As a writer myself, I can honestly say that I have lost count of the number of times that I have hit the wall called WRITERS BLOCK. No one is exempt from stumbling into that dreaded state of stagnation at some point in their creative process. It happens to everyone.
So, the question is: How do you work your way through the block?
Getting unstuck is a process, but there are lots of great tips that I have found over the years. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Don’t sit there and struggle. Sometimes you need to get up and go for a walk. A change of scenery moves the story line to the back your mind where it can sit and stew for a while. Some of my best breakthroughs came when I set the work aside for a moment and refreshed. (Please note that I said set aside for a moment, not days on end. That will get you nowhere fast.)
- Read back over the last paragraph or the last few sentences you are writing. Reading the section you’re working on again can often help you reorient to the story line and grab the thread you lost.
- If that doesn’t work, another trick is to read the story out loud to yourself. You will find that you got stuck because somewhere back in the section you were writing you went off track. Reading out loud helps you to immerse yourself in the story, and I often find it is easier to identify where you went wrong. Don’t be surprised if while you are reading out loud, you suddenly say, “Wait, what? Why did I do that?” And there you go. You found the spot where you can re-enter your writing flow.
But sometimes, you get really stuck. Like “there is no moving forward because the story line has dissolved completely” kind of stuck. That is a frustrating and hopeless feeling. It can make you question yourself as a writer. But I have found this happens most often not because you are not a good writer, but because you have overlooked a critical step in the writing process – the writing wall. When you get stuck, you have to go back to the writing wall.
Now, I know you’re correcting me in your head, saying, “Um, Bran… Don’t you mean go back to drawing board?” Actually, no. I meant exactly what I said. Go back to the writing wall.
The Writing Wall
Things don’t just happen; they must be planned – especially for writers. When you are a writer, you have to have a place where the story line lives, where the plan is laid out in front of you – a place where you have developed the plot, the characters, even the world of your story. Some people call this an outline. But if you’re highly visual like me, I have found I have to actually see the story in front of me to be able to follow it. That is where my writing wall comes in.
When I am the middle of a project, there is always a stretch of wall in my office or home that is covered in pictures and sticky notes, each carrying a piece of the story line. I color code so I can see the difference between plot, characters, and environment. This is where my story lives. And it is where you will find me standing, hands on my hips and staring hard at colorful pieces of paper, when I get stuck.
Here is how you can create your writing wall:
- Find a clear space of wall that you know won’t be touched by the kids or get in the way. (You can even do this on a white board wall or a chalk wall with different colored markers.)
- Gather together sticky notes (preferably different colors) and create a color-coded system. (ex. blue is for character development)
- Divide the wall into sections and assign the sections according to your story line, then starting adding important information on sticky notes to the different sections, creating a flow.
- You can even add inspirational pictures you find to the wall.
- The writing wall will build and grow as your story builds and grows. Keep going back to the wall to update it.
Here is a great example of a writing wall:
Oprah Winfrey once said, “If you can see it, and believe it, it is a lot easier to achieve it.” Keep the story in front of you where you can see it… always. When you get lost, go back to it and re-center. When you get stuck in the midst of writers block, stand in front of your writing wall with your hands on your hips and remember… you got this. You just need to see it, believe it, and then you can achieve it.