Like a really bad cold, writer’s block prevents you from getting your work done, and you have to ride it out, probably in bed, watching TV and sniffling, until it’s over.
I went to a really teeny college with one big requirement: to graduate, we had to do a masters-like thesis. I studied writing and literature, and among other projects, I chose to write a novel. Thus, obtaining my BA hinged on my ability to, you know, actually write the novel. This was in addition to the usual demands of papers, papers, papers. Writer’s block was not an option, so when I felt the symptoms beginning—the boring sentences, the strange word that had no synonym, the plot hole with nothing to cover it—I had to react fast.
Similar to taking vitamin C to get over a cold, there are things you can do to fight writer’s block, and prevent recurrence. When you’re in the throes of it, close that Netflix window and try one (or more) of these:
1. Free write
Open a new document and just go: write about what you’re thinking, write about your surroundings, write about what you’re eating for dinner, or what’d you be eating for dinner in an ideal world (only cheesecake). Don’t overthink it, don’t edit, just go. Eventually, your brain will stumble on or make its way back to your topic or story.
2. Read something inspiring
Maybe a favorite article for your topic, maybe a chapter of a book in your TBR pile, maybe an essay on writing. Anne Lamott’s essay, “Sh*tty First Drafts,” from her book Bird by Bird is my go-to. It’s so comforting to read a seasoned writer telling it like it is: first drafts are sh*tty, no matter who you are and what you’ve written. A quick dose of someone else’s words are often all I need to get inspired, get humbled, and get going again.
3. Change it up
Your main project will take up most of your time, but it helps to have other side projects to work on, too. While writing my novel, I was also working on a video project and multiple critical papers, which allowed me to take a break, chip away at something else, and come back. The key here is coming back: whenever I completely abandoned my book in favor of my papers, I always felt even more blocked the next day. Switch it up for a few hours, exercise a different part of your brain, and then tackle that toughie again.