How to Beat Writer's Block and Make Your Writing More Creative

How to Beat Writer's Block and Make Your Writing More Creative

The only way to become more creative is to force yourself to do it. It's like starting a fitness routine: You'll loathe it at first, but eventually, flexing your creative muscle will feel good. You'll also be able to use it more easily in your regular writing; your voice will become more distinctive, and your choice of topics broader.

Beat writer's block and become more creativeImage: photosteve101 via Flickr Creative Commons

Whenever writing becomes a chore and I feel like my recent work rates a "meh-plus," I mix and match these techniques.

1. Read More.

Read blogs you like; read blogs you've never read before. Seek out award-winning writers and see if you can spot what made them worthy. Read a lot of fiction. Making something up out of whole cloth is hard, so fiction writers tend to use more writing techniques. You can borrow those tools. Pay attention to your response, to what affects you. You're refining your palate for the English language, and you need to discover—and understand—what you like.

2. Write "Morning Pages."

Wake up, clamber out of bed, and just write without thinking or stopping until you fill three pages of paper (about 750 words on a screen). What you produce will be astonishing nonsense, but it will create a habit, and give you the sense that writing is your first priority. Getting things off your mind and out on paper is also an emotional release, which can put you in a creative mood.

3. Find Time for Daily Writing Exercises.

Try writing with constraints. If I ask you to write anything at all, you might draw a blank. But if I tell you to write 100 words about last night's lasagna and give you the 50 commonly used food words to NOT use and say, "Oh, by the way, you can't use the word 'Italian-American,'" your puzzle-solving human brain will go, "Oooh, a challenge!" And you might start out with, "My lasagna has more in common with Naples, Florida, than Naples, Italy." (That isn't optimal, because lasagna is from Bologna, but it's unique and specific.)

Check out the prompts at the NaBloPoMo archives and at The Daily Post, and tackle one a day.

4. Try Writing for the Music.

Read your writing out loud. Read other people's writing out loud, especially poetry, since poets are the musicians of language. Play matchmaker with words based on how they sound together.

Pay attention to conversations. You'll find turns of phrase to "borrow creatively," and develop an ear for voices. Once you don't feel silly writing in other voices, you can hurdle a writer's block by simply pretending you're someone else.

You'll also get a feel for "beats" in dialogue, the natural pauses in a conversation and what their timing commonly means, which will help you craft your own dialogue. Is the rhythm really fast, rat-a-tat-tat? They're in a '30s movie, or hepped up on caffeine or cocaine. Single words with long silences? Communication is not going well. Maybe they're cavemen, or sullen teenagers, or refusing to cooperate with the cops.

By seeing what these beats have in common, and writing for the rhythm and music instead of for the meaning, you'll expand your style and gain emotional insight at the same time.

5. Take Notes Everywhere.

Get your ideas down, even if they suck. Have a pen and paper with you always, or get okay with the notepad or voice recorder on your phone. At the very least, it makes you feel writerly and creative … and what if that passing thought turned out to be the making of your career?

6. Look Over Your Notes From Time to Time.

Consider your notes a "swipe file" to search for usable ideas later on. You can also use your notes and exercises to find patterns in your writing style to develop, as well as stale patterns to watch for.

7. Don't Judge. Seriously.

It's not about the pearls; it's about the process. Developing a creativity habit is a series of exercises in stretching your boundaries. Once you've limbered up, you're ready to go out and write something to be proud of.

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