Writer's Block: Five Tips on How to Overcome the Blank Page

Writer's block happens to famous writers – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mark Twain, Thomas Mann, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Gertrude Stein, Arthur Hailey, Maya Angelou, William Faulkner...they've all written about writer's block. So relax, it happens to the best of us.

The longest case of writer's block lasted 60 years, so truly, don't sweat the small stuff. Here are five tips that have helped the greatest writers toss their blocks (in a good way!):

Tip #1: Take one small step for humankind.

Break your writing into tiny pieces and complete one. The first step is always playing with ideas. Do what you do best – doodle, make a list, just jot down a word here and there, whatever gets your thoughts moving. I like to combine doodling and writing.

I'll draw circles or clouds, write words in them, connect them together. Sometimes I write on index cards or scraps of paper, it makes moving them around more tactile, more fun. They're easy to throw away too.

Some people like to start out writing. Decide you're going to tackle the first paragraph. That will be short enough to not intimidate you. Heck, anyone can write two sentences, right?

Tip #2: Play a mind game.

Some people like to just write with no judgment, just put your words on paper. Write haiku, or limericks, whatever you enjoy. It doesn't matter that it's your thesis that is required, start with fun.

It's fun to think of yourself as an archaeologist – the words are there, you just have to uncover them, decipher them; maybe they're written in invisible ink or in code.

Write in a totally inappropriate style, such as a fairy tale or nursery rhyme. Pretend your editor really wants a tarot reading, not a historical novel. Just start writing!

Tip #3: Go do something totally unrelated.

Rent the movie “Shakespeare in Love”. It starts out with Shakespeare having writer's block. It's quite good; eventually he finds Juliet and she becomes his muse.

I have specific things I do when I have writer's block. I go for a walk or do outside chores, weather permitting. Or I clean house. Whatever I've been procrastinating about doing, I do it when I can't write.

Soon enough, I've had enough of scrubbing the toilet or washing dishes and want to write. At the very least, I've accomplished something I've needed to do for a while. Scrubbing the shower and bathtub seems to help me find my muse the fastest, for some reason.

Tip #4: Don't edit, just write.

When you have writer's block is not the time to edit. Often you can't write because you don't feel capable of writing well. Just write.

Tip #5: Eat smart.

Eating fish always makes me feel more intelligent. If you have cook's block too, and can't be bothered to even open a can of tuna, try coffee and chocolate. Blueberries are the other food that seem to make the words come easier.

The hardest part of my day is always making that first pot of coffee before I've had coffee – it just gets brighter and easier from there.

These 5 slightly irreverent tips for curing writer's block really do work for me. I hope they help you as well. Write on!

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