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Writer’s block is a phrase that sends shivers down the back of many would-be authors, as it can slow or stop even the most promising projects dead in their tracks. It’s a common occurrence among new writers, and science has done its best to identify and solve the issue.
A summary by the scientific community defines writer’s block as “a distinctly uncomfortable inability to write.” The core cause of writer’s block varies, but common contributing factors include poor sleep and nutrition, deep-seated anxiety and fear, and just old-fashion pressure, both internal and external.
The gap between the idea in a writer’s head and a finished book is vast, and sometimes the process to get between the two can feel frustrating and overwhelming. Luckily there are proven solutions that can get writers around the infamous block and get a book back on track towards publishing.
1. Try an alternative approach
If your habit and schedule aren’t leaving you with desirable results, it might be time to shake things up with an alternative approach to writing. One method that has gained popularity with writers is the Pomodoro technique.
It’s essentially a time management system designed to instill a sense of urgency and avoid burnout. Instead of endlessly chipping away on a project, it creates several 25-minute blocks of time for work, followed by a quick five- to 10-minute break. After four rounds of this, a longer break of a half hour or so is recommended before getting back to it.
Many find it easier to productively write within these bite-sized pockets of time, as you are less likely to fall into an inefficient slog of several hours. However, if this technique doesn’t seem like a good fit for you, have no fear, as there is a wide range of science-backed techniques such as the Eisenhower Matrix, Rapid Planning Method and more.
What they all have in common is that they result in regularly occurring breaks. This allows writers to shake things up physically and mentally, which can be just the nudge necessary to get past writer’s block.
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2. Take a walk
Just as a writer must know when to buckle down and power through a writing session, they must also know when it’s appropriate to step away from a project temporarily. One of the leading causes of writer’s block is stress, the cause of which can stem from frustration with the work itself, personal issues, or just your physical health that day.
Taking a short 20-30 minute walk is an easy and accessible activity that is proven to lower stress levels, as it automatically triggers the release of endorphins. These neural chemicals are directly linked to creating a sense of calmness within a person, which comes in handy when a writer returns to their work.
Taking a walk is one of the oldest tricks employed by writers from Charles Dickens to William Wordsworth, who famously cited walking breaks as essential. A recent study from Stanford backs them up. It linked walking to a more creative mindset when compared to just sitting.
Whether it’s through the city or a nature trail, walks are also a possible source of inspiration. Seeing the world unfold naturally is a welcome shift from staring at a blank page, and walks are a time-honored method of breaking through writer’s block.
3. Write for writing’s sake
Another helpful technique to get around writer’s block is to do a few sessions of freewriting. Agree to a set amount of time and simply write down whatever comes to mind.
There’s no grand or overarching goal here, nothing to edit or critique later. Instead, it’s the writing equivalent of doodling to get the juices flowing and see where your mind and the page take you.
This can serve as both a warm-up and brain dump, which often leaves writers with less procrastination and more ideas. Freewriting for as little as 15 minutes builds a healthy habit for writers and gets the internal gears going before diving back into the main project.
Since this writing is private and not directly related to your main work, it serves as a welcome blank slate for a writer to experiment within a pressure-free environment.
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4. Read and reflect
The final tried and true method to break up writer’s block is to shift gears from creating to absorbing words. The benefits of reading are nearly countless, but for writers especially, it’s an essential tool.
Reading for just six minutes can lower stress levels by 68 percent, and avid readers typically have a 50 percent larger vocabulary when compared to those who do not. These both serve to bolster an aspiring writer’s abilities overall and get through blockage with a better mindset.
Reading is a practice that inherently makes minds more flexible and creative, both essential traits for anyone who aspires to write a book of their own.
While writer’s block is real and a nuisance, it’s not insurmountable by any stretch of the imagination. Next time you find yourself struggling to sink your pen into a new project, give some of these techniques a try, and return to your work with a renewed sense of vision and passion.