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The Writer's Block & Inspiration Thread

Welcome to the Writer's Block & Inspiration Thread! This sticky aims to help you understand and get over whatever sort of writing "block" you're stuck behind or being crushed under. If you don't have writer's block and just need some inspiration, the advice in this thread will help you with that too. If you have a suggestion to add for helping others break the block or get inspired, by all means share it here!

This thread doesn't give out ideas, and isn't for you to post ideas you need help with.
For that, please use The Think Tank and Idea Box.

As always, please read and obey the rules of and guidelines of this forum. Spam posts will be deleted and the poster warned. And while we like to know you've found this sticky useful, please don't post just to say "thanks!" Go out and put this information to use instead!

  1. Introduction
  2. What is Writer's Block?
  3. Breaking the Block Part 1: Advice, Tips, and Tricks
  4. Breaking the Block Part 2: Quotes From Your Fellow Gaians
  5. Breaking the Block Part 3: Useful Links
What Is Writer's Block?

First of all, this thread isn't a debate about whether or not writer's block does or doesn't exist. If you're reading this, then you probably believe in it and are suffering from it in one form or another. Writer's block can be anything from a simple case of "writer's lazy," where you simply don't feel like writing, up to a frustrating inability to write, period. If you do manage to get anything out, it doesn't sound right, it's dull, dreary...it downright sucks. It's not just a lack of ideas; it's a lack of inspiration.

This brings us to the question of what causes writer's block? It can have many causes, of course, and everyone's trigger is different. For some people, depression can cause a block; for others, they can only write when they're in a funk. Some of the most common reasons for writer's block are depression, illness, stress (from all sorts of things -- relationships, financial stress, etc.), deadlines, a feeling that you're not a good enough writer, or trying to tackle a project that's simply too big and complex. There are plenty of other reasons, of course, but these are the biggest.

Now we come to the final question: how do you get over writer's block? Keep reading in the next post for some answers!
Breaking the Block Part 1

Advice, Tips, and Tricks

Get Out of the House

  • Get out of the house! Go for a walk, a bike ride, or a drive.

  • Go hang out with friends and forget about writing for awhile.

  • Go to the most boring place you can find so you are forced to entertain yourself.

  • Physical activity gets the creative juices flowing. Lift weights, go for a swim, do some gardening.

  • Go fishing.

  • Go outside and watch the clouds.

  • Go on a shopping spree or, if you don't have money, just window shop.

  • Go to the mall and watch people. What might their lives be like? Write about them.

  • Go out once a month and write under the full moon.

  • Sit outside on the porch as a thunderstorm is moving in.

  • Go to a museum.

Take a Break and Relax

  • Have a cup of hot tea, hot chocolate, coffee, or, if you're old enough, a stiff drink.

  • Take a bath or a shower, and change clothes. Give yourself a 'clean' start.

  • Light some candles.

  • Take a nap.

  • Go back and read through old stories that you've written.

  • If you've kept diaries or journals in the past, dig them out and read through them.

  • Talk out loud to yourself.

  • Play a game. Board game, video game, card game, it doesn't matter.

  • See a movie you haven't seen or read a book you haven't read.

  • Mindless chores allow your mind to wander. Do the dishes, do the laundry, clean your room, vacuum, whatever.

  • Turn the lights off and sit in the dark. Put some music on, or just enjoy the quiet.

  • Hold a conversation with a stuffed animal or a pet.

  • Pick up a magazine. You don't even need to read it, just look at the pictures.

  • Try vacuuming your lungs.

Change Your Habits

  • Always keep a notebook with you. This way, if the inspiration strikes it won't get away.

  • If you write on paper, try going out and buying a new notebook or a new pen or pencil.

  • If you always write on paper, try the computer--or vice versa.

  • Write something in a genre you haven't tried before.

  • Start keeping a daily journal.

  • Get into the habit of writing every day. Set a daily word goal, be it 100 or 1,000.

  • Draw, even if you're no good at drawing.

  • If you usually write in the daytime, try writing at night--or vice versa.

