Seven Tips to Tackle Writer’s Block, written by Brittany Eden
Introduction: Tackle Writer’s Block
I personally don’t believe in writer’s block.
If that is a shock to you, I’m sorry, but I don’t. I believe writing comes from who we
are—somewhere deep inside that’s beautiful and deep and sometimes scary—and if there aren’t words as a result of sitting down and looking at a blank page, I think it’s because the story us storytellers are supposed to explore is hidden. We might, in fact, be hiding ourselves from it, because it may be too difficult. Or, it might be that we’re ignoring the words we should be writing and trying to tell a story others say we should.* But that sounds like a downer, and I’m writing this for you because your story matters!
I believe you have words if you’re meant to tell them. Distractions, on the other hand, are quite real. In our creative minds, or from without. So how can we tap into a flow of creativity and find a way to type it all out? My starting suggestion is this: don’t believe the lie. If there is a reason my creativity feels lacking, or stunted, or struggling, it’s not the fault of the words, it’s that my heart needs attention. We’re wells and our souls need to be filled. So if, after attending to that, you still want some oomph, here’s a list of tricks that have helped me on this creative journey!
Tips to Tackle Writer’s Block
I like to think of myself as the Queen of playlists. My word, I have playlists for
all the story ideas I’m not allowed to write (because time, sigh) and it’s my primary way of creating vibes. For me, I think of playlists as a start to an OST (Original Soundtrack), even as specific as thinking of which songs would play in the credits, which work in the opening montage, which work with what scene, etc. A song might even represent a theme! There’s something really powerful about the connection of music with shows and movies—which I think we all appreciate—and though having music with books isn’t a thing (though in some audio dramas it can be!) there’s something valuable in creating entire story vibes that FEEL different from each other. Even if it might be books within a series! Also, as a perk, I’ve used my playlists for my street team (they get access to my writing playlist) and for pre-order goodies, and in the character lists I sent to my audiobook narrator. All the good things!
2. Music Continued
Here’s the thing about our brains. We like repetition. Now, I’m married to a science-guy (which makes our perspectives on the size and shape of the world vastly different…he’s all literal and I’m all existential/historical/poetic) and he always jokes about Pavlov’s Dog and how certain things switch on in our brains to do the same thing over and over again. I’ve adapted this weird-science-factoid into something head-in-the-clouds me can use. For certain scenes in a manuscript, I have a specific song on repeat while first drafting it. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right song, but once I have it, when I’m editing and proofing the book later, through any number of drafts, I put the SAME SONG on for the SAME SCENE OR CHAPTER. It instantly returns me to the feeling I was aiming for. This is hard to overstate for my current writing life right now, where I’m simultaneously revising a first draft of one story while also looking at a final version of another nearly published story, while also jumping back to a finished and edited (but currently not-contracted) manuscript with random tweaks and ideas. Gracious, at this point when I write email newsletters I also listen to a single song on repeat, depending on my emotions and mood for the letter.*
3. Try Fast Drafting
To me, fast drafting is writing something I can edit. That’s my goal: finish a draft so I have a complete story to start fixing. Obviously, I’m a write and discover the story type person; however, I don’t enter into fast drafting without a plan. First, for quick reference in this process, I write out chapters with their chapter titles (yes, I’m one those too), and make the whole chapter a main heading in the document so I can
see it in the navigation pane. I put a clue or scene setting in brackets beside the chapter heading, and this process allows me to do to my favorite thing: write out of order.
The reason I start with these chapter titles and clues is because then whenever I get inspiration for dialogue, or setting, or anything, I simply write that in the relevant location in the document. Not only do the chapter clues qualify as a sort of plotting (yay me!) they are also a simple way to organize ideas without formatting them or avoid having random notes get lost. And we write quicker when the random idea strikes, so this fast drafting setup allows me that too. But whatever order you do it in, give yourself freedom to write without stopping to google, without plans if necessary, and fly through those chapters to get yourself a first draft without researching the right word or miniate that tend to bog some of us down! Write fast, don’t look back.
4. Watch Your Favorite Movie or TV Series and Take Notes
I have pages upon pages of notes from whenever I watch TV. Anytime I watch anything, I tend to sit there after with a notepad and jot down the most random, gorgeous, atmospheric things that may or may not have a place in any current writing projects but it’s just a place where the inspiration strikes! Once I noticed that happening, I took it a step further. I’ve got scene breakdowns and episode breakdowns and story arcs for a few of my favorite shows and movies, and I’ve tried to use the bare bone facts of the HOW it happens and WHEN it happens really carefully. Not to overemphasize formula, but there are beats and types of scenes that just work. I’ve really enjoyed the process of breaking down what I was initially swept away into. It doesn’t make me appreciate it less, I love it more. Find a cute pen and give it a try!
