot point in your character’s final few moments
- One of your characters is now a talking animal. This does not change their role in the story
- Every character switches gender for one day
- Every character gets exactly what they most want in life, but only for one hour
- Arrange your characters’ names alphabetically, and then split them into pairs. Each pair is now soul mates
- Your protagonist now has an imaginary friend, either an evil version of an existing character or a mythological creature of your choosing.
Have fun with your creations!
Checklist: Five creative steps for overcoming writer's block
Step 1 – Change of Scenery
- Find somewhere high in your neighbourhood
- Go and check out the view
- Take a break (but keep a notebook handy for scribbling down ideas)
Step 2 – Distract Yourself
- Find the worst public place to write in
- Pick a person
- Write their life story
- Don’t leave until you’re finished
Step 3 – Live a Day in your Character’s Skin
Pick a character and keep them in your mind
- Go about your day
- Try to experience everything from your character’s perspective
Step 4 – Borrow someone else’s story for a day
- Pick your favourite book, movie or TV show
- Choose one of your characters and move them into that world
- Write about what happens, ensuring they stay in character
- Pick an interesting idea from your favourite book, movie or TV show
- Introduce the idea into your story
- Write about what happens, making sure you stay true to your own story
Step 5 – Destroy your story (figuratively)
Let loose your imagination. Go crazy. Write whatever you want.
(This post is a collaboration between editors4you.com and Rhiannon Raphael, a Bond University student who undertook an internship with editors4you.com)
Once you have overcome writer’s block and finished your manuscript, email it to us for a MANUSCRIPT APPRAISAL. Our assessment gives you a clear picture of the strengths of your manuscript, as well as suggested areas for improvement – in a kind, supportive and productive way.