With Alpha’s Short Story Contest launch just around the corner – September 1 – we thought we could offer some helpful suggestions on how to get over writer’s block.
1. Brainstorm and Take Notes
Sometimes you feel inspired, so all you need to do is sit at your computer and write a story. But more often than not, you’ll find that you need to create your inspiration.
Brainstorming will guide you down the road to a great narrative. It helps to be “old skool” in this step. That means take a pen or pencil, use a notebook or even scrap paper. Write down all your ideas; even if you think you won’t use them write them down. Make diagrams, draw lines, whatever you need to do get your thoughts on paper.
You can brainstorm all story elements, from scenes to characters, plot, themes, conflict, and resolutions. Or you can start with a few things until you hit inspiration. Do what’s right for you. Write.
2. Write What You Know
Take a topic that is familiar to you and write about it. Write about something you care about, something that motivates you, or that you think about often. Take a story that you may have experienced in real life and change things – setting, characters and outcome – to create a work of fiction. Ask, “What if?” Think about the interesting characteristics, the quirks and great skills of different people you know and mix them up to create new characters.
Writing what you know will help you get over writer’s block, and it will help you write a story that feels real and engages the reader.
3. Write by Hand
Studies have shown that writing by hand helps you generate and process ideas more so than typing on a keyboard. This doesn’t mean that great writing can’t be done using a computer keyboard, but it means if you are stuck, writing by hand can give you an extra boost.
In this article, Sarah Baughman, a writer and teacher, says that she “use[s] the computer to actually write and edit, but if [she] need[s] to think first, [she goes] for the pen and paper.” Baughman goes on to cite many studies that link handwriting to thinking, and she refers to the Wall Street Journal, which notes “the hand has a unique relationship with the brain” when it comes to “composing thoughts and ideas.”
4. Move Around
Sometimes working in the same spot you always work in might make you feel stuck. Do you typically do your math at the kitchen table? We can associate certain places with specific feelings, and those feelings might leave you uninspired.
Try sitting on the couch, or work in your school library. Maybe a relative has a nice quiet room, where you will find a different atmosphere that inspires you. Maybe you often work everywhere except your study desk, so try sitting there!
Everybody is different. Some people work better staying in the same place all the time. But if you’ve tried everything else, a change of scenery might be the medicine you need to see beyond writer’s block.
5. Read a Book
At first it sounds counter-intuitive. Why should you be reading if you are supposed to be writing? Reading other literature you like not only gets your creative juices flowing, but it can also help you write in the tone you want for your story.
Many authors recommend reading the writers you want to sound like. In the end, you’ll always sound like you, because your voice is unique. People may detect influence in your work, and that’s okay.
6. Write All the Thoughts That Come to You
If you have an idea, put it down. You may not use everything at the end, but you have to work through those thoughts to create your masterpiece. One thought can lead to another. Days after you decided you didn’t want to use something, you may feel inspired to integrate it into your narrative in an important way.
The main point: just write.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to overcoming writer’s block. You may have to try different methods before you find what works, or even a combination of our suggestions. The tips we offer in this post are tried and tested by many writers, but don’t feel frustrated if none of them work for you. There are many different ways to get over writer’s block, so keep trying them out until you find something that works.
Do you have a different method on overcoming writer’s block? Share it in the comments!
Click here to learn more about the 2015 Alpha Textbooks Short Story Contest. Alpha extends a big thank you to the contest’s generous sponsors, including the Claremont Review, AGO, ROM, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, and Pizza Pizza.