By Rachael Vruggink
Writer’s block, as defined by our dear friend Merriam-Webster, as “the problem of not being able to think of something to write about or not being able to finish writing a story, poem, etc.”
You don’t need to be a bonafide writer to catch a case of writer’s block. It can happen to you anytime, anywhere. Writing that bazillion page essay that you’ve had the entire semester to work on that you’re finishing the night before, or writing that “Nice Meeting You” email to that CEO you met at a networking event. Doesn’t matter. You end up getting stuck and frustrated, wanting to chuck your keyboard across the room.
As a writer who’s dealt with writer’s block more times than I’m willing to admit, I’ve found a few tricks that help get my creative juices flowing. Check them out and give them a try. They might just help you the next time you’re staring blankly at a computer screen.
Tapping into a writing groove sometimes just isn’t going to happen. Maybe you’re distracted or anxious, overwhelmed by everything you have to get done. If possible, work on another item or task. Put the writing away for a little while and keep being productive. When you return, you’ll have given yourself a chance to subconsciously marinate on the words you’ll have to piece together. Once those fingers hit the keyboard, you’ll be off and running. But be careful of staying away too long. Procrastination or putting off your work can stress you out, which sometimes heightens writer’s block versus alleviating it.
I find this to be one of the most helpful writer’s blocks tips I’ve ever gotten. A high school writing teacher of mine encouraged his students to not be afraid of writer’s block, but to embrace it. “Whenever you get stuck,” he said “just start writing whatever comes to mind. Even if it’s just observing what’s happening around you.”
I think this strategy works for a couple reasons. First off, letting your brain focus on the present and writing a stream of consciousness is a practice of mindfulness. You’re forced to tune into that moment, recording what you hear, see, and heck, maybe even smell. It’s calming, and it sharpens your mind’s focus. In addition, you’re not writing anything that’s going to be shared with anyone, so there’s no need to be thinking about your grammar and punctuation. With this mental reboot, you can use your super-focused, wide-awake brain to start writing like you’ve never written before.
Find A Jam
There are two kinds of writers in this world: Absolute-silencers and Jammers. The absolute-silencers are the ones who retreat to their inner sanctums; desks cornered in quiet nooks of libraries or closed rooms where the only sound heard is the furious clicks of laptop keys.
Jammers are the sound craving writers who need some kind of music or noise blasting in their ears. The thought of silence gives Jammers hives. And if they happen to be in a coffee shop or common area, they don’t mind the existence of other people, but they don’t want to be able to hear them.
If you know what kind of writer you are (I’m an Absolute Jammer, a hybrid cross of needing silence for academic writing and noise for creative) then finding the perfect playlist might be just what the doctor ordered. I find it helpful to listen to music that fits the style of writing you’re trying to accomplish. Here are some of my favorites from Spotify:
Wild + Free
Upbeat, folk. A lot of fast rhythms and happy ditties.
Relaxing and soft. Easy to have turned down low in the background without too much distraction.
Walk the Moon Radio
Borderline techno-esque. Also upbeat, fast, and fun.
If music is still a little too much for you, here’s a backup plan, especially if you love coffee shops. Coffitivity is an amazing site and app that plays the background sounds of a cafe. They’ve taken out the conversations, so there’s no way you’ll get distracted by eavesdropping (because if we’re being honest, we all do it).
Try not to let yourself get overwhelmed by writer’s block. It happens. Just know that it’s something you can get over with a little trial and error. Not all of these strategies may work for you, but one of them just might spark that big idea you’ve been waiting to latch onto. Good luck!