All writers know that wonderful feeling of inspiration when ideas are being formulated in the mind too quickly for their fingers to keep up with the flow of words. But most writers have also experienced that ‘drying up’ when their fingers are waiting for instructions but nothing comes.

Whether this lack of words happens in the middle of a writing project or at the very start of the endeavour it’s usually to do with a lack of inspiration – the author wants to write something but they’re not sure what. They are not burning with ideas that they need to get out onto the paper.

Overcome Writer’s Block

Particularly if the drying up of words happens in the middle of a project it’s often because the writer’s run out of steam – perhaps they’ve got too close to the project and lost their way. Rather than trying to get the flow of words back by carrying out writing exercises it’s sometimes better to just get away from the writing for a while.

Some good ways to for the writer to get away and clear their head include:

  • going for a walk
  • doing some gardening
  • having lunch / coffee with a friend
  • doing something they’ve never done before
  • joining or set up an informal writer’s support group

The writer shouldn’t feel that this is wasting precious time. Having enough sleep before an exam is crucially important, because it’s while people sleep that the brain sorts and classifies that vital information, similarly it’s often while the writer’s away from the computer or notebook that new ideas (and the way of expressing those ideas) formulates.

Sometimes a writer can get just too close to they’re writing and they need to stand back. When this happens a space of a few weeks can be really helpful. When the writer goes back to their work it’s sometimes useful to be objective.

For instance the writer may find it useful to pretend they have just discovered their manuscript in a chest washed up on the seashore. They should imagine that it’s been written by someone else but they’re going to finish it. Taking this stance results in the writer looking at their earlier work with fresh eyes and this can often give new insights.

Writing a Book – Getting Started

If a writer experiences writer’s block at the very beginning of a new writing venture it’s often because they aren’t convinced or committed to the ideas, because there aren’t enough ideas or because they have a lack of direction.

What can the writer do?

  • they can do some research into a subject they have some interest in but of which they don’t have much knowledge. This might really fire their enthusiasm or give them unusual storylines or ideas for characters. The subject could be something well known or something more marginal (mysticism, donkeys, topiary, dog training…)
  • People- watching is an obvious source of inspiration but listening to snippets of people’s conversations is another great source of intriguing ideas and storylines.
  • Experiencing new things can really bring fresh ideas to writers as well ( spending half a day observing the cases at a magistrates court for example)

Creative Writing Exercises

Once the writer is refreshed or has some new ideas writing exercises of course can play an important part or can just build up writing confidence for a relatively new writer. Some good writing exercises include:

  • recording dreams
  • writing some short haiku verses to create striking images
  • producing ‘character’, ‘place’ and ‘event’ ‘prompt cards’ and then selecting one card from each category to create a story.
  • Going to an art gallery or take out a book of paintings or photographs from the library and write something based on one of the images.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Whatever the situation the writer shouldn’t feel guilty about getting away from their work for a while. In the same way that the insomniac can benefit from shedding the anxiety and frustration of not sleeping by getting out of bed and doing something else, getting away from the task and relaxing is often the way to find fresh inspiration, new direction and those elusive words.