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One of the greatest challenges a writer can face is Writer’s Block. The paralyzing inability to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard in order to move a story forward. It happens to every writer, the key is to identify the cause, pick a strategy to overcome the block and get back on track. The first step is simple – don’t panic.

There are two main reasons we succumb to writer’s block, fear and perfectionism. The act of writing is a vulnerable pursuit. Writers commit their thoughts and feelings to concrete form then send them out into the world to be discussed and critiqued. Fear of failing this critique often stops writers from starting their work.

Perfectionism is succumbing to our inner critic. We feel we can protect ourselves from criticism by making the work perfect and above reproach. We set our standards so high that we become caught in the search for the perfect word, the perfect sentence, the perfect plot point. It is a futile quest whose only outcome is keeping us stalled and afraid to move forward with our writing.
There are many ways to work through writer’s block. Every writer should have a toolbox ready with their favorite methods of breaking the block. Here are a few to try.

Change your environment.
If you usually write in your studio or living room try moving to a coffee shop or a library. A distraction in one environment may be gone in another. A new work space may provide fresh elements of inspiration that will spark your creativity and move you past your block.

Practice freewriting.
Pick something completely different to write about. Allow yourself to free associate and use stream of consciousness. Taking away the restraints you have placed on yourself will bring to light images and concepts stuck deep in your subconscious. This will bypass your inner editor and provide a path around your block.

Jumpstart your muse.
Don’t wait for inspiration. If you are stuck on a scene try writing about a character’s backstory. If you are having trouble with dialogue try writing about a character’s goals and the obstacles he or she has to overcome. Tackling the elements around the problem that has you blocked will often give you new insight into why you are having trouble at that point in your story.

Carry something to record your thoughts.
Carry a notebook, voice recorder or phone app to record your thoughts when you are away from you writing space. The pressure of performing is lessened when you are not at your desk. Your subconscious is always working to untangle the narrative knots that may have you stalled. The answers to your writing problems will come, but they may come at any time and you must be ready to record them for when you are back in your work space.

Use a different writing tool.
If you work on a keyboard switch to a pen. Change the interface you use to translate your ideas into words. Manipulating the method used to write can alter the way your ideas form or can combine ideas into new concepts. A new writing tool can lead to fresh inspiration through the simple act of changing the physical process of writing.

Commit to Rewriting.
Don’t try to make it perfect. Chasing that unattainable goal is a waste of time and effort. Rather commit to rewriting. Accept that your first draft will be bad, but also know that your second will be better and your third draft will be better still. It is easier to build work layer by layer that to create it perfectly in one draft. Writing is rewriting and accepting this as a plan of action will obliterate writer’s block.

Every writer suffers from writer’s block at some point in their career. Famous authors that have struggled with this problem include Maya Angelou, George R.R. Martin and F. Scott Fitzgerald. They all suffered from but ultimately conquered their writer’s block. Try these steps and find the ones that work for you.

by Kurt van Aswegen

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INT. APARTMENT – DAY

THEO: If you had a million monkeys, on a million typewriters for a million years, eventually you’d get the collected works of Shakespeare.

RUNT: But…we don’t have any monkeys.

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