Adapted from “Writer’s block: 101 proven tips for how to cure and beat writer’s block used by writers,” originally posted on the Stop Procrastinating blog. Reprinted with permission.
If there were any doubts about whether writer’s block really exists, they’ve now been laid to rest. A study of 2,500 writers by Stop Procrastinating, the productivity app and website, investigated how to beat writer’s block and found that 63% of writers had suffered a block at some point.
The definition of writers’ block was clear: your motivation or ideas for writing dry up. The survey found that the cause of writer’s block were high expectations, fear of failure, and pressure of unrealistic deadlines.
The good news is that all the writers in the survey beat writer’s block though a combination of creative motivation techniques and unorthodox routines. In many cases all that was needed was a change of scene, especially if the causes were overwork or stress related. For others, changes to their routine worked effectively.
From getting up earlier to taking a cold shower to doing the West Wing “walk and talk,” the following tips can help you be more creative and motivated about your writing, and best of all, beat writer’s block in any number of inventive ways.
1. Get up early or take a nap
Do you get up early or stay up late to do your best writing? Many scientific studies have found that creative activity in the brain is highest during and immediately after sleep. The research suggests sleep and dreams help build remote links between information that our mind struggles with during the day. Sleep, in other words, creates insight.
A 2013 BBC article dissects a study which found that people who slept on a problem did significantly better than those who didn’t, and a study from Psychology Today found that relaxing the brain’s focus on a problem enabled it to solve it. Our study confirmed that writers who changed the time of day they wrote to earlier in the morning were more likely to beat their writer’s block. However, nights owls still used sleep to improve their writing: Writers who said they were night owls had a nap before they began their late night sessions.
There are other reasons why the morning is ideal for creativity. The morning is quiet, you are well rested, and the day’s distractions have yet to begin. In fact, those writers who wrote successfully resisted checking their emails, engaging in social media, or turning on the radio or TV until they had finished their day’s writing.
2. Stop when the going is good
Writing too long can end like a bad party. Don’t even think about carrying on.
Writers revealed that they likened writing for too long to staying too late at a party: you become tired, irritable, and not much fun. You’ll also remember the party from the perspective of that sour mood rather than all the hours of fun you had before you got grumpy.
Simply put, give up when the going is good and you are more likely to look forward to writing again. Stop when you hit a block and you might not be motivated to hit the typewriter for a while.
3. Treat writing like a job
Imagine getting up in the morning and not wanting to go to work. Sure, a lot of people don’t want to, but they have to and they do a good job when they arrive.
Like most jobs, writing is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration, which means you have to put in the effort like the rest of us.
Writers suffering from writer’s block who are waiting for the muse to inspire them might be waiting a long time. Take time out to think, but you’re going to have to write. As with many jobs, at the beginning there may be pain. But once you get through the pain barrier, you’ll enter the flow stage, where your concentration sings and your writing comes naturally.
4. Stop digital distractions
When you’re feeling the pain of getting going or the lull in concentration that comes from work, what do you reach for? Distraction.
And what in our digitally enhanced world is only a swipe or click away? Millions and millions of pages of distraction from funny cat videos to erudite articles, from Facebook updates to the latest news story.
I once spent an half an hour watching trailers for a bunch of random movies. Then to make up for it, I read an intelligent online newspaper, at which point it was lunch time and half the day had passed by.
Cutting out the Internet connection gives writers a creativity boost. No longer are you tempted to browse the Internet or answer an email when the going gets tough.
Even if you aren’t looking for distraction to avoid work, you can easily become distracted if an email pops up or something else calls for your attention. Many writers in our survey said they downloaded a website blocker to help them to write, which helped improve their concentration and output.
5. Take a cold shower
It’s hard to believe, but some of the most hardy of writers said giving themselves the short sharp shock of an ice cold shower got their creative juices flowing. Taking a cold shower increases alertness, improves mood, and reduces anxiety – which is just what you might be feeling if you are worrying you can’t write any more.
6. Stop trying to write it all in one sitting
While some writers can produce all day, the majority create better work by limiting the hours they write to a maximum of three or four a day. Set a deadline and a time limit so you’re more focused.
7. Do something else
A change of scene or activity was a top cure for writer’s block for those writers who undertook our survey. Go for walk, bake a cake, have sex: just move away from the desk and stop writing. A period of time away from your desk, undertaking another activity (not browsing the Internet), allows the mind to work on an unconscious level. Often I find taking a short break can result with a solution only a couple of minutes into the new activity. The number of half-finished cakes I’ve baked is legendary.