When writers say they can’t write, they usually mean they’re afraid to write or they just don’t want to. The reasons vary. We may not know where or how to begin a new project. Or our project may have a particular problem, or a lot of problems, we don’t know how to tackle. We may not know what to say or how to say it. Sometimes we’re just not in the mood to write because we’ve fallen out of love with it or we’ve lost our mojo. Regardless of the reason, here are simple steps to break writers block.
When I’m stuck on a problem, like not knowing where or how to begin a new project, or how to tackle problems with an existing project, I put aside the idea of writing perfectly or even writing at all. Instead, I talk to myself on the page by explaining the problems to myself, in writing. Then if I need to, I turn that description into a list of things to do. This technique works for nearly any writing problem. The minute we start writing about the problem, we’ve started writing.
All Out of Love
Sometimes we writers are afraid to admit we’ve fallen out of love with it or that we’ve lost our mojo. But it happens—often. In situations like these, it helps to prime the pump. Here are ways to ease back into writing:
- When you’ve been away for a project for a while: Over time, writers grow as writers and people so going back to an older project can be daunting. So rather than make a decision one way or another about an older work, go back and read it through first. Be aware of places where you feel your pulse quicken, whether because of the prose, the idea, or something else. Then tinker with the work a bit so to see if your effort gains traction and your interest is rekindled. If so, you may have another chance to revive the project.
- When you want a way back into a project you’ve left on a side burner for a bit: A great way to stoke the writing fires is to edit a section of your project, maybe a section you’re familiar with, so that you can get back into the groove.
- When you need a break from a project: Try writing in a different genre or editing a different piece. You might even offer to give feedback to someone looking for a beta reader.
- When you want to keep working on a long-term project: To keep himself engaged in the discipline of writing, Ernest Hemingway often stopped at a point in the work where he knew what would happen next. That way, when he returned to the piece, he knew he’d still have something to say.
- When you want to make returning to your project something to look forward to: Make notes on the next section. One of the hardest tasks is coming to a work cold, having little or no idea what the next section should look like. Once you’ve made your notes, try fleshing out part of what you’ve written.
- When you don’t feel like writing: Read a section of your work, and make notes on what you want to write next. That way if you don’t feel like writing more at that moment you have something to come back to.
Usually, writers who feel they can’t write or don’t want to have good reasons for it. The key is facing the reality of how we feel about our work, what motivates us, what worries us. Once we admit the realities, we’re halfway back down the road to writing again.
By Adele Annesi