Moving Past Writer’s Block

Hey, writers! For the month of November, we’re focusing on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This is a wonderful yearly program for adults and teens alike that encourages writers to lock away their inner editor and focus on ideas for the entire month. The goal is to write a full-length novel by the end of November! Hopefully you’ve made good progress and are ready to wrap this up.

Sometimes our ideas don’t flow as smoothly as we would like. We call this writer’s block, and it can be difficult to overcome. Don’t worry though – almost all writers experience this at some time or another, so it’s completely normal. Still, how do we get unstuck?

Some things to try:

  1. Go outside on a walk and get your mind off writing for a while. This may seem deceptively simple, but sometimes that’s really all it takes to find your inspiration. When we’re writing, it’s easy to get caught up in forcing things to happen that aren’t meant to be. Getting your mind off the story for a bit can refresh your thoughts and, when you come back later, give you a new perspective on what you’ve already written.
  2. Change your environment. Sometimes it’s not you, it’s everything else. It’s the TV on in the other room or the buzzing of a fan above you. Maybe it’s your phone or an overheard conversation nearby. If your environment is filled with a lot of distractions, try finding somewhere else to write and see if that changes things. Minimize distractions and get comfortable. Writing is already hard enough. Don’t make it harder on yourself if you can avoid it.
  3. Read, watch a movie, or listen to music. Good writing is everywhere and sometimes it’s important to get a fresh point-of-view. Look up an album/artist/book/movie you haven’t experienced before and let yourself enjoy! Afterward, think about some of the writing elements they used that you really liked and challenge yourself to try it out by free writing.
  4. Write something else. Get away from your “big project” for a day and write something brief and fun that’s completely unrelated to your story. This accomplishes the same thing as the previous tip, but also opens new ideas to work into your story later. If nothing else, it keeps your creative juices flowing without the stress of perfection lurking over your shoulder.
  5. Be a bad writer for a day. Save to a new file (or start with a fresh page), then write out the worst possible direction for your story – ideas that make you roll your eyes – and see where it takes you. Maybe an idea that seems bad at first could turn into something great later. If it’s all bad, you’ll know which narrative direction to avoid for the future, but at least you had some fun along the way.

These are just a few options to shake some ideas loose, but there are many more strategies available online to try. Writer’s block has been around as long as writing itself, so several authors have come up with their own strategies. If none of these seem to work, see what your favorite writers recommend. If you have any of your own suggestions as well, feel free to comment them below. Everyone has their own methods and they’re all absolutely valid.

Once you’re feeling refreshed and ready to write, if you haven’t signed up for NaNoWriMo yet, it’s not too late to get started (but it is getting close). If you want to share what you’ve written or would like some feedback on your work, please submit your stories (or works-in-progress) to teenwriters@tscpl.org. Happy writing!

Kody is a Youth Librarian who primarily works with teens. He is also a writer and photographer, and drank several cups of coffee while writing this post.