  • Try staying up late. Some people find that lack of sleep leads to inspiration in the early morning hours.

  • If you can remember your dreams, draw your inspiration from them. Keep a notebook by your bed so you can write them down right away, before you forget.

  • Listen to music. Depending on how you write, you can either jam to your favorite tunes or find something lyricless--classical music is always good, or game soundtracks.

Do Some Writing Exercises or Write Something Else

  • Freewrite. Sit down in front of your computer and type whatever comes to mind. Cover your screen so you're not worrying about spelling and grammar.

  • Type from your favorite book until you think of something of your own to write.

  • Type up the first page from a book. Now continue the story. When you're done, go edit the beginning so it's entirely yours.

  • Make a "mind map" of the five senses for the present moment. What do you hear? Smell? See? Feel? Taste? Do this in different places.

  • Write about having writer's block.

  • Work on a fanfic until you come up with something original.

  • Think about how someone who is drunk would tell a story, and write the story using that voice--slurs, grammar errors, the works.

  • Read a book. Now, strip it down to the bare plot and imagine how you would have wrote it. (Ex.: A boy finds out he is a wizard and goes off to learn magic / Harry Potter).

  • Find a song with interesting lyrics or one that tells a story, and write about it.

  • Pick a letter of the alphabet and write down the first ten words that come to mind. Now pick the word that seems the most interesting, and write about it for 5-10 minutes straight. Then pick the least interesting word, and do the same.

  • Write something small, like a poem.

  • Get on the internet and go to Google's Image search. Type in the first thing that comes to mind, and look at the pictures that come up. Pick one and write about it.

  • Get a dictionary and open it to a random page. Then close your eyes and put your finger down on the page. Write about that word.

  • Use reverse psychology. If you didn't have writer's block, what would you write about?

  • Find an online writer's forum and join a round-robin story.

  • Join a roleplaying group.

  • Write something silly, something that makes no sense whatsoever.

  • Write a parody of a book or movie you don't like, or MST them.

  • Think about your childhood, and the games you used to play and stories you used to make up with your friends. Write about them.

  • If you find yourself losing interest in the story you're working on, work on something else.

  • Cut up a sheet of paper, write a random word on each piece (or get someone else to write them), put them in a hat and draw one out. Now write about what the word brings to mind.

  • Write about what you're doing at the moment, your pen scratching words on the paper or your fingers tapping away at the keys.

  • Think of what you plan to do tomorrow. Now think of what somebody else might be planning to do tomorrow, and write about that.

Think About Your Story Differently

  • Come up with a new situation for your characters. It doesn’t matter if it has nothing to do with the story you intended them for; sometimes you may be able to work the new scene in somewhere.

  • If you're writing something other than realistic fiction, think about the world your characters are in. Come up with some interesting attributes and customs specific to your world.

  • Think about something interesting you want to happen or that you know is going to happen later in the story. How do you want to get there? What needs to happen? If getting to that point isn't motivation enough, write that scene first. Writing interesting and exciting things will make you excited about the story again.

  • Work on subplots, small things that happen that aren't necessarily related to the overall plot.

  • Play out your story in your head like a movie.

  • Have all your characters hold a meeting in your mind.

  • If you're having trouble writing a sad scene, watch a sad movie or think of something sad and have a good cry before you write.

  • Bounce your plot off other people, be they friends or strangers on an internet forum. A fresh point of view can help you fix possible plot holes and suggest new things.

  • Have a conversation with one of your characters.

  • Type out an interview with one of your characters.

  • Consider a new angle. What would the story be like from the antagonist's perspective? If you're writing in 3rd person, how would it sound in 1st person? If already in 1st, how would it sound in 3rd?

  • Take some time and plot out the next scene in some detail. Now, write it.

  • If you're writing something that takes place in a world you created, draw a map of that world.

  • Pick one of your characters. Describe their appearance and clothing in great detail. What does this reveal about them?

  • Take some index cards. Write one major plot point on each, and lay them out. Now fill in the blanks to connect the major points.

