Staring at a blank page, twiddling your thumbs, desperately looking for the right words which just won’t seem to come no matter what you do; this is writers block, a feeling some of us know all too well.
At this point, it’s difficult to string even a few words together, and even more difficult to see how you will come to have a finished piece. It can often seem like an impossible task, but then again there are times when you can’t stop the words from flowing. It’s an interesting conundrum, and one that writers have dealt with for centuries.
Finding the words is one thing, but constructing something you are personally proud of—and putting it out there for all the world to see—is a whole other hurdle you need to contend with. I’ve encountered writer’s block time and time again, but through practice and a lot of patience have gradually learnt to minimise its effects. Here are a few of the methods I’ve learnt over the years, which today I always turn to when I need help getting past a blank page.
- Just write!!
There’s a reason writer’s block is associated with a blank page—once you get writing, it tends to start to fade. You are giving yourself a difficult task by trying to gather words only in your head; the pen is a great tool for not just grabbing hold of your thoughts, but making sense of them, and inspiring new ones. So just write! Even if the words don’t make an ounce of sense—they soon will.
- Draw from experience
When reading an article or any piece of writing, it’s easy to quickly lose interest if the information is too dry, generic, or just plain boring. Things that do grab and maintain our attention are usually the ones that tell a story, or take a more personal approach.
Think about something interesting that has happened to you, or someone you know, which you can turn into a little anecdote or introduction to the piece. For instance, when I think of writer’s block, the last few months of university instantly come to mind: the sleepless nights, and the endless hours spent staring at the screen without typing a word, all while the deadline was creeping closer and closer.
- Do more topic research
I often write about topics that require a bit of research and background reading in order to make for a well-rounded piece. And when I say well rounded, I mean not only in terms of sources of information and viewpoints, but also in style, voice, and engagement.
That is to say, you can generally judge what the audience wants by reading similar pieces of writing published in that space. So this should already be your first port of call, but while you are there, make sure to take note of how authors draw in the reader, how they craft their introductions, and what sort of tone they use.
- Work with the struggle
Tried the other methods but still nothing? It could be because you are also contending with some hidden doubts about the angle or stance you are taking on the topic. Rather than holding them back, make them real by putting them down on paper, and think about how you could use them to your advantage.
For example, it turned out part of my writers block in university was down to not agreeing with the conventional stance on the matter, and that I was all the while suppressing my true beliefs. After talking it through with one of my professors, I decided to separate myself from the crowd and take the piece down a different route—needless to say it was my most successful piece of writing to date.
Header image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/drewcoffman/4815205740/