We’ve all been there. Stuck. Stumped. Stopped. Welcome to writer’s block. It’s a lonely, frustrating place that you will find yourself in at one point or another in the writing journey.
Some people question if writer’s block really exists, or if it’s just the writer being lazy or not trying hard enough. While this may happen sometimes, I think more often people actually do get stuck despite their best efforts. A story is a living, breathing, active work, and it can evade us at times.
But this is no time to throw in the towel. There are many ways to get out of the rut of writer’s block, and the most effective ways involve redirecting your creative energy to something else.
1. Do a random writing prompt.
Writing prompts allow you to free write based off some line or phrase. Prompts help you let go of your need to write everything perfectly and just goof off and have fun. Free writing foregoes the inner editor and allows your mind to run with ideas and see where they take you. Plus, you never know if a prompt will spark something you can use for your story later on!
2. Work on world-building.
Sometimes you get blocked because you haven’t taken enough time to understand your world or characters. Maybe you’ve hit a spot where you don’t know how the character would respond, or you’re unfamiliar with a certain aspect of your story world. World-building can help you get back on track. If you spend some time brainstorming more about how your story world works and about the characters in it, you might hit a breakthrough that answers the very part of the story that stumped you.
3. Do something unfamiliar.
The reason most writers get stuck (especially around pages 50-100) is because the story is starting to get familiar. Thus, you start to lose a passion for it, and your creativity starts to drain. So, try something unfamiliar. Do some writing in a genre outside your own. Take a break and do something outside your normal routine. It may be exercising or reorganizing your room. Familiar isn’t necessarily bad because you need to be familiar with your story in order to write it well. But you do have to push through that disenchantment with your story and find the passion for your project again.
4. Paint or draw.
You don’t have to be good at painting or drawing–just be willing to try it. I’m not very good at it, but I find it incredibly relaxing. Putting your artistic energy into a different form can often help you with your writing. Your focus is no longer on your words but on color and image. This may help you find something unexpected that could work into your story, such as an image that develops into a motif or theme in your book. Or, you may just find the activity a fun way to decompress.
Stephen King compares writing to excavating a fossil. The story often comes in pieces, and it’s a delicate process. You can’t jackhammer the fossil out without risk of breaking or losing pieces. It takes a lot of perseverance, especially when you’ve been digging and dusting off bones tediously for days, weeks, and months. But there’s a joy in new discovery and seeing it all come together.
Keep writing. Keep digging. Writer’s block comes with the territory, but you can get past it. Have you tried any of the methods above? What do you do when you get stuck in a story? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Megan Burkhart (writing under the pen name Megan Lynne) is an award winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her recent awards include the 1st place Tar Heel Award for her speculative fiction novel and an honorable mention in the 87th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition in the inspirational category. Megan is also a junior agent with Cyle Young Literary Elite and a freelance editor with Sherpa Editing. Find out more about her at meganlynneauthor.weebly.com