  • Do some research on some aspect of the story. Finding out something you didn't know can give you something to add to the story and spur you on.

  • Pick a random, mundane situation such as untangling Christmas lights. How would your character go about doing it? What does this tell you about the character?

  • Where are your characters at location-wise in the story right now? Describe the setting in detail--if they're inside, describe the décor down to the knickknacks on the mantelpiece. If they're outside, what do the buildings look like, what types of trees and plants are growing there? What does this tell you about the world?

Get Some Motivation

  • Promise yourself a reward. If you finish the chapter, you can have your favorite dessert, go see that new movie, or buy that book or game you want.

  • Imagine your book finished, published, and sitting on the bookstore's shelf--and your royalty check in hand. Inspired now?
Breaking the Block Part 2

Quotes From Your Fellow Gaians

Perfect Imperfection v2.0
The best solution to writers' block, and the one that I always give to people, is to simply keep writing anyways. Even if it's total crap material, you'll get past the area tht's giving you trouble, letting you get your real creativity flowing again. There's a thing called a "first draft" for a reason.

MajKai Nis is the balls
The only "tip" for making writing easier is that you should develop a work ethic and spend a set amount of time with your writing every day. Do more of it, and it'll get easier. It'll rarely just come to you--if ever. You have to reach out and work for it. Quit looking for excuses. Sit down and write; you'll never get anything written if you don't. Period.

I find it really helps to get some ideas flowing if you just start to talk about your story to someone else. Sometimes they'll suggest something that'll make you smack yourself in the face and wonder why you hadn't thought of it yourself. And sometimes just random conversations have triggers that get you out of a slump.

Narumi Misuhara
Sometimes when I get a block on something, being able to see it visually will give me ideas on how to proceed. For example, if writing a scene that involves a battle of some sort and you can't figure out how it should start/progress/end... grab some Lego's, build the scene out, having a 3d perspective can be great for seeing what works, what might work and what flat out wouldn't work. This technique works best for large scenes with a lot going on also great for making sure you keep the description of what is where accurate through the entire scene.

If it's an emotional scene you are blocked on, become a "character actor" Don't just think about what you would do in those situations, try to put yourself in a similar one. For example lets says you just can't grasp how a thief might feel for being caught stealing food for their family, so then at a time when you are really hungry/starving, walk into a convenience store with a journal/notebook. Don't actually steal anything, but go up to whatever your favorite food item is and imagine slipping it in your pocket, your walking out of the store and the clerk calls you out on the theft. How would you feel? Imagine someone close to you a sibling or a parent will die if you can't get this item to them soon, how would you feel then? write these feelings and what you might do down.

Does your character seem out of place in the forest? Spend a day in one! If you can't get to one go to a park with a lot of trees, close your eyes and depending on where you are drown out the sound of cars or better yet imagine traffic as a nearby water source, do this for a few minutes then write down how you felt. At the very least your descriptions of the scene should improve.

The first and most important is to READ OTHER WRITERS WORK. By reading other peoples works and either appreciating them or judging them will give you good ideas and motivation of your own

Lord Tezzy
Other than just being lazy, the only other reason I EVER stop writing is simple: what the hell happens next? It's like getting in a car and not having a map/GPS. Yes, you've got the wheel and the gas pedal, but where to? Poor planning and a lack of knowledge of each individual detail of the plot is probably just as big as being lazy.

Keep away from your work for a couple days (unless it has a due date, then keep away from it as long as you can). Often times writers block comes from being too familiar with it. If you leave it for a few days and then come back to it, you can look at it with fresh eyes and new ideas.

Just write, even if you have no idea what the hell comes next. That's why it's called a ROUGH DRAFT. It's not like a freaking 40-min timed writing where you have to read a piece of text, analyze it, and write about it in relations to the prompt. You get as many chances as you need to make that rough draft better.

Sir Procrastinator
So you have writers block.

