Writer’s Block: Tips to Break the Block
You have to break the block to get the words written. Building success as a writer requires a constant flow of words. When writer’s block sets in, the stress of not being able to write can compound the block.
But what happens when the words won’t flow?
When the words get stuck, a simple way to break things free is to give yourself a little journal time.
Journals constitute a great portion of my life. If I’m being honest, it’s more like diaries hold that place for me, not so much journals. At least, that’s the truth when I was younger. Every day I would share my deepest, darkest secrets or just a note of what happened. Every day I wrote.
I still have a few of those diaries, although most have been sacrificed to the burn pit to save the dignity of my posterity. My sons do NOT need to read those diaries . . . EVER! Sometimes I don’t think I needed to read them.
Still, the habit of writing every day served me well. It helped establish a pattern of writing that gave me a firm foundation for building a career based on words. I continue to work on that through journals including a prayer journal, a scripture journal, and a journal recording my #WhiteBoardof World Domination progress.
You have to write if you are going to build success as a writer. It’s no more complicated than that. When I need a boost to get on track or to stay on track, a little journal time makes all the difference.
Journaling works because it’s words without parameters or restrictions. You just write. It’s a lot like coloring outside the lines. You just release whatever feels good to you onto the paper. It doesn’t have to make sense, have a direction, or even be something you want to share or use.
You just write.
Recognizing the Blocks
You can only break the block when you admit there is a block. Recognizing the points that trip you up or hold you back will help you move forward.
You can’t fix what you won’t admit.
If you worry about it then that worry will hinder your thought process. Once you hinder your thought process, you set up a block. If you are going to break the block to get the words flowing for your writing success then you have to face your worries AND MAKE A PLAN! Fears often present as worries.
Squirrels. Rabbit trails. Noise. All these things will work to get you off target – and often they work together. If you can’t keep the distractions at bay then at least set up a warning system to let you know when you are veering off track.
When you don’t know what you are doing or you don’t know why you’re doing then you can end up staring at a blank screen or blank page for hours (that will feel like days). Take time every day to set a plan for what you are doing or what you want to do so you have an understanding of where you’re stepping.
The more the blocks show up the easier it will be to put off your words. Procrastination is a skill that can be perfected and practiced, but it won’t break the block. You have to make intentional action choices that push procrastination to the side and it starts by recognizing the things that often hold you back.
Protect the Time
“I wish I could write a book.” If I had a dollar for every time I heard this, I would have a lot of dollars. People tell me they want to write a book but often they add that they don’t have time.
You have all the time you need to do what you really want to do. But if you don’t really want to do it then you’ll never make the time.
If you want to write, then write. Set aside time every day to write your words. Much like writing in a journal daily creates a habit of writing, setting aside a specific time every day makes it possible to build that habit.
You set a time to sleep.
You set a time to eat.
You set a time to watch particular shows.
You set a time to exercise.
In other words, if it’s important to you then you make sure to block out the time you need to get it done.
In 2015, while working full-time for clients, homeschooling three boys, maintaining a 2-acre show garden, and keeping up with daily chores, I wrote 1,000,000 words for my personal blogs and books. That was on top of what I did for the clients and the schooling.
How did I protect the time?
Rule for Writing
I explained my rule for writing. If the family could hear the keyboard tapping then they had to wait until it stopped to talk to me about something. This one rule saved many thought flows and kept the blocks from showing up.
Space for Writing
A designated writing space means you have what you need to get the writing done. For me, that means the desk has to be organized so I have room to spread out what I’m doing and still find what I might need as I go.
Change for Writing
Changing things up can help create the necessary word flow. I keep a bag filled with sharp pencils and spiral notebooks ready so I can write on the go. I have a bedside desk that I can set up if I want to hide away and write. The different designated spaces make it easier for me to find a place to break the block when words get stuck.
Commitment to Writing
More than anything, you have to commit to writing your words. If you don’t do it then it won’t get done. Writing for clients can be easier because there is a deadline with consequences. But you have to make the intentional choices that will lead you to value your words even more than those of your clients.
Challenge the Writing
Encountering National Novel Writing Month for the first time changed how I viewed my fiction writing. Up until then, I had been able to write consistently and daily in journals and for blogs, but fiction came in spurts. NaNoWriMo challenged me to write fiction daily – and not just any words but words related to a single project. You can challenge your writing to help break the block holding you back from reaching your word goals.
- Word sprints – set a digital timer and write as much as you can before it goes off. Challenge yourself to write more with each setting or at least target your best word count.
- Word wars – take your timer to a new level and compete against other writers. You can do this online or in person. You could even have prices set for those that get the highest word count.
- Word counts – set a monthly, weekly, or daily goal for your words. Use an excel sheet to keep a running total of what you’re writing.
You have the same amount of time as every author that has ever lived. How you choose to use your time will determine what you accomplish. If you are going to break the block and make the words a priority then you have to guard your time for writing.
Accountable for the Words
One of the biggest benefits from NaNoWriMo was the word counter. When I put my word count in for the day, it provided a spreadsheet that showed my progress. The bonus was the target line so I could see if my word count put me over that line or fell short.
Accountability holds your feet to the fire, or in the case of writing your pencil to the paper. Whether it’s a spreadsheet or a writing group, having something that makes you accountable to what you have done (or what you haven’t done) can be just what you need to fuel the word flow.
Plot the Words
I love to plan but I’m as spontaneous as they come. I like to have an endpoint as a goal, but I also like to have the freedom to go with the flow along the way. I recently shared that I am an Unscheduler – I plan but don’t try to force the plan into particular slots. I’m also a plantser – I have an idea of the story or article, but I let the voices and characters direct the sentences.
With that in mind, know that you can plot your words without restricting their direction. In my most productive writing times, I have an editorial calendar mapping out what topics I will cover. Sometimes I have the full outlines or plot lines for the material. Sometimes I have just a title that caught my attention.
The more I have prepared, the easier it is for me to get the words flowing when I take advantage of my protected time.
Little Bits of Words
My biggest word year happened a little bit at a time. I have never been able to block out whole days or even hours to write. Something always comes up – thus my unscheduled declaration recently. My day often fluctuates from moment to moment.
I’ve learned to make the most of the little bits of time that show up in between those fluctuations.
- Five minutes waiting in the carline can mean several paragraphs of an article.
- Thirty minutes in between Zoom calls can mean almost 1000 words towards the next book.
- 10 minutes of waiting on the pasta to boil can allow for several story outlines to be completed.
When you take advantage of the little bits of time then your time (and your words) begin to add up. Before you know it, not only did you break the block but you wrote the book you’ve always said you wanted to write.