Writer’s block is not fun. It sucks. With the NaNoWriMo deadline swiftly approaching maybe you’ve been staring at a blank screen for the past few hours, silently cursing the cursor and desperately trying to squeeze out more ideas. Any ideas.
On the other hand, you may have plenty of ideas but they’re all terrible so you're sitting paralysed with indecision at your desk with no idea who your characters are or what to write for your next chapter.
Anyway. Whichever your scenario, none involve the process of actual writing. Since I’m somewhat of an expert (see completed and published article for your eyes here as proof) here are my top tips for beating writer’s block.
1. Take a walk outside
If you’re struggling to come up with any ideas and you’ve been sitting around moping at home, get outside. Walk down the road. Get a coffee. Lie in the grass at the park with your favourite artist blaring from your headphones. Put your face to the ground and watch the tiny ants running around on the tall blades of grass.
The best ideas will come to you while your brain is stimulated. Nature is freaking amazing and beautiful. Unless you live in Australia (like me). Then you should be careful. Those ants bite.
2. Brainstorm with a friend over drinks
Call up a friend and invite them over. Open a bottle of red wine or whiskey (if you’re of legal drinking age, of course) and throw some ideas at them. This may seem counter-productive to the act of writing, but trust me: there’s a reason Don Draper loves a whiskey old-fashioned.
Alcohol actually decreases your working memory, which in turn allows you to dedicate more brainpower to making creative connections. Lifehacker wrote a great article on this here: Why You Should Drink Beer For Big Ideas, Coffee To Get Them Done. It's all very scientific of course. Once the hangover has lifted, flesh out those ideas.
3. Try free writing
Grab a timer, a pen and paper. Yes. A pen and paper - we’re going old-school here. Pick a topic - preferably something related to your novel/essay/general idea - set your timer for five minutes. And then… write. Write without stopping. Write whatever comes to mind. The key here is to continue until the timer goes off. Don’t worry about mistakes. Don’t worry about punctuation. If you run out of things to write, repeat the same word and phrase over again until something else comes to mind.
If you’re trying to generate an idea don’t bother picking a topic, just go with the flow. Once the timer runs out, go back and read through what you’ve written. Circle or underline anything that jumps out. Then run with it.
4. Write every damn day
Even if it’s crap. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Just write. Start a Tablo account and let those words flow free. It doesn’t need to be great. It doesn’t need to be ground-breaking. Just write something. Anything. Anything at all.
If you’re afraid of ruining your professional reputation, write under a pseudonym. Or keep it private. But commit to writing something every day. The only thing that makes you a writer is the act of writing. Don’t ever stop.