Maybe you just finished your awesome Hugo House class and now are adrift in Writer’s Block Land without weekly accountability and homework. Maybe you’re currently in a class and finding it hard to focus on the assignment at hand. Or you’re so burnt out by your job, your life, and your busy schedule that by the time you get precious moments to sit down and write, your brain is fried and your creativity has dried up like dust on the wind.
Does this sound familiar? You fire up your laptop or crack open your notebook and … crickets. You are paralyzed by the blank white space.
Yeah, we thought so.
As writers, we have all gotten stopped up for some reason or another. To that end, here are five ways to kick-start a writing project and end writer’s block.
1. Turn off your inner editor.
As former editors, we understand the desire to wow and amaze with a first draft. But, realistically, this doesn’t happen all that often. In fact, it’s as rare as a unicorn sighting. So we recommend thinking of your first go as just writing down notes. (With her advice regarding “shitty first drafts,” Annie Lamott is the patron saint of the brain dump.) It takes the pressure off. And when you go back and reread your “notes,” you’ll be surprised at how good your first draft is.
2. Create a comfortable environment.
Whether it’s hunkering down at your favorite coffee shop or sitting in a comfortable chair at home with a steaming mug of Earl Grey, take care of your physical creature comforts so you can feel as if the writing process is a pleasure, a treat from soup to nuts. Along those lines, consider the medium. Are you a speedy typist, or do you love writing longhand with a specific pen, filling up a beautiful journal with your prose and poetry? Think about how you prefer to write and gather the appropriate tools to help you on your literary journey.
3. Mix things up.
That said, sometimes it’s good to change up your routine and ritual. If you are stuck, change your surroundings and your process. If you are a serious techie who never leaves your ergonomic chair, take a small notebook on your walk along the beach so you can jot down your thoughts with a fresh eye.
4. Give yourself a prompt.
You don’t have to write in a linear or chronological manner. Give yourself a short writing challenge, perhaps at the beginning of your writing time. If you are writing a memoir, detail your childhood bedroom as thoroughly as possible or imagine the adult protagonist in your novel at his senior prom or getting fired from his job. These writing exercises can inform your work and get your juices flowing.
5. Work on different parts of the same project.
We love developing book proposals, because if we get stuck on or sick of the manuscript, we can go to the bookstore and research our competition or possible publishers. We can brainstorm inexpensive and/or wacky marketing and publicity ideas. These proposal components are as necessary to your submission as your manuscript sample, so it’s a productive part of your writing process.
Jen Worick and Kerry Colburn are the dynamic duo behind The Business of Books (www.bizofbooks.com), a publishing consulting company based in Seattle. They are hosting Get Published!: A Writers Retreat at Willows Lodge on January 23–24, 2016.