Every writer has experienced the frustration of writer’s block at some point in their careers. The feeling of staring at a blank screen, unable to come up with anything worth writing, this can be overwhelming. However, there are tools and techniques available that can help you overcome this roadblock and get your writing flowing again. From dice, AI and websites to tried-and-true writing exercises, this comprehensive guide will provide you with the tools to conquer writer’s block and write your next masterpiece.
Another key thing to think about when we creatives think about writer’s block is our mindset and programming. A plumber can’t have a dry plumbing spell. Or a chef can’t rock up to work and say, “Hey guys, sorry, I can’t cook the chicken today, I have no creative cooking flow today”. See your writing as a professional endeavour, as a job (we may not be making the big money just yet, but with persistence, I sure hope it will come), and as such you sit down and you write every day, creative flow or not and you work hard to improve your skills. Some days I write two thousand words effortlessly, other days it’s hard to get 200 down. But every day I make it happen. We must change our mindset. It is too easy to say, “it just isn’t flowing today,” use the tools in this article to conquer writer’s block and let’s make our dreams come true. All you need is a willingness to brainstorm, your favourite writing tool (Words, Google docs, Atticus, Notes app) your laptop or just a trusty old pen and paper. Let’s get creating.
Tools for Conquering Writer’s Block
1: Writing Prompts
Writing prompts are a great way to get your creative juices flowing when you’re feeling stuck. These prompts can be found in abundance online and they come in many different forms, from word lists and prompts to open-ended questions and story starters.
Writing prompts can make you see the world in a new light, or in a way you’ve never imagined. Benefits of writing prompts.
1: Put your thoughts down on paper. Rather than agonizing over what to write about, writing prompts give you a subject to write about straight away. Allowing you to by pass the thinking and get your pen to paper.
2: Repetition leads to excellence or perfect practice makes perfect, or steel sharpens steel etc: Writing prompts assist you in honing your writing abilities. This practice will make it simpler for you to begin writing and will show you how to write more expansively. We are what we repeatedly do. Write often, forcing yourself to be creative, and soon it will be the norm.
3: Boost your imagination. Writing prompts can help you gain a different or new perspective of the world, of your writing, your characters, your story. They can spark an idea or give you a new perspective, an angle that you had never thought of before.
Writing Prompts Resources
- Create your own set of cards, with random prompts loosely related to your story, characters, world etc. When you’re stuck, grab a card and set a limit of 100 words and start writing. The limit is just there to trick your mind, because even with writer’s block anyone can write 100 words, but when you start, that 100 may turn into a few thousands and then you are back in the game.
- Sudowrite (Paid) – AI software that will generate infinite writing prompts for you. https://www.sudowrite.com/
- ChatGPT (Free)- AI software that will generate infinite writing prompts. Example generated by AI. https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt/
- Write a story about a character who discovers a mysterious object that changes their life.
- Imagine a world where animals can talk. Write a story about a conversation between two unlikely friends.
- Write a story that starts with the line, “The last thing I remember is the sound of the door closing.”
- Write a poem about the feeling of being lost in a crowd.
- Imagine a future where robots have taken over the world. Write a story about a human who must navigate this new world.
- Write a story about a character who must choose between two paths that will change their life forever.
- Write a story about a character who can travel back in time, but only for one minute at a time.
- Write a story that starts with the line, “I never expected to find what I found in the attic.”
- Imagine a world where dreams become reality. Write a story about a character who must navigate this world.
- Write a story about a character who must find the courage to face their biggest fear.
- Writing Prompt Generators – Pick your Genre and let it do its magic. https://www.servicescape.com/writing-prompt-generator
- Dice – Story Cubes are an excellent way to spur imagination – More below. https://www.storycubes.com/en/
2: Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a powerful tool for breaking through writer’s block. This technique involves creating a visual map of your ideas and thoughts, which can help you see connections and patterns that you might not have otherwise noticed. Created by the legendary Tony Buzan, his books on Mind maps are an excellent resource for understanding and taking this tool to its limits. Simple yet super powerful.
