Whether you’re working on creative writing for yourself or freelance writing for business, you’ve undoubtedly come across a project that has gotten you stuck.
You’ve either rewritten it more times than you can count, or you just can’t seem to get started.
These mental blocks have a way of piling up and becoming even more frustrating.
There are a few tricks you might try to help your brain move past these obstacles, though, so you can finish the writing you need to do.
1. Print out what you’re working on
If you’ve been staring at the same block of text in your word processor for a long time, your eyes won’t be fresh. You’ve gone over the text so many times that your brain makes it easy to gloss over any problem sentences or paragraphs.
By changing the context in which you look at the words, you’ll be able to give yourself a fresh perspective and read the words as if they’re new to you. You can also try adjusting the margins, line spacing, or even the font to help you see your writing in a new light.
2. Read what you’re writing out loud
Sometimes we find ourselves blocked because something is wrong, but we don’t quite know what it is. By reading what you’ve written out loud, you can better understand the flow of your words and sentences and pick out areas that you stumble across.
By giving a voice to your words, you’ll be able to better hear the way other people will read it. You might even find that it’s helpful to record yourself doing this so you can listen to it later. If you find the process works, you could even dictate the whole piece.
3. Write down the problem that you’re having by hand
Try taking a notebook or sheet of paper, and writing down whatever you think the problem with the piece you’re writing is. Let your mind wander and start to take notes on any possible solutions, no matter how wild the idea.
The key here is to remember that you’re not actually writing in the word document you’re having trouble with. So much of getting “blocked” in writing is stress and frustration. It’s easy to get stuck in whatever thought process you’ve been having.
Free yourself to consider new ideas and solutions.
4. Make an outline
Sometimes, we get stuck in projects because we’re not entirely sure where they’re going. Start at the beginning and make a list of all of the important points you want to address in whatever it is you’re writing.
It may help to do this with post-it notes or note cards so you can freely rearrange sections to see how they might work in a different order. You can also remove sections to see how necessary they are.
Be as detailed or as vague as you like in your outline. The important part is visualizing the overall structure of what you’re writing.
5. Know when and how to ask for help
Getting an outside opinion on what you’re writing can be a huge help if you’re feeling stuck or just unsure about what you’re working on. You’ll want to be clear about what you’re looking for in a critique, though.
If you’re feeling stressed out by what you’re writing, it’s important to know how criticism will affect you and ask for what you need. If you need someone to highlight the positives for you, or to find out what’s not working, be sure to ask for that.
Negative criticism early in the writing process can be detrimental for some people, so be careful and go into it with a positive attitude.
6. Go for a walk
Sometimes you just need to get away from whatever you’re working on for a few minutes. It can be especially hard if you’ve been working in the same area for a long period of time.
Think of being stuck in your writing like trying to remember the name of a song or actor on the tip of your tongue. When you put pressure on yourself to remember, the fact eludes you. Once you forget what you were trying to remember, the answer comes to you more easily.
Get up, stretch your legs, and go for a short walk outside to get fresh perspective. By letting your mind wander, you take the pressure off of yourself and make it infinitely more likely that you’ll be able to come up with a solution.
7. Keep going
Most important of all: keep writing.
Feel free to take a break and go for that walk if you need to, but if you still can’t come up with a solution, just keep writing. You can always edit a completed project into something great, but you can’t edit something you haven’t written.