Writers Workshop: Writer’s Block

The tai chi master Yang Chengfu

So much has been written about this subject that I’m a bit reluctant to keep piling on. Still, it seems to be a common problem, and a very big one for some writers. Personally, I’ve had little experience with writer’s block. It just hasn’t plagued me often. However, many years ago, when I was working against some strict book deadlines, the dreaded block did hover from time to time.

Here’s what helped me.

Exercise. I live in the country and love to walk. When I lived in a more urban environment, I still loved to walk. I’m not a fan of routine exercise, running, lifting weights, whatever. In other words, I’m not a fan of what I know is good for me. However, walking is fun and doesn’t take that much effort. It also gives my mind a chance to wander. I am endlessly surprised and distracted with what I see along the walk. For me, walking breaks up the routine and gets my head out of that infinite loop that seems to be the best partner of writer’s block. The important point is to let yourself be distracted by the walk. Engage the walk, entirely.

Create a character. Instead of just plowing ahead with your assignment, try creating a new character of your very own. You needn’t plan to use this character in any way. Or, you may want to use the character in some future project. For now, just create a new character. Make it serious, silly, frivolous, whatever. Let your imagination roll away and make your new entity just the way you please. You can throw it away later, if you choose. The act of creating something new and fun may just put you back on the right track for the serious writing that lies ahead.

Breathing exercises. I like Qigong. It doesn’t take much energy, feels really good, and clears your mind. It’s like wiping the slate clean for a few moments, without working too hard (an important point in my life). I’ve also used Tai Chi, which is more complex and requires good training. Tai Chi is much more than simple breathing but it still has that magical cleansing feeling built-in. It also has the nice benefit of being very good for your overall health.

A day off. Yep, it’s as simple as having a play day. Do something you really enjoy, and do it with gusto. Don’t hold back on your play time. Don’t worry about anything else. Just jump in with both feet and truly enjoy your play day.

English: Riverside walk - just north of Diglis...

The overnight stay. Go somewhere else for an overnight stay. A friend’s house, a nice hotel, whatever. Bring none of your writing materials with you. Just change your environment for a while and check out your new surroundings. Coming back to your writing sanctuary will feel just a little different with each overnight stay.

Change your writing schedule. If you write on a schedule, or at fairly regular times of the day (or night), mix it up a little. If you’re a morning writer, try the evenings. Perhaps the reverse works better for you. The point is to vary your schedule.

Talk to other writers. Lots of writers suffer from the dreaded block. Many of them have excellent ways of curing this problem. Ask them. You’ll probably find some very interesting and subtle techniques that never crossed your mind. One of them is likely to work for you.

Do you have a favorite technique for curing writer’s block? Please share it.

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