33 Ways To Get Over Writer’s Block: #1

How do you get over writer’s block? For countless writers, it seems like a fight you can’t win. Like the boss at the end of the last level in a video game, it’s cruelly overpowered and mildly amused by your attempts to kill it. Getting over writer’s block requires some understanding of how creativity works. Creativity and lateral thinking go hand in hand, and you’re more likely to be able to access your creativity easily if you’re wired to be a lateral thinker. You simply respond differently to stimuli in your environment. Here’s an example of how lateral thinking works:

Stimulus: A tree in autumn

Non-lateral thinker response: This tree is so pretty. I’m glad autumn is here, it’s my favorite time of the year.

Lateral thinker: This tree is so pretty. Golds and fiery reds everywhere, like there’s fire living in the tree. Hey, what if that was true? What if there was a dragon guardian assigned to each tree? And that’s why the dragon guardians are dying out and getting weaker, because we keep cutting down trees. And what if there was a very special child who could actually see the dragon guardians and talk to them, and this child decided to help save the dragons from dying out somehow?

And voila, you have the seed for a story, just like that.

When discussing lateral thought processes, it’s important not to assign value judgements one way or another. Being able to access creativity more easily than others doesn’t mean you’re worth more as a human being. And the reverse is true; just because you’re not accessing creativity as easily as you normally do, that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly worth less. This brings us to one major cause of writer’s block: our self-worth is often pegged to our skills and abilities. For example:

“I bake amazing cakes.”

“I paint gorgeous abstract art.”

“I write wonderful short stories.”

Writer’s block can make it feel like a core part of who you are has suddenly vanished into the ether — with no promise that it’s ever coming back. As if writer’s block isn’t stressful enough in itself, you now have to deal with a blow to your self-worth and face some disturbing questions about your identity. If you’re a writer, chances are you’re constantly judging yourself while writing … and as a result, you’re editing while you’re writing.

Stop. Stop right now.

This is making the problem worse. When you edit as you write, you’re allowing yourself to place a value judgement (often negative) on the product of your creativity while it’s in its most vulnerable, raw form. Now, don’t get me wrong: you will need to edit. Copiously. However, the first draft is neither the time nor the place for editing. If you want to get over writer’s block, you need to start trusting yourself as a creator — of worlds, of worlds, of anything, really.

Method #1 : The Morning Pages This is a very simple and powerful exercise from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. It not only helps you get over writer’s block, it also helps to supercharge your creativity permanently so that writer’s block hits you more gently each time — and you recover from it much faster. How it works: Every morning, before you do anything else, write for 15 to 20 minutes, uninterrupted. On your phone, on paper, whatever works for you. Write, don’t think, don’t plan, just write. There is no bad writing in the morning pages. Write whatever comes into your head, whether it’s observations about your garden, a review of your date last night, or your grocery list. Three really important rules make the morning pages exercise ridiculously effective, so stick to them:

  1. Don’t plan. It may be tempting, but don’t plan what you’re going to write.
  2. Don’t edit while you write. Just write.
  3. Don’t read what you’ve written once you’re done. Turn to a fresh page (staple the pages together if you really can’t resist), or delete what you’ve written if it’s on your phone/ laptop.

The morning pages teach you to let go of your fears, allow the story come out in its raw form, and to trust yourself as a creator. All these are powerful antidotes (and preventive measures) for writer’s block. You’ve got nothing to lose, so why not give it a try?