Mind mapping is a visual way to brainstorm and organize ideas. Here are the steps to mind map:
Choose a central topic: Choose a topic or theme that you want to explore through mind mapping. This will be the central focus of your mind map.
Draw a central image: Draw a central image that represents your topic. This could be a picture, symbol, or word. Stick men art, no need for Davinci level art.
Add branches: From the central image, add branches or lines that represent main ideas or sub-topics related to the central topic.
Add keywords: On each branch, add keywords or short phrases that represent the main idea or sub-topic.
Connect ideas: Connect related ideas or sub-topics by drawing additional branches or lines.
Add details: Add details, such as images, notes, or symbols, to further explain the ideas or sub-topics.
Review and refine: Review your mind map and make any necessary changes. Refine the mind map by adding or removing branches, keywords, or details as needed.
By following these steps, you can create a mind map that effectively captures and organizes your thoughts and ideas. Mind mapping is a great way to overcome writer’s block and get your creative juices flowing.
Mind Mapping Resources
- https://tonybuzan.com/ – For everything mind maps including books.
- https://www.canva.com/ – For white boards and mind maps – Free Account.
- https://app.mindmup.com/ – Free, easy Zero-Friction mind mapping.
- Pen and Paper and colouring pens for added detail.
3: Free Writing or Sprints
Free writing is a simple and effective way to conquer writer’s block. All you need to do is set a timer for a specified amount of time (10-15 minutes is a good starting point) and write down anything and everything that comes to mind, without worrying about grammar, spelling, or structure. This is sometimes called sprints. Writing sprints and Word Sprints is a brief outpouring of concentrated writing, performed under a time restraint for motivational and productivity purposes. Five-minute Sprints to 30-minute sprints the option is yours. These writing sprints can be done alone or with a group or team.
Free Writing or Sprints Resources
- Pen, Paper and Clock.
- Sprint Journal – I created a sprint journal as a place to keepsake, safeguard and use as a powerful tool to unleash ideas and creativity.
4: Writing Software
There are many writing software programs available that can help writers overcome writer’s block. From apps like Scrivener, Atticus, Word these tools offer a space where you can outline and draft ideas, as well as put into practice the resources like writing prompts and exercises. Sometimes writer’s block arises from an overload of information. For example, when I was 160,000 words into my first epic fantasy novel, I knew that I had to bring the story to its conclusion. However, there were many ideas, plots, characters etc that I was struggling to marry up. This produced writer’s block. However, when I began mapping out the ideas and structuring the ideas better, pathways through the stories became clear. A good writing software like Scrivener or Atticus will help you manage vast projects like a first draft, or writing a novel. In addition to the writing software, you can use Google Docs, Google Sheets, Excel etc. to organise and navigate your work. I always create a large Google sheet with the chapter headings, the names of the characters in that chapter, their location, the story arcs, plots etc and how they connect to later chapters etc. This makes navigating 150,000 plus words so much more manageable, keeping writer’s block at bay. JKR is a famous author that uses this method to organise her work.
By incorporating visualisation into your writing process, you can overcome writer’s block and generate new ideas, helping you produce more compelling and creative work. Here are some ways visualisation can help alleviate writer’s block:
- Mind Mapping: Visualize the main ideas and sub-points you want to include in your writing and create a map or diagram to see the structure.
- Setting Visualization: Imagine and describe the scene, setting, and characters in detail, this can help you better understand the story world and increase inspiration.
- Character Visualization: Create a visual representation of your characters, including their physical appearance, personality traits, and motivations, which can make it easier to write about them.
- Writing Prompts: Use visual prompts, such as pictures, videos, or graphics, to spark new ideas and provide inspiration for writing.
- Emotion Visualization: Imagine how your characters are feeling, what their body language and facial expressions are, and describe it in detail to add depth to your writing.
