We’ve all been there. Sitting down in front of the computer, willing the right words to come and just…nothing. Oh, words are coming out, but they’re all the wrong ones and everything sounds completely off. There are those days when your brain is just not firing and you end up deleting nearly every sentence you write. You, my friend, are in a writing slump. Whether it’s a slump or full-on writer’s block (where you just come up empty, staring at a blank screen), here are a few strategies to get the words flowing again.
1) Take a break from your writing
Yeah, I know – this seems like super-simple advice, right? But sometimes it’s really tempting to just try to push on, especially if you’re on a deadline or wanting to meet a self-imposed goal. It might be that you need an hour-long break to eat or drink or nap or just step away from the story for a bit. It might be that you need some real distance from it and you need to get away from it for longer. Just don’t use your “break” as an excuse to procrastinate forever! Make sure you have a plan in place so that you’ll come back to it – like you’ll give yourself 10 days off and if you’re not itching to write by the tenth day, you’ll try a writing prompt or something to get the creativity flowing again.
To go along with the break idea: make exercise part of your time away from your writing. Not only is it a good way to clear your head, it’s actually proven that exercise will help you think better by getting more oxygen to your brain, which fires up the neurons in the hippocampus (the part of your brain responsible for learning and memory), stimulating creativity.
Exercise also causes more activity in the frontal lobe, which over the long term is associated with improved focus, organization, and emotional regulation. So strap on those shoes and get running!
3) Take your characters out on a “date”
Ok, this is really just an excuse to take yourself out for coffee or for a meal, but bring your characters along with you (they’re really cheap dates!). What would they say, do, observe about where you are? What would you talk about with them? How would they respond to you in physical ways – how would their face change? their posture? are they biting their nails or flipping their hair? would they look right at your or avoid your gaze? – and emotional ways? It’s a good way to get a new perspective on them and maybe bring back some new details to enhance their character. Bring a notebook and a pen with you so you can jot ideas down as they come up during your date!
4) Killer apps
There’s an app for everything, including writer’s block. Actually, there are a few and I’ve picked out two of the most deadly. These ones put you under pressure to write, jump-starting your creativity and jolting you out of a funk. The Most Dangerous Writing App is a website where you set an amount of time you want to work for, start the timer, and start writing as fast as you can, because if you stop for more than five seconds, it will delete everything you’ve written. Yikes. You can save what you’ve written if you make it to the end of your timed session.
There’s also Write or Die, which requires you to set your desired word count, the amount of time to work, and the consequences if you don’t keep writing. These consequences vary from a gentle pop-up encouraging to you to keep going or a kamikaze mode where it starts un-writing your work if you stop. Also yikes. But both of these sites are really useful to force you to write something – anything! – and hopefully give you a way to un-block yourself.
5) Is it a slump or a block or is it something else?
Be honest with yourself: are you not engaged with or passionate about or interested in your story anymore? Is this just a hump you can push yourself over, or is it an insurmountable mountain that you don’t actually want to climb? Is it just not salvageable? Dig deep and figure out if you love this story enough to work past your block or if it’s time to call it and work on something else. You can always put it aside for a while and wait for inspiration to strike. Or if it’s not a workable story, mine bits of it for other work in the future – a really great description or a side character who deserves more prominence might be just what your next story needs.
So, tell me: what’s your strategy for when you get totally, hopelessly slumped? Let me know in the comments!