Writer's Block: Title Unavailable, Try Again Later

January 17, 2009
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I plopped down on my couch this morning to write an article that had been brewing in my mind the previous night, but as I positioned my hands on the keys and began to type, my mind went completely blank. My ingenious topic and all of my witty remarks about it seeped out of my brain and formed a sticky puddle of failure on the floor. Even my metaphor skills are severely lacking.

After spending a few minutes worrying and trying to figure out what could possibly be wrong with my mind (okay, I spent more than a few minutes and came up with a lot of solutions, but that’s another article in itself), I finally figured out the cause of my brain freeze, every writer’s worst nightmare — writer’s block.

Every writer experiences this terrible phase at least once in their writing careers. Many go through it like the common cold, catching it every once in a while and keeping it for a week or two at a time. Some “fortunate” ones suffer from it like a seasonal allergy; it always comes back to irritate them at certain time intervals, and there are plenty of remedies for it but none seem to work successfully. Most of these said treatments are just like Benadryl and cause the writer to feel sleepy and rundown after many failed attempts at recharging their brains.

I, unfortunately, fit into the last category. Writer’s block and I have a long-standing history, filled with wastebaskets full of crumpled pieces of paper, inkless pens run dry from incoherent scratchings and scribblings, and even a few dents in my wall from the time I was so frustrated with a poem I had been writing that I decided to look for inspiration as I whacked my head against it. (The wall, not the poem, though now I’m wishing it was the poem.)

Nothing really resulted from the last instance except a headache and green splotches in my line of vision for the next couple of days. (That paint was really bright.)

Anyway, I’m here today to offer solutions to fellow writers suffering from this disease. Waiting around for weeks until inspiration may strike isn’t the most pleasant experience, especially since I’m pretty impatient and I tend to get cranky when I become finger-tied. (Side note: one major side effect of writer’s block is the tendency to make up new words, hence the creation of “ginormous.” Someone had such a major block and couldn’t remember the words “gigantic” or “enormous,” so a new word was synthesized.)

The most obvious cure for writer’s block is to take a break from writing for a little while and focus on other things. Step outside and take a walk to clear your mind or keep it preoccupied with other things like worrying about the failing economy and how to pay the bills while your writing career is at a standstill because you can’t think of anything new to write about. (Okay, maybe scratch that last part.) However, do take a breather and after beginning to write, your fingers should be typing faster than your mind can think of things to write about.

Another method to prevent writer’s block in the first place was suggested to our journalism class by political intrigue author Jon Land. He recommended writers stop in the middle of a sentence so when they pick up again, they have a place to start, rather than having to begin with a new chapter or a new paragraph. This method does create a continuous flow and works well. (I’m speaking from personal experience.)

A different process is to try brainstorming ideas before sitting down to write anything hefty, like an essay or perhaps a screenplay or novel. If the basic premise is written down, it makes the actual project a little bit easier, and you won’t be as overwhelmed and probably won’t require the aid of a paper bag and a breathing coach (which is what it took to calm me down after my first AP essay; that and lots of chocolate).

When I was younger, I read in some book that keeping a slinky or a yo-yo next to you while you write is good for inspiration. However, whenever I try writing within twenty feet of a slinky or a light-up yo-yo, I lose my concentration and have to excuse myself from my paper and pen to go play with the more entertaining toy. If you have an attention span greater than a squirrel, I can assure you that method may work better for you than it does for me.

The point of that tip was to encourage writers to keep an object of inspiration at their side to help them focus. I support this idea and would utilize it if I could find something that both inspires me and isn’t sparkly, shiny or slinky-like, which breaks my concentration and creates an even bigger problem, like the time I accidentally broke my slinky by getting it tangled up. By that point, whatever I was writing had become secondary.

For my own personal writer’s block, I have several methods. I either force myself to sit down and write whatever comes to mind, which in turn, usually gets deleted or ripped up because I personally believe it’s horrible, or I shut myself off from writing for a few days at a time and try to clear my mind. After I’ve refocused, I feel better and my writing flows more easily.

Sometimes, however, there’s a third option. Like with this article, sometimes I sit down and ramble and rant until I don’t know what to say anymore. Then, there’s an awkward pause as I search my mind and try to come to a close. Unfortunately for both of us, I can’t seem to think of any way to end this messy result of writer’s block, so I’m going to leave you with one piece of advice …

If you feel yourself coming down with a case of writer’s block (confused thoughts, inability to write coherent sentences, creation of new words, hesitation to pick up a pencil or type, etc.), take the necessary precautions and go buy yourself a slinky. It will either help inspire you to write the world’s greatest poem about the shiny silver toy or it will provide you with hours of endless entertainment by bouncing down a staircase. Either way, I’m sure you’ll feel better by the end of the day.

Join the Discussion

This article has 9 comments. Post your own now!

LastChapter said...
Oct. 25, 2010 at 7:56 pm
aw phooey:(
LastChapter said...
Oct. 25, 2010 at 7:55 pm
Awww nuts!
KunaiNinjaFighter said...
Oct. 2, 2010 at 9:37 pm
*laughing histerically* Slinkies! Who would'a thought! (besides you)! I get writers block CONSTANTLY, and as a result, I've had like, eighty false starts on novels. It's like I'll be in the middle of a scentence, an my dogs go haywire, and by  time I'm back on my writing, all of the wonderful ideas have gone poof! (I even came up with 'oom og swoc', which is a dislexic version of 'cows go moo')
LastChapter replied...
Oct. 21, 2010 at 6:16 pm
maybe ur novel can b just a big book of all your previous novel-fails. i totally buy that:)
KunaiNinjaFighter replied...
Oct. 22, 2010 at 1:23 pm
thats the problem... I throw them away....
Stormythrone said...
Sept. 4, 2010 at 12:53 am
I really liked this :) Maybe I will go buy a slinky... huh. Great tips and writing style. Keep it up!
Kingofthepen said...
Oct. 3, 2009 at 4:35 pm
I know exactly what you're talking about! I started trying to write a book and every, uh, five pages, I ended up getting writer's block. My brother also suffers from this, but not nearly as frequently. My brother and I rock at writing, but my brother is much better. What I do when I get writer's block is I go back over what all has been put into the story, then I see if I can get an idea. If I can't, I go watch TV, read, or play video games until I get an ingenious idea for t... (more »)
Katie B. said...
Jan. 30, 2009 at 9:37 pm
Great article! Yes, I think a slinky will help...hmm...

I get struck with writer's block so often it isn't even funny, and it's reassuring to have some *boing* pretty shiny silver tricks up my sleeve *boing* if it happens again. Thanks for the encouragement and the help!
SloopyMcCoy said...
Jan. 29, 2009 at 10:14 pm
LOVE IT! I've had writer's block for the past oh 3 or so weeks now but I have reason to believe I'm depressed . . . Yup you certainly got the symptoms down right and I loved your squirrel thing. Yup, I think my attention span is less than a squirrels but I did manage to pull a novel out of my pen after two years of working!!!! 2 years of on and off and broken slinkies etc . . . and now I'm trying to write another one and surpisingly something came to me Gosh my cat stinks! Someth... (more »)
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