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Feb 20 2017
by Elizabeth Robinson

7 Ways to Combat Writer's Block

By Elizabeth Robinson - Feb 20 2017
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From the moment I started writing stories when I was eight, I've encountered writer's block. Possibly the best thing that ever happened to me was the moment that my dad told me that if I write one page every day, then I'd have a novel by the end of the year. I may have started off writing fiction, but most, if not all, of the same strategies for defeating writer's block apply to all types of writing, from lab reports to resumes to articles.

There are two types of writer's block: creative writer's block and motivational writer's block. Creative writer's block is wanting to write but having no idea what to put on the paper. Motivational writer's block results from, you guessed it, a lack of motivation to write. For either case, there's hope. Many of the tricks for curing yourself of motivational writer's block boil down to the same concepts used for getting yourself to do homework and not procrastinate. But for creative writer's block, you have to get a little more creative.

1. Creative: 10-minute torrent.

This is by far the easiest way to get your creative juices flowing and should be the first thing you turn to. As soon as you can, sit down, open a Word document and write whatever comes to mind that's even tangentially related to your topic of choice. Really anything. You can even write about the fact that you can't think of anything to write, or simply write out your instructions. Most of the time your torrent will cause an idea to surface from the murky depths of your mind. 

2. Creative: friend brainstorming.

Just sit down and talk to someone about the ideas you have. Often, just saying your problems out loud will cause your problems to disappear and new ideas to appear. Imagine what happens when you have two different minds at work on the same issue. If you do this with friends, you'll also have a lot of fun cracking jokes about your ideas or topic, which can ultimately lead to even more inspiration.

3. Motivational: quota.

A quota comes in many forms, but my personal favorite is setting a daily quota to write a certain number of pages every day. Firstly, this gets you into the habit of writing, preferably at the same time and same place each day. It also helps you feel accomplished and good about writing because you cover hurdles on a daily basis. Other examples of quotas may be writing for a certain amount of time or writing a certain number of words every day. I prefer writing a certain number of pages every day because the time quota just causes me to procrastinate until my time slot has passed and it's not quite as airtight as the word number; writing dialogues or reference sections makes for pages with fewer words, so some of my days are easier than others. Having easy days at random gives me hope that I might sometimes finish my quota early and reassures me that I can take it easy on days I feel tired while still being productive.

4. Motivational: incentives.

Promise yourself a treat if you write a page. You can also use negative incentives, where you punish yourself for not working. If neither of these work for you, why not use both? Sometimes it's even more effective to give yourself something that will be taken away if you don't do your writing. This is like a free trial that ends, forcing you to pay to continue using the product: you've gotten a taste of it, so now you're more motivated to keep it. 

5. Motivational: accountability circle.

Find a group of writers or a friend who needs to do homework and go to a library together to work. The act of dedicating your body to a place and the fact that you've got a friend who knows you have writing to do will help hold you accountable. The silence of the library will deter you two from talking. 

6. Motivational AND Creative: writing for someone.

Some of the greatest writers got started by telling stories to their siblings, kids, friends, etc. It's definitely hard to find someone who enjoys hearing drafts of stories or lab reports, but if you ever do, write for them. Every time you think about writing, imagine the look of delight on their face as they read every twist and turn of the story, or the relief on their face once they realize they understand what your report is talking about. Not only will this hold you accountable, but it will also give you ideas. If you're writing a story for a friend, you'll suddenly find writing inspiration in everything you two do together, every inside joke you make and every experience you share together. If you're writing a lab report to be checked by a friend, it makes you more aware of which parts need to be explained in more detail and where to put references. 

7. Creative: reading similar things.

Basically, if you're doing creative writing and are lacking ideas, you should get more ideas by reading books or stories in your desired genre. If you're trying to write an essay, read other essays or watch presentations about similar topics. If you're writing a resume, read some examples of good resumes. Your brain will automatically start to process what the other author is doing and make you more confident in emulating or improving upon what they do.

My dad also gave me another saying: "A writer is someone who writes."  I hang out with a lot of writers and talk about writing all the time, and the single biggest challenge for any writer is actually writing. Writer's block isn't a sickness: it's a pandemic. But the most important thing to bear in mind is that in order to be a writer, you need to get something down on paper in the first place.

Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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Elizabeth Robinson - University of Texas at Austin

I'm a sophomore at UT Austin majoring in Dean's Biology. I've loved writing since elementary school and published my first novel in high school. I love reading, writing (obviously), foreign languages, doggos, martial arts, anthropology, theater, and watching far too much YouTube. I dream of being a fiction author and geneticist after graduate school, hopefully combining my two loves to change the world. Follow me on Twitter @MetokaPublishi1, Instagram as BlackPage13, or (best option) visit my website, www.MetokaBooks.com!

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