5 Tips to Successfully Break a Creative Block
It’s Saturday. The house is quiet. Your laptop is booted up. You’ve been waiting all day, all week, maybe longer, to find time to sit down and write the first draft of your YA novel that you’ve been dreaming up all year. There’s only one problem: you can’t think of anything. You don’t know where to start or what scene should be next.
You’ve had a million ideas in the past few weeks while you’ve been busy and now that you sit down to write they’re all gone. Frustrating, right? There’s a way to fix it today and to stop it from happening ever again.
1. Write out everything you need to do and organize it
Sometimes it’s not an issue of having creative thoughts – it’s anxiety about where to start. As much as I want to constantly write, there will be times where I’d rather watch an episode of Buffy or re-read Chamber of Secrets in the park. This is me totally avoiding starting a first draft of a manuscript or diving into editing and it’s because I don’t know where to start.
The Fix: Research what you need to do. Organize your resources (ie. what you’ve gathered on how to write or edit a book). Then break everything down into tasks and do one thing in order each day. You’ll find that you can add more things to your plate over time and your progress will calm the wailing anxiety.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” -Mark Twain
2. Just start
In the course of your writing journey, there will be a long period where your taste will not meet your skill. You may love books that have won awards, lived on the NYT Best Seller List, or been made into incredibly successful films – but storytelling is a skill you have to learn and you must give yourself permission to be bad. If you wait to start when everything is perfect, you may never start.
The Fix: Write badly! Write all the time. Write down weird ideas. Write down cliches and cardboard characters and on the nose dialogue. Then go back and edit. Read books on writing and apply the lessons to the bad draft you just wrote. Before I started writing I would read book after book so that I would be ready to write a really great novel – but those lessons only truly made sense after I’d written one (or five) bad drafts and truly learned the lesson.
“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” – Margaret Atwood
3. Consitency is key
Sometimes life can get busy and hectic and writing will fall to the wayside. When I take too long of a break from a project it can be really hard, maybe even impossible, to get back into the mindset and world of what I’m working on. Writing sporadically makes it a challenge to even sit down and write in the first place.
The Fix: Have a consistent routine for writing. That doesn’t mean writing every day for four hours at a time. Start small with what works best for you. Maybe that’s one page every other day or 500 words every morning before work. The key is to get into the habit and expand your tolerance for the work you’re doing.
“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” ―Octavia E. Butler
4. Avoid burn out
I am very guilty of this. My process used to be (and I’m still working on this) work and work until all of a sudden the world turns grey and I feel exhausted and sick of my project. This is not sustainable and should only be done in times of a dire deadline if you must.
The Fix: Find some way to take breaks. I can’t stress how important this is. Even if you don’t feel tired or you still feel like working, you can get more done by giving your brain a 15 minute break every hour or taking a day off a couple times a week instead of burning yourself out to the point where you hate your project. Don’t wait to feel burnt out to take a break, schedule it in if you have to. Set a reminder on your phone. Watch an episode of Shadow Hunters in between time blocks of writing.
“I don’t believe in “writer’s block”. I try and deal with getting stuck by having more than one thing to work on at a time. And by knowing that even a hundred bad words that didn’t exist before is forward progress.” — Neil Gaiman
5. Return to the things you love
When writing a full length novel or working on a film (any sort of large scale project), there will be a time where you feel a bit lost. Where you can’t remember why you are making this. Where you feel like you’ve lost all motivation and inspiration.
The Fix: There is a reason why you create art and why you chose to put your blood, sweat, and tears into a particular project. Remind yourself of the reason why you loved this idea in the first place. Don’t stop there – visit your favourite novels, films, songs, and art exhibits to refresh your inspiration and make you excited about your work again.
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
— Toni Morrison
How do you deal with writer’s block?