Cracking the Writer’s Block 2: Quick Tips

So you are a writer with lots of ideas, but don’t know where to start. Or you have no ideas, with the same result. What do you do? Here are a few simple ideas to get you going.

Read lots of stuff, especially

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in the area you want to write about. But also read broadly outside your target topic or your area of expertise. You might be surprised at how stimulating this will be. Write down relevant ideas or quotes, even if they seem only loosely related to your work.

Keep an idea file. Always carry a small notebook or a smart phone with a note-taking app so you can put things down right away. Ideas can come to mind at any time–while talking to someone, watching a movie, taking a walk. Write down anything that could be developed later–a character’s name or a piece of her back story, an illustration for a point in an article, a news item or a vivid descriptive phrase.

I have an idea file for potential blog posts. Each idea is just a sentence or a phrase. When I’m not sure what to do next, I go back to it and look for something that I might now be ready to develop.

Take notes on anything and everything. Just to get words flowing again, pay attention to what you see, hear and smell as you travel, commute, go to the store, or work in the yard. Stop and write down every detail you can. Go to park, a mall, a busy street or a college campus to people watch. Write snatches of conversation, what people are wearing, odors you notice, architectural details, everything. Again, just write even if it’s not related to the project you are working on to get you in the pattern of once more putting words down.

Copy the greats. If all else fails,

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pull out Shakespeare or Austen or Steinbeck or Achebe or any other favorite, and literally start writing or typing their words exactly as you read them. The act of writing itself (even if the words are someone else’s) can stimulate your own writing. By being attentive to style and vocabulary, you can even improve your own writing.

Like many composers, Beethoven kept a sketchbook of musical themes and ideas. In one he actually copied a portion of Mozart’s 40th Symphony, which he used as inspiration in the third movement of his Fifth Symphony. If the exercise of copying is good enough for Beethoven, it should be good enough for us.

Get some rest. Take a break. Do something else. Do something different than the normal if you can. Take a vacation. Or at least take a week or month away from writing or researching for your writing. If you normally sit at a desk, do something very physical or vice versa. Get in a totally different environment like the countryside if you are a city dweller or the reverse. Even if only for a weekend.

Why? Because doing so gives our subconscious time to work on things while our consciousness focuses on other things. As I said here, creativity comes when we give our minds a chance to change direction. When we are so locked into one kind of task, the rest of our brain doesn’t have a chance to contribute. But when we stop, new ways of thinking can emerge.

These are great tips and you want more? Well, you need go no further than the next installment–Cracking the Writer’s Block 3: Playing Balderdash.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

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