“Writer’s block” refers to a “stuck” state, in which the writer just can’t think of anything to write. Is it real? Is it a mental affliction requiring professional treatment? Depends who you ask.
If you think you are experiencing writer’s block, you are. Whether the condition is “real” or not, whatever that means, is irrelevant: you want to write, and you can’t. Here are some ways for you to get past the block; the writing is up to you.
- Copy. Pick a piece of any kind, whether or not it relates to what you are trying to write, and copy it. Keyboard, pen, or pencil, it doesn’t matter. By the time you are less than a page into it, you will have things to say.
- Freewrite. The classical creative writing exercise. Pick a word or a topic, and write for a prescribed period of time–say, 10 minutes. If you have nothing to say, say, “I have nothing to say!” Write gibberish. But do not stop until the 10 minutes have elapsed. If that didn’t break you through, drink a glass of water, and do another 10 minutes.
- As if. Get into a relaxed state, and ask yourself: “What would I write if I were not blocked?” Then write that. Or: “What would I say if I didn’t care?” Or: “What would I write if nobody knew it was me?”
- Force a template. In “Writing with Power,” Peter Elbow suggests picking any framework–say, a barnyard; a battlefield; your body; a factory; a meal–and assigning roles to the parts of what you’re trying to write: “Let’s say the cow is my main protagonist. The cow wants to get milked. What’s the role of the chicken? The goat? The tractor?” And so on. Assign roles, then write with the roles in mind.
- Model a writer you admire. Or one that you hate. How would Charles Dickens write what I’m trying to write? Jane Austen? Arianna Huffington? Rush Limbaugh?
- Read and take notes. This one is more of a tip for warding off writer’s block than for dealing with an attack, but it can work for either. Give yourself some time to read, and take notes about what you read. Keep the notes brief. When you go back to them, they will have the “juice” of your interest.
- Outline. “If I were able to write, what would come first? What would be my conclusion? How would I bring the reader from here to there?” Then outline each heading: “If this is the introduction, what should I say first? What’s the end of the introduction” Two levels should get you to where you can fill in the blanks.