There are two kind of writer’s block which need to be tackled with different strategies. Let’s look at each kind, and how to try to fix them.
The first kind of writer’s block – and by far the most common – is laziness and procrastination. We’re not actually “blocked” – we just can’t be bothered. And being writers, we’re imaginative enough to come up with every excuse under the sun. We’re stressed. We’re “lacking inspiration”. We have “too much time on our hands”.
We all know they’re just excuses. But humans are innately lazy.
So how can you get past it?
One strategy to try is “one word per day”. That’s all you have to write. One word.
Mathematically that means you’ll take over a century to pump out a fifty-thousand-word novel. But obviously that’s missing the trick. Once you’ve made yourself sit down at your keyboard and open up your draft – just to write down “the” or “she” and increase your word count by plus one – the chances are you’ll write a lot more. 150 words a day gets you a novel a year.
Another strategy is to write for a set amount of time, and down tools the second the clock strikes. Even if you’re in the middle of a sentence, or half-way through a scene, you stop. The idea is that the itch to complete it will get you back at your desk the next day.
Finally you can try bribing yourself with chocolate or a similar treat. It still takes willpower.
Now onto the second kind of writer’s block: when you’re genuinely stumped.
When it comes to tricky plot points, I find that talking it through with other writers often helps. So does going for a walk but not listening to music, so your mind gets bored and starts becoming inventive.
You may find that working very late at night – past midnight – can accelerate creativity. The problem here is physical fatigue. Maybe try it when you don’t need to get up early the next morning.
Another tool is story dice – you can get virtual ones, like these. Roll them, and write any sentence that springs to mind. For example, I once rolled an aeroplane symbol and wrote a line about a plane flying across the sky. I later deleted it, but at the time it was enough to get the ball rolling again and the characters talking.
Many of us are thrown off our routines right now. We can’t sit and write in favourite cafés any more, we may be juggling remote work and home-schooling. It’s challenging. But just 150 words a day – or a thousand words a week – and your book will be written by this time next year.