- Google Images
- MidJourney and other AI art generators.
6: AI Writing Tools To Help
Yes, AI can be used to alleviate writer’s block. AI-powered writing tools can help generate new ideas, provide inspiration, assist with research, create artwork, characters and offer feedback on writing. For example, AI-powered writing prompts, story idea generators, and text completion algorithms can help overcome writer’s block and spark new ideas. Additionally, AI-powered grammar and spell checkers, sentence completers, and text generators can speed up the writing process and reduce frustration. However, it is important to remember that AI tools should be used as a supplement to, not a replacement for, the writer’s own creative process.
Here are some ways AI can help alleviate writer’s block:
- AI Writing Assistance: AI tools such as grammar and spell checkers, sentence completers, and text generators can help speed up the writing process and reduce frustration. Check out Linguix
- AI Inspiration Generators: AI-powered writing prompts, story idea generators, and character name generators can help you overcome writer’s block and spark new ideas. https://www.sudowrite.com/
- AI-Powered Research: AI can assist with research by aggregating data, generating summaries, and finding relevant information quickly, saving time and freeing up brainpower for more creative tasks.
- AI-Assisted Plot Development: AI algorithms can analyze stories, identify patterns, and generate new ideas for plot twists, character arcs, and endings.
- AI Writing Partners: Some AI tools, like AI writing coaches or writing companions, use natural language processing to provide personalized feedback and suggestions, helping you improve your writing and overcome writer’s block.
By using AI as a writing aid, you can overcome obstacles, generate new ideas, and improve your writing process, leading to more productive and creative writing sessions.
Below is an example of how AI can summarise a film or book, to give you ideas and insight whilst doing research to help beat the block. I asked for a summary and plot points of Conan The Barbaria using Chat GTP
“Conan the Barbarian” (1982) is an action-adventure film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular character. The story follows Conan, a barbarian warrior who seeks revenge against the warlord who killed his parents and enslaved him as a child.
Conan’s family are killed.
Introduction of Conan as a slave in a chain gang, where he learns about the evil sorcerer Thulsa Doom.
Conan’s escape from slavery and training as a warrior.
Conan’s quest for revenge against Thulsa Doom, who has taken over the world with his army of followers.
Conan’s encounters with various characters, including a thief, a wizard, and a warrior princess, who aid him in his quest.
The final battle between Conan and Thulsa Doom, where Conan defeats the sorcerer and reclaims his rightful place as king.
Throughout the film, Conan faces many challenges and battles, using his strength and cunning to overcome his enemies and fulfill his quest for revenge. The film is known for its sword-and-sorcery themes, epic battles, and Schwarzenegger’s iconic performance as Conan.
- Sudowrite (Paid) – AI writing software that will generate infinite writing prompts, brainstorm ideas, give Beta Feedback and more.
- ChatGPT (Free)- AI writing software that will generate anything you want, great for inspiration, research, summarising and more.
- MidJourney (Paid) – AI Art generator for visualising landscapes, characters, weather, fantasy worlds and more.
Story Cubes is the main brand in this space and my personal favourite. I have four separate sets of Story Cube dice. When I am stuck, I select the dice and roll. I currently have the Actions, Astro, Fantasia and Primal sets which are all invaluable to my scifi/ fantasy novels. When in doubt, or when the writer’s block hits, just roll and the random fall of the dice will create magic in your mind. Like mini imagination fire starters. I have written entire short stories based off these dice and have found them great when working with my nieces and nephews to spark their imagination at story time.
Art inspires, and bashes open the doors of curiosity. Whatever your genre of writing, find the leaders in your field as well as the up and coming artist. Explore their artwork, find the artist that resonate with you. I have a folder on my computer that is for all intensive purposes an inspirational portal. It has sub-folders with landscapes (mountains, deserts, forests), castles, forts, animals, ancient cultures, portraits and more. I use this as a reference when the words escape me. Google’s image search is another fantastic tool for artistic inspiration. AI generated art is another avenue. Be inspired then keep on writing.