Don’t feel down, it’s another stepping stone to creating great work. Writers block from personal experience comes from two sources. Real life has a habit of butting its way into your mind and often without you noticing, you stress. Got that essay due? Got that boy/girl coming over tomorrow and don’t know what to do? These are just two of the examples of common real life problems that create writers block. So by now your reading this and probably said “Well Martin you must be wrong, how does that have anything to do with writing!” well to be honest, allot, but first let’s get to the second. The other source of writers block can come from under-confidence or passion behind your writing.

So as you stare down the barrel of fixing writers block I think everyone should take a page from the surrealist writers back when Dadaism existed. They were labeled automatic writers and they lived to never hit writers block. They would write, not think, not look for inspiration or a source for their words, they would just write.

So now after a history lesson you’re wondering when this annoying little Gaian is going to tell you how to fix it, it’s simple. Grab a piece of paper or open a word document and look into that screen and write. Don’t go back and edit, fix spelling or think about what you’re writing, just write. When you hit 1k words then stop and read it over and by about 400 words you should have connected to your subconscious and see what you wrote.

This is only one weapon in the box of weapons to destroy the writer’s block wall, but no matter what weapon that wall will fall, and as long as you remember that you will be back writing in no time.

My best solution to writers block would be to go outside, get some air, focus on other things, and do something that makes you happy (but don't write!). eventually you will get some very good inspiration. Don't write yet, think about things that could link with that inspiration. When you have thought every little detail through, then you can write.

Personally, when I get a block, I take a short break from the story and work on something else. Even if it's only one day of not working on it, it gives my brain a chance to relax and come up with new ideas (usually without me noticing). Also, just writing short little pieces of the story can help, too, even if it's only one paragraph. It adds a bit more to the story, so that the next time you look at it you have a different place to move on from. I try just pushing through it sometimes, which can work or just put me in a bigger, self-loathing rut because I get it in my head that everything I write is crap. Rereading stuff helps, too - maybe you'll notice a plot point, small detail, or running theme that you forget/never noticed before. It can also just remind you that "Hey, I'm not so awful. Some of this is pretty good."

Writer's block is a funny thing. I don't generally have it cause I don't sit and try to pound out paragraphs a day or anything. I just write when I feel I want to. And when I try to write without feeling inspired or having any ideas, I'll still leave my story open. Maybe find something else stimulating to do. Creativity in general isn't something you force in my opinion. Persistence and effort are rewarded but you can't train your creativity like a dog. You can hone your talents to a fine edge like a blade and use it well but can't command it to do the cutting by itself. And you definitely can't cut anything if its dull. After all, if was that simple we'd all be able to say "Alright, I need something spectacular today. Let's hop to it. Fire it up. Ideas flow!

Cassidy Fury
Usually when I get writer's block, it's because I just went back and reread something with fresh eyes. And while that weakly written scene may seem insignificant, it can attach itself to your creativity and fester, like a dead lamprey.

I usually fix this by taking out the scene and putting it in a separate document with the other weak scenes. This way, I can edit all of them at my leisure, but it tricks my mind into thinking that it's been fixed already, since I can't go back and read the weak scene with the rest of the story again.

Then, if I get stuck somewhere, I just jump to the weak scenes and rewrite one, then put it back in. And suddenly, I can write on the main story again! Ta-daa!

One thing that I have found to be very effective is to write a word or two, fold the piece of paper up, and put it in a box. Then, when I'm stuck, I pull out one of the sheets of paper and read the word or two, then incorporate it into the next sentence. A lot of the time it works, but sometimes I pull out a completely senseless word and I just have to laugh at myself and say, "what the h-e-double-toothpicks was I thinking when I wrote this?" Then I just put it back in the box and pull out another.

chief gunner
Whenever I reach a wall, I grab a journal and go outside. I'll walk to a nearby coffee shop, a park, the mall, or some other destination that isn't my cozy chair in front of my computer. I then sit in my new locale and write. I write off subject from what my previous crash was about. I write about something that I find humorous in my new settings, or about a tragic story that I just read in the newspaper, or something interesting or appealing in some way about a person who passed me by. The point being, it doesn't matter what your new subject is. This new course of action gets your brain and creative juices flowing again. It gives you renewed confidence in your ability to combine words into coherent sentences and those sentences into ideas. Basically, it's my creative way of doing what everyone else seems to be suggesting, in order to get over writer's block, you have to keep on writing.

haku yawane
Well...don't limit yourself on ideas. Write about EVERYTHING! Don't be scared to talk about things that may seem creepy or rebellious. Take all comments to heart, even negative comments, use them to better your writing.

