5 Ways to Handle Writer’s Block

It’s useless to stare at a screen and not being able to type anything. Not even a word. It’s worse when you have a dateline looming and the only progress you find on the document is the change in font style.

Yes, I’ve experienced writer’s block a few times and I know how frustrating it is. So, how do writers solve the problem? It depends. And based on my experience, here’s what I do when I haven’t a clue on how to make my fingers dance tickety tap, tickety tap on the keyboard as I wish for strings of letters to appear magically on my screen. For budding writers out there, yes there’s hope. There is a remedy for this plague we conveniently call writer’s block. And the prescription is as follows:

Plan your Story

Yes, this is the crucial bit. Create your skeleton of characters, setting, point of view, conflict and the crux of your story will form. Who is your main character? Who is the protagonist and the antagonist? When do they come flying into the story?

If you’re writing non-fiction, you still need an outline. Do you have a theme? What are your subtopics? How will you break your chapters? Do you have case studies? What about interviews?

There are a few ideas that can help you to start writing a story. The key is to know where you are heading and you won’t get lost in a winding road of troubled thoughts and dead ends.

Practice Mindfulness

Writing is therapy. But, when the mind wanders instead of focusing on your storyline, then it’s a sign that it needs some downtime. But try and do something that will help your mind stay focused later. Try mindfulness. It’s a modern word for exercising the mind so that it is more attune to the present. Studies have shown that if you try practicing mindfulness at least for 2 to 3 minutes a day, it will help you stay relaxed, become more productive and less anxious. Of course, it doesn’t work overnight. Keep trying regularly, then you’ll see some changes in your writing when you’re in your scribe zone.

What I usually do is spend a couple of minutes listening to the azan or call for prayer from the mosque behind my house. I just focus on the words and the rhythm. I close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing and the meaning of the Arabic phrases. My mind will still float away to other places. I allow it. Then I gently pull it back to my breathing.

I’ve also tried other activities such as focusing on the taste of chocolates before I slowly let it slide down my throat. I’ve also tried listening to birds and concentrate on how many are chirping. There are so many ways to practice mindfulness. If you’re ‘married’ to your gadget then you may want to download headspace. It’s an app that will help ‘declutter your mind off junk’ and slowly train your mind to be warier of the present rather than the future.

Add a Twist to your Story

When I wrote my story ‘Shortlisted’, I was stuck with a story that I couldn’t proceed. My protagonist sounded lame and the minor characters were stiff as cardboards. Then I decided to switch conflicts between two characters and gave a heavier one for my protagonist. And ta daa… my story had more umphh! It was a good change. So, if you’re stuck, it could mean that your story isn’t interesting enough. So, add a new problem for your characters, change the plot or even the setting. Give your story a new twist. You’ll see how fast your fingers work on the keyboard as you proceed.

Leave your story, Come back later

If you’re not in the mood to write, then just leave it. Do something that you’ve not done in a while. Excite your brains with a new activity like batik painting, archery, cook a new dish, travel to an unknown place, learn how to play a musical instrument. Don’t be hard on yourself and the creative spell will seep in slowly.

Pick a Book and Read

Reading helps hydrate our grey matters. Pick a book that relates to your writing. For example, if you’re writing about crime, then read something by John Grisham, Stephen King or Agatha Christie. Since I write children’s books, I usually bury my nose in a Road Dahl paperback.
We read so that the brains will get a feel of the language and style of a genre. We’ll become more attuned to the vocabulary and how sentences are formed. But most of all, we read so that we can relax and enjoy travelling around the world of words.

Writing isn’t difficult. But being consistent is a challenge. I’d say take it one step at a time. If the list above doesn’t work, then change your writing place. Pick a café or a field or some other place that stimulates your mind. The key is to keep changing your habits until you find progress. Enjoy the writing process and you’ll reap the rewards of your work when you publish someday.

Rumi once said “everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.”

For all those who read this, may the words flow easily while your fingers rap tickety tap, tickety tap on the keyboard, until you reach the end of your story. Have fun!

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