Example: AI generated castle for my book.
For some music is the great door that opens up the creative mind. In my book The Silence In The Song, the main character Arran is a Gavod, a nomadic traveller who’s culture is famous for throat singing and trading. When I am writing a chapter that has Gavodeon themes or characters I put on a playlist I made of throat singing from in and around the Steppes. Music has an ability to transport us into another realm. YouTube is a great place where you can quickly build playlist to inspire the different characters, locations, setting etc in your book and then refer to these sound libraries when you need some inspiration to get back on track.
11: Take A Hard Left
I remember many years ago being told by a lecturer to “take a hard left”, they were saying, “make it fun”, “make it interesting again”. Writer’s block often arises when the story becomes predictable, stagnant, safe, lost etc. Take a hard left, kill the character, have someone attacked, have a bridge collapse, their money run dry, do the opposite of what you were thinking, create a problem that you and the story has to solve. Remember the purpose of the hard left is to get you writing again, for or intensive purposes the actions written do not have to stay in the story, they most probably will, but it is just to get you writing again.
12: Automatic Hand
Spiritual communities have long used automatic writing as a method of accessing divine inspiration and understanding. This practice is often conducted during meditation, in which the practitioner relaxes the body and mind to allow for messages from higher realms to be communicated. During this process, the person may experience a shift in consciousness and begin to write without any premeditated thought or direction. The words that appear on paper are said to come directly from spirit guides, deities, or other entities. While some people use automatic writing for entertainment, others take it seriously and use it as a form of spiritual healing or as a tool for personal growth. Regardless of why someone chooses to engage in this activity, it can be an incredibly powerful form of communication with the unseen realms. Those unseen realms could be your unconscious creative powerhouse. So sit back relax, put on your favourite meditation YT video, enter the emptiness and just let the words begin to flow. It may be gibberish, it may be gold, it may just be the spark you need to get back into your writing groove.
Additional Techniques to Help Conquer Writer’s Block
Take a Break
Sometimes, the best way to conquer writer’s block is to step away from your computer and take a break. Go for a walk, a run, do some yoga, some breathing, or simply relax. But make sure your break has a time limit. Don’t be off watching the entire back catalogue The Simson’s ahhahah. When you come back to your writing, you may find that you have a fresh perspective and are ready to dive back in.
Reading can be a great source of inspiration when you’re feeling stuck. Whether you’re reading books, articles, or other writers’ work, immersing yourself in someone else’s writing can help get your own creative juices flowing again. Again set a time limit, the key is to get back to writing!
Change Your Environment
If you’re feeling particularly stuck, try changing your environment. This could mean working from a different room in your house, going to a coffee shop, or even working outside. Sometimes, a change of scenery can be just what you need to get your writing flowing again. Personally, I find the 30 minute lunch break at work a great place to inspire me.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is writer’s block?
Writer’s block is the feeling of being unable to write or create, despite having a desire to do so. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, burnout, and lack of inspiration.
How long does writer’s block usually last?
The duration of writer’s block can vary greatly from person to person. Some writers may experience it for a few hours, while others may struggle for weeks or even months. The key is to take steps to overcome it.
Can writer’s block be prevented?
While it’s not possible to prevent writer’s block entirely, there are steps you can take to minimize its impact. For example, maintaining a healthy writing routine, setting aside dedicated time for writing, and using tools and techniques to overcome writer’s block when it occurs.
Writer’s block can be a frustrating and disheartening experience, but it doesn’t have to be. By utilising the tools and techniques outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can conquer writer’s block and get back to writing with confidence. Whether you prefer writing prompts, mind mapping, free writing, AI writing software, Dice, Art, Music or a combination of these tools, the key is to find what works best for you and stick with it. So, if you’re struggling with writer’s block, don’t give up! Use these tools to conquer writer’s block and keep writing.
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