Three Ways to Overcome Writer's Block
Writer’s block. It’s happened to all of us. Either the mind lacks ideas and thoughts or we know what to write but the words refuse to spill onto the page. Eventually staring at the blank computer screen becomes a literary art form.
How often have we been told to walk away from the project for a while? That way when we view our work with fresh eyes the ideas will be clearer. Taking a break is ideal, especially for occupational health and safety purposes but how can we utilise this break to stimulate our creative thinking?
All writers need inspiration because it’s the writing way of life. These three inspirational sources are a good start for any writer regardless of their chosen genre.
Whether it’s your friend with an amusing anecdote, the grandparent with same story syndrome, a grumpy customer complaining to bored shop assistants, a commuter on the train with a distinct smell, or a chatty colleague – people can have a creative effect on writers.
They can inspire factors of character development such as dialogue, physical features, mannerisms, clothing, and/or accessories. People can also contribute to our imagination regarding the formation of plot structure and establishing points of conflict.
As a form of observational research why not try people watching? With your trusty pen and notebook (what writer doesn’t have these?) visit a shopping centre, a restaurant or café. Have a seat in a prime location and make note of what you, well…observe. Notice how people speak, what they wear, and how they interact with others.
If you’re basing a character on someone from a different cultural or ethnic background, observational research is ideal for you to learn about certain aspects that would form their character development.
As part of your observations, you may want to try eavesdropping on a conversation to learn more about convincing dialogue. Do this carefully though and resist the urge to record this onto a device (as this is illegal).
Once you’re finished, you could write a text based on the observational research you’ve done. Whether you choose to include this into your story is entirely up to you. Remember you don’t have to base your character on one person, you could always take elements from three or four people to create that one character.
We pass by different places all the time: different rooms at home, different offices at work, outdoor places like parks, gardens, and beaches, indoor places like eateries, bookshops and writers centres. The aim of a particular place is to inspire setting whether it’s for a scene or the whole story.
Inspiring places can also include the cities or countries you’ve lived in. Have a think about what these places meant to you. What was the atmosphere like in that particular city or country? Was there a particular landmark that you felt a connection to? Did you have an eventful road trip?
As with people, travel can have the same creative impact on writers. Interstate or overseas travel can inspire the narrative for a story’s setting. Just to get your pen moving or keep your fingers on the keys, think about the exciting places you’ve visited and how these experiences could be enhanced to suit the context. Have you ever been to a cabaret show at Dracula’s in Melbourne? Had lunch at Hard Rock Café in Sydney? Visited the Gold Coast during schoolies week? Enjoyed the sunshine with a cocktail on the top desk of a cruise ship? Have you been to Europe in winter?
Places are integral when it comes to setting because they can be a focal point of conflict. Is there a place a character can’t or shouldn’t visit because of a traumatic event? Is this a place where they finally realised the consequences of their actions? Are they having a dreaded family reunion? Do they intend to execute their plans for revenge?
If you’re planning on travelling anytime soon, don’t forget to take your laptop or notebook with you. Holidays are a wonderful break from reality but the left brain thrives on subconscious creativity.
Music is thought provoking. It has the ability to help us conjure up mental images of how we want our narrative to progress, the emotion of our characters, the development of a crucial scene, and character features such as their employment, hobbies or interests.
Have you seen Something’s Gotta Give? Well for the uninitiated, there are scenes where playwright, Erica Barry (played by Diane Keaton) is listening to French music to inspire her scriptwriting. I’m mentioning this because it is an example of how a writer uses specific music to tailor their creativity.
Listening to our favourite music can be helpful to us; however listening to different musical genres can be more beneficial. If you really want to flesh out the denouement in your narrative; music can assist you with setting the tone and constructing the plot circumstances.
When drafting a crucial scene in your story, consider what background music would be applicable. For instance a ballad may suit a scene where characters break up or a character’s passing away. Classical music may enhance a character’s emotional journey. Rock music may be the ideal for a scene involving external conflict.
Whether you try these suggestions or find some other sources for inspiration; if it ends with you picking up your pen or typing on the keyboard then you know you’ve overcome your writer’s block.