5. Hone the Pinterest Vice
Because, I love Pinterest. And I’m a vibe person, a mood writer, a lover of stories with swoon and heart-achy tension and funny awkward heart-eye moments and cinematic settings in grand skyfilled expanse or lensflare-small scale. MOOD IS MY THING. Now yes, I could be the worst of offenders in terms of time-to-value ratio of Pinterest use. But when I got focused, and used it as a tool for story, it really started working. When in the throes of first-idea love of a story that hasn’t
got any lines written yet (you know, the ones with that image in your mind of a hesitant threshold, a billowing shirt, a slant of light that will reveal SOMETHING) and you just know you want this story to feel and look a certain way? That’s a great time to do some focused pinteresting! I don’t let myself browse—that’s the time-suck—but rather, I force myself to think of motifs, items, furniture, cities, scenes, actors, movies, landscapes, textures, that make up the aesthetic of what the story feels like while it lies yet untold inside me.
I’ve even made poetry Pinterest boards, boards that are still secret (sorry!) and later,
during book marketing, it’s nice to have a curated board to use as inspiration for making graphics or to share with someone who wants to know what your book is about! (Hearts is a good example) The rule? Less is more. Make them as short as possible. My favorite poetry board is only six images
Now this may sound brokenrecordredundant, but being completely honest here, I
read more than I write. I always have. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you
need to find a great new book.
This may sound crazy, but you know when the inspiration strikes you? When you
get a scrap of dialogue or a snippet of scenery? Well, I get that a lot, but as a mom of three I don’t usually get to decide when to sit down and soak in the vibes and get the words down. I have to wait. I don’t know anyone who loves the idea of waiting, but it’s one of those life things. It’s OKAY to stew and steep and percolate. I’ve come to believe, actually, that my best ideas are the ones I’ve kept waiting the longest. So, to encourage you for those times life or family or work and just things make you wait to do the writing so heavy on your heart, remember that you’re a writer! Your brain never stops and your soul is made for this. You won’t lose it, that feeling. Trust yourself to process and wade through those ideas and when you get a chance to explore them, rest assured your mind has been threading through them, all this time.****
Tips To Tackle Writer’s Block in Closing
So, really Brittany, you ask, what is it like to be a writer? Well, for me, I imagine it’s like being a painter who lovingly puts the same landscape to canvass, over and over. Or it feels like a dancer, moving to a rhythm they decide. Perhaps it’s the work of a photographer, taking endless pictures where no one sees anything of beauty. Or it sounds like the life a musician, who hears symphonies of songs in silence.
Writing is finding words to explain how we see the world. It’s creativity speaking our own language. World words, silent songs, captured beauty, perfect motion, loving strokes.
And you, dear writer, are meant to be heard.
Notes on To Tackle Writer’s Block
*I suggest Allen Arnold’s books as a great place to start if you feel stuck.
**Click here to sign up for my street team to have access to my writing music playlists, which I regularly update
***Click here to see a sneak peek at my seasonal newsletter and how I use Substack
****All these tips I’ve just given, ironically, can also serve to distract. Think of these things as tools, and probably don’t do them all at once. I personally keep my actual, set-aside writing time pretty precious, so I suggest keeping that routine and adding these tips elsewhere.
About the Author
A former Circus dweller, Brittany writes lyrical stories of heart transformation with a timeless, feminine voice.
You can find Brittany drinking tea, reading, and chasing her three kids, usually at the same time. If that fails, you’ll find her writing starcrossed romance with timeless endings or on Instagram as @brittanyedenauthor oversharing pictures of the scenery around her and her husband’s home in Vancouver, Canada, and commenting passionately about C.S. Lewis, K-Dramas, Wonder Woman, Bournville chocolate, and Irish tea.
Brittany’s fascination with Wonderland may have given her the courage to exclusively use a sparkly Cinderella book bag while completing her First Class Honours degree in Greek & Roman Civilization and Political Science at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. She’s travelled to over twenty-five countries and has walked the Great Wall of China in Beijing, the Acropolis in Athens, Table Mountain in Cape Town, and Ipanema in Rio. And she truly once lived in a Circus.
Find out more about her stories at brittanyeden.com and abandon social media pressure by subscribing to her newsletter From Eden To Eternity.
Connect with Brittany
Be sure to “follow” the blog so you never miss a post! Next week, we will be sharing a book spotlight feature. Remember to check out past blog posts here.