You’re not writing, but you know you should be. And the guilt is starting to eat at you. How do you overcome writer’s block? Here are a few tips.
1. Listen to music.
The general consensus is listening to music without lyrics is best, though something soft and poetic—The Shins, Iron & Wine, Regina Spektor—works for me too. When I’m in the right mood. Or maybe just a mood.
2. Talk to yourself out loud.
Or a friend (even an imaginary one) if it makes you feel less crazy. Turn on your voice recorder, let your mind wander. Later, listen to the recording. Follow the thread of your thoughts, and see if any of it inspires a piece.
3. Wash the dishes.
It’s the sort of mindless task that allows your mind to shut off, drifting into a meditation-like state. Keep a notebook nearby to jot down story ideas.
4. Pick a character and find out what they want.
Any character. From a story you’ve already written or one that’s yet to be realized. Now decide what their goals are—what their motivation is. Write it all down. Bullet points. Sentences. Nonsense. It doesn’t matter. You’re writing! Look at you.
5. Turn off your inner editor.
Seriously (we’ll probably add this to the list a few more times, slightly reworded, for good measure). Writing isn’t the time for perfectionism. Words. On the page. Remember: they don’t have to be good, they just have to be there.
Read, watch documentaries, and take notes. When one discovery carries you away, let it. But don’t forget to write it all down. Consider using a literary swipe file to organize your research.
To your idea. To yourself. Is it any good? It doesn’t matter! Write a shitty first draft. With placeholders and cliches and characters who are empty shells and settings that are bland and lifeless. Let your plot meander. Create the bones of your story. Then go back and give it meat and skin and bite. Refine it and add layers. Take your time. Take years if you need to. There is no deadline, no ticking clock. There’s you and your story. You’re the only one who can tell it.