There’s laziness, procrastination… and then there’s writer’s block. Some people see it as an invented affliction. But others such as Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway have been affected by it for varying periods of time. Authors with personal experience are obviously the ideal people to give advice – so here’s nine helpful quotations and one ‘kick up the backside’.
1. Break It Down
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
— Mark Twain
2. Just Write A Page
“I encourage my students at times like these to get one page of anything written, three hundred words of memories or dreams or stream of consciousness on how much they hate writing — just for the hell of it, just to keep their fingers from becoming too arthritic, just because they have made a commitment to try to write three hundred words every day. Then, on bad days and weeks, let things go at that…”
— Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
3. Write about Something Else
“If you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.”
— Ray Bradbury
4. Stop while the going’s good
“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”
— Ernest Hemingway
5. Don’t Force It
What you have to do is try not to force words to come. That just gets you more stuck. What you have to do now is separate out the things and do them one at a time. You’re trying to think of what to say and what to say first at the same time and that’s too hard. So separate them out. Just make a list of all the things you want to say in any old order. Then later we’ll figure out the right order.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
6. Put it away
“Suggestions? Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.”
— Neil Gaiman
7. Take A Hike
“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”
— Hilary Mantel
8. Mix It Up
“I wrote most of the books in scenes, and then went back later and tied the scenes together. It cut out a lot of writer’s block to write whatever part I was most interested in at the time”
— Stephanie Meyer
9. Schedule Writing Time
“I’ve felt reluctant to write on some days, for whole weeks, or sometimes even longer. I’d much rather go fishing, for example, or go sharpen pencils, or go swimming, or what not. But, later, coming back and reading what I have produced, I am unable to detect the difference between what came easily and when I had to sit down and say, “Well, now it’s writing time and now I’ll write.” There’s no difference on paper between the two.”
― Frank Herbert
10. Just do it.
“Writer’s block…a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?”
— Philip Pullman.
Thanks a lot for these 10 great tips! They are really helpful for everyone who writes! I just came across an article at http://articles.abilogic.com/111035/encouraging-frustrated-student-writer.html and found a few other very useful writing tips. Hope you’ll like it!
Love these tips, great help! Sometimes i think i’m writing great and then I keep going because i’m getting excited and want it to continue but then i end up deleting the entire chapter because I end up rushing it too much and it makes no sense. Recently now I have forced myself-even if i want to keep going to stop and put it away for a few days and go back to it. It works!
I have read the details which you have shared here and I will definitely consider these tips as my first choice whenever I write articles or related things. Thank you so much for sharing this and keep continuing to share more and more useful stuffs.