Athens State Writing Blog

Breaking Through Writer’s Block

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All writers encounter it from time to time, they sit mindlessly in front of the keyboard or at the table with pencil in hand waiting for the next word to pop into the forefront of a jumbled mass of what they are sure is absolutely beautiful prose.  If only they could unlock it.

Writer’s Block. 

Some even doubt its existence, Stephen King and my former English 102 professor to name just a few, but for many writers, academic and creative alike, the next bout of writer’s block could be lurking just around the next sentence.

So what does a writer do when it seems that the words aren’t flowing as they should?   There are plenty of experts on the subject, and just typing in the keywords “writer’s block” into a browser search will garner a list of hundreds of articles on the subject with causes and tips and the like.

Here are 5 tips  that I particularly find helpful for breaking through writer’s block:

  1.  Clear the decks.  If there is clutter around you, there will be clutter in you, and it will make the words stop.  If there is extra stuff around to distract you, then you will be distracted.
  2. Write anyway.   Even if it isn’t what you want to write.  I have noticed that if I really want to write,  but don’t have a clear path or idea,  if I write down  every sentence and word that comes to mind,  I eventually find a phrase or a sentence that gives me another idea that I can build on.  This works for me in academic writing as well.
  3. For creative writing, keep a notebook near you at all times.   This way you can jot good ideas down when you have them, and then revisit them when you have more time to flesh them out.
  4. If you just can’t make the words come, read something.  Read a chapter in your favorite book. Go back over your research.  Outline your work.  Do something to keep your mind on the creative process instead of it wandering onto useless tasks (Facebook for me).  Use your journal for notes or ideas you take away from your reading.  These can be great project starters down the road.
  5. Walk Away.  Sometimes you just need a break.  Walking away from a project or an idea and working on something else for a period of time may help you return to the project with a renewed focus.

Following is a poem I wrote in 2012 after a bout of writer’s block.  During this time, I was feeling creative, but I didn’t have any idea of what I wanted to write about.   I just started writing the words that came to mind (as in step 2), and after a few minutes I was thinking about the actual process of what I was doing, and that is when the idea for this poem came to me.

This is the only poem I have ever published, and I was honored to win 2nd place with it in the 2013 Sigma Kappa Delta National Writing Contest.  This poem appears in two different publications: the 2013 Muse and  the 2013 Hedera Helix.   Sometimes writer’s block pays off.

 

Writer’s Block

By: Bridgette Pylant

Wrenching. Tugging. Pulling.

Turning and Swirling.

I reach into my throat.

I dig around in my mind

searching for the words

that should come easily,

but. . .

they don’t.

Exasperated.

The need goes unquenched

The drive is suppressed.

The want to create grows and festers.

Excuses like poison

Fill the gap.

This or that,

Seeping into the spaces

Where words should grow.

Then. . .

A Flash! A Start!

A phrase, and a turn.

A thought.

The gate opens,

and it is not work.

It is free!

It is simile and metaphor.

It is alluring alliteration and allusions

And it is glorious.

It is peace.

It is comfort.

It is release.

The jumble unwinds.

The muscles relax.

The tension is gone.

Until.      Next.   Time.

 

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