Friday Speak Out!: Five Easy Tricks to Overcome Writer’s Block

Friday, February 24, 2023

by Tracey Buchanan

Inspiration. One of those words hovering around creative arts like a shimmering gold ring that’s only sometimes close enough to grasp. As a journalist, early in my professional career as a writer, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting until inspiration hit. Writer’s block wasn’t an option—a newspaper would be coming out and my inches of column space could not read “catch you next time.”

And that turned out to be good training. Early on I learned some tricks to overcome a dearth of inspiration.

First up—just do it. You know that old saying “start by putting one foot in front of the other”? Well, that works with words too. Sometimes overcoming writer’s block is simply a matter of writing one word. Any word. No kidding. Any word. Write puffy, perpendicular, pleasant, peacock. Write superfluous, jog, the, anteater, toot. See where it leads you.

Another trick? Daydream. Come up with questions like: “What does my perfect day look like?” “What does my character’s perfect day look like?” “Who would I invite to dinner if I could have anyone, living or not?” Set a timer and just let your mind play for an allotted amount of time.

Reading can inspire writing too. Somebody else’s words can flip the switch in your brain. Whether it’s a book on craft or your favorite fiction, reading sparks synapses and sometimes those electrical pops can start an inspirational bonfire. (Caution: Don’t compare your writing to someone else’s. That can stop you quicker than a smack upside the head. Just enjoy their words, their sentences, their style.)

Or, do something else completely. I’m an artist too, and some days, when the words aren’t flowing freely, I go to my studio and paint or draw. My brain relaxes enough to concentrate on my writing again. I have to limit myself, though, or I’d end up playing in my art supplies all day. But even an hour of piddling at something else—whether you like to organize a drawer, take a walk, or dance around the house to your favorite music—can replenish your creative juices.

And speaking of juice…Make sure you’re eating, exercising, and sleeping well. Yes, those things definitely affect your creativity. If you take care of yourself, I guarantee you won’t suffer from writer’s block as often. You know the drill—foods like blueberries and nuts (and dark chocolate!) feed your brain. Exercise of any kind—walking, biking, yoga—stimulates you and releases endorphins. Sleep, with which I have a love-hate relationship, renews you. I don’t like to nap but I have found that lying down and doing some deep breathing and intentional relaxation works to reenergize me.

Whatever you do, don’t give in. Writer’s block doesn’t have to derail you. It’s not a monster that is going to devour you. Think of it as a literal block—just a little children’s toy that needs to be put away. Don’t give it any more authority than that.

Now, go write.

* * *

Tracey Buchanan crashed into the literary world when she was six and won her first writing award. Fast forward through years as a journalist, mom, volunteer, freelance writer, editor, artist, and circus performer (not really, but wouldn’t that be something?) and you find her happily planted in the world of fiction with her debut novel, Toward the Corner of Mercy and Peace (Regal House Publishing, June 20, 2023). She and her husband Kent live in Paducah, Ky. They have two married sons, seven perfect grandchildren, and one very mixed-up dog.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Angela Mackintosh said...

Thanks for the fantastic tips, Tracey! Reading is a big inspiration for me, too. I also find prompts and timed writing exercises help, and scheduling a feedback date with a writing partner. Most of all, I'm thrilled to learn that dark chocolate can help. ;)

Congratulations on your forthcoming novel! :)

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