Weekend Writing Inspiration: 7 Strategies for Beating Writer's Block
April 5, 2019
“How can I find my words and inspiration again when I’ve been blocked?”
There’s some debate in the writing world as to whether or not writer’s block actually exists. I don’t find that conversation useful. If you feel stuck or are unable to write, it’s affecting you; end of story. My goal is to help you past it, back into writing, as soon as possible!
Read today’s article for seven strategies to beat writer’s block and get back into action.
Start here: Where does the block originate?
There are many reasons writers struggle to write. Often blocks originate in our personal lives, whether it’s due to a past creative wound that needs resolving or a current situation that’s impeding our progress. Grief, for example, is a particularly challenging emotion to write through. Burnout is another source of writer’s block.
Other times, creative blocks may stem from writing-specific circumstances. For example, you may be stuck around story decisions or feel hampered by feedback you’ve received. Or, you might be pulled in multiple directions; either unable to choose which story to focus on, or struggling to live up to your own or other’s expectations.
Your prescription for recovering from writer’s block will depend on your specific challenge.
- Healing creative wounds
Writers often suffer from perfectionism and self-doubts tied to specific, painful experiences in our past that surround our creativity and writing. You may find that they are triggered each time you attempt to move past a specific writing stage, such as from research into story development, or story development into writing pages.
If you’re dealing with a creative wound that keeps rearing its ugly head like this, it might be time to work with a coach or therapist who knows how to help you address and resolve the wound enough that it no longer gets in your way.
Another healing and recovery method is to work through the exercises in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
- Recover from burnout
If you’re experiencing burnout—due to writing or personal circumstances—you’ll want to give yourself time and space to recover. Pushing and pushing while you’re burned out won’t help your creativity. The Artist’s Way is a good tool for burnout, as is good, old-fashioned rest, downtime, and vacationing.
While you’re in recovery mode, make sure to decide how or if you’ll write. You may want to take a few days off, write only in a journal for a time, do minimal writing to stay in touch with your screenplay, or only write and minimize all other expectations and demands on your time. The key here is to be 100% clear with your intention, so you don’t end up not writing for months without realizing it. You’ll also want to have a plan to gear back up to your preferred writing schedule once you’re feeling unblocked.
- Use powerful questions to resolve story decisions
If you’re stuck with story decisions, make sure you’re asking the right questions. Just like you’ll want to change the negative questions you ask yourself to positive questions, make sure you’re asking powerful, positive questions about your story too, so your intuitive brain can get to work answering them.
For example, rather than asking something like, “Why can’t I solve this?” put your focus on identifying specific story problems and ask yourself insightful questions to help solve them. When I had a script that felt “off” but I wasn’t 100% sure why, I analyzed it until I understood that I had a character whose actions weren’t grounded well enough, and I was then able to focus on clarifying what was driving him.
- Get help to address plot or story challenges
Sometimes we can’t see what we’re not seeing. All we know is that we feel stuck with a script and we’re not sure where to go with it. Having a conversation with a fellow writer or working with a story coach can help you break through these blocks. Lay out the issues as you see them, ask for feedback, and see what happens.
Sometimes even writing an email to a colleague about what you think the problem is will shake loose new ideas and thinking — before you even send it!
- Make sure you’re working
Oftentimes, writer’s block happens more in our minds than in reality. Resistance takes on a life of its own and tells us that it will be too hard or take too long to write, when in fact, sitting down and engaging with the work is the actual key to getting past the block.
Many writers subscribe to the myth that writing should be easy, but that doesn’t hold up for most of us.
Writing involves wrestling with sticky problems, making decisions, clarifying, structuring, and developing. There’s a lot to it. We have to keep showing up and doing the work, day after day, even when things don’t go well. Persistence is where the breakthroughs happen. The happy accidents of inspiration are the result of regular engagement with writing, not waiting for lightning to strike.
- Remember who’s in charge with feedback
If you receive feedback on a spec script that’s hard to take, don’t let it stop you from writing. Start by giving yourself some time and space to recover from the notes. Once you have emotional distance, objectively study the feedback to select what’s valuable for you and the story. The most important thing to remember is that you are ultimately the decider of what happens in this story and how or if you’ll address the feedback.
If you’re working on assignment, you’re still in an authority role, even if the feedback comes from a higher-up. It’s your role to assess the feedback and come back with your best solutions to address it. And, you’re always in charge of how you respond, too.
- Bust writer’s block with small increments of writing
A last—but powerful—solution for breaking through writer’s block is to write for small increments of time. This is an excellent way to move past procrastination, perfectionism, fear, doubt, and other “regular” writing challenges.
Telling yourself “I only have to write for 15 minutes” can help you muster the energy and courage to write, and once you see how easy it is, you’ll have the evidence you need to keep it up each day. (And yes, you can gradually build up to longer writing increments over time.)
Your Weekend Writer’s Assignment
This weekend, if you’ve been feeling blocked, try sitting down and writing for at least five to 15 minutes. Notice the relief and energy that comes from writing—and savor it. Do it again the next day.
If you’re dealing with a larger sense of feeling blocked, reach out for support from a friend, colleague, coach, mentor or therapist. We all go through difficult writing patches, and the key is to get back to work as soon as possible.
Got Questions You Want Answered?
After working with hundreds of writers over the last seven years, writing coach and Called to Write Founder Jenna Avery has answers for you about how to balance your life and your screenwriting, trust yourself more as writer, fulfill your call to write, and more. Submit your questions to email@example.com or via Jenna’s online form at https://calledtowrite.com/final-draft and she may choose your question to answer anonymously in a future article.
Written by: Jenna AveryJenna Avery is a screenwriter, columnist, and blogger who redesigned her life and career to support her calling to write. She specializes in sci-fi action and space fantasy, and her most recent project is a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story for a Canadian producer. Jenna is also a writing coach and the founder of Called to Write, where she has helped hundreds of writers overcome procrastination, perfectionism, and resistance so they can get their writing onto the page and into the world where it belongs. Jenna writes about writing, creativity, and calling at calledtowrite.com, for ScriptMag, for Final Draft, and teaches for Screenwriter’s University. Download Jenna’s free guidebooks for writers when you join her mailing list at https://www.calledtowrite.com/mailing-list