When I get writer's block, be it when writing poetry, short stories, continuing a novel or the like, I tend to gravitate towards spending time with my other hobbies. I find that writing is an outward expression of what is inside each person.

Well I have experienced writer's block before and you know what helped me...draw it out. I know that sounds stupid but it really helps. You might be a horrible drawer but all that matters is expressing your story.I know cheesy. Draw your characters, setting, theme, anything. Now that you put your mind on something else and you turn back to write your story you have a refreshed mind and ideas of how everything looks and you can add more to your story.

Writer's block is best overcome by writing something everyday, even if it's just a page full of "I can't think of anything to write because..." Eventually you'll have written a whole page full of reasons you can't write.

What I always do is find a dictionary, flip it open to a random page, find the most peculiar word on the page, and imagine a situation that completely describes the word. And then morph that situation into your writing.

Writers block is once again as stated before, simply lacking the will to write. much can be done to overcome this. Reviewing others work, reviewing your own and thinking of personal life experiences into the story making it more enjoyable to write and because of this you already have a clear thought on what to write down. A nice calming walk or a nap should get that brain functioning again but its all for non if you just sit there. You gotta get up and do the work too.

A true writer doesn't create the story. The characters do. The author creates the characters. Analyze the people in your story, and lat them figure out what would happen next.

What I generally tend to do when I have writer's block is pretty much just starting reading good books, looking at the storylines, and then comparing those to the one I'm working on. I never steal anything like that, I just read other stuff, until I'm in the mood to go to writing. Another exercise I tend to use is to completely deviate from what I'm writing originally, and start doing something that few people tend to do. I start writing a fantasy setting for my life, and I get rid of the stress behind it by pretty much eliminating everyone, but then again, I write horror/sci-fi/fantasy, so its kind of hard to expect people to do the same.

The best solution to writers block is probably just brainstorming. You never know what ideas might "accidentally" enter your mind. Just get on MS Word or even a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and just put down categories of what you would like to be the subject of your story, and then try doing a time line of say, a book. This is just an way of curing writers block. It doesn't have to turn into a large project.

Akasha Vampyr
When I'm blocked 'cause I can't write, well, I've found that writing in a different language for a while helps. When I can't seem to write a part of the story, I play it out in my head then write it in Spanish. In a couple of days, I know I'll have no problem both translating and making it better.

My tip on getting over writer's block is to map out your story by writing a short summary (about a couple of sentences but it can be more) for each chapter of your story. Start from the beginning all the way to the end. It'll give you a quick run-through as to how your story will flow and will also allow you to see any plot-holes in-between.

Save everything you write; I mean EVERYTHING! I still have the novel I tried to write in fourth grade, all sixty pages. When you feel like your writing sucks, or you don't know what to write, go back and read your old stuff. It will make you feel better about the progress you've made in writing, help you see the areas you struggled with in the past (more than likely you still do, so pay close attention to those areas as you try to figure out why you're having writer's block), and maybe even give you an idea if you're stuck on what should happen next or a character.

This may sound weird, but get a desk. Decorate it with things that inspire you and motivate you to keep writing. Sit down at this desk everyday for a predetermined time and make yourself write. It may be crap but that's OK--revisions are later, for now just get out your story. If you have a place where you go to work, then when you sit down at it, your mind is in work zone. I love my desk and without it, I probably wouldn't be writing as much as I like. And when you're away from your desk--carry around a notebook to jot down ideas or whatever.
Breaking the Block Part 3

Useful Links

Sites About Writer's Block

Writing Exercises and Prompts

Do you have advice to give, or a link we can add? Please, post it in this thread!

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