We have a very special guest on Penprints today; the brilliant Abbie Emmons is here to teach us how to blast through writer’s block!
So, I now turn the floor (er, keyboard? screen?) over to Abbiee.
What’s up, my friend? I’m Abbiee, and I don’t like to fit in a box. I’m an indie artist, musician, writer, blogger, youtuber, and professional waffle-eater. I do what I do because I love it. And I truly believe that if we do more of what we love, we WILL spread joy and inspiration to the rest of the world. I’d like to take a moment to shout a HUGE THANK YOU to Rosalie for inviting me to guest post on her lovely blog today! Rosalie is a SUPERNOVA STAR YO and I’m honored to be here. :’)
Let’s talk about that nasty thing us creatives know too well: WRITER’S BLOCK. And if you’re not a writer (good idea tbh) these helpful tips could also apply to any artist who is having a creative slump, just feeling “blah” about their work. Because no matter what type of art we’re creating, WE JUST WANT TO MAKE IT GOOD. Right?? And when our creativity comes to a grinding halt out of nowhere, we panic. What if we can no longer write?? Or do anything?? EVER?? It’s a terrifying prospect, seeing as we’ve poured 110% of our heart and soul into our work and without a good return on that investment…let’s just say I feel bad for everyone we know.
After about fifteen years of writing, I’ve blasted through quite a few spells of writer’s block. AND IT’S HARD. But there are a few things that I find make it easier to keep going, keep creating, and hopefully avoid a midnight existential crisis. HERE WE GO.
#1: Do the thing when it’s hard
Might as well throw the most uncomfortable one at you right out of the gate: WRITE WHEN YOU DON’T WANT TO. When you’re like “ugh I’m really not feeling it today.” If you’re not writing because you feel stuck, WHY EXACTLY do you feel stuck? I don’t have the answer to this – you do. So ask yourself why and try to figure it out. Is it because you’ve actually run out of ideas/inspiration? Or is it simply because you’re afraid that what you’re going to write will be awful? More often than not, I fall into the latter category.* I’m afraid that whatever I create won’t be good. But here’s the funny thing: A LOT OF TIMES IT TURNS OUT GREAT. And I never saw that coming because it felt so hard.
There are times when you can’t push it – everything just becomes utter chaos. And then there are times when you persevere and get AMAZING results. The more you build up resistance to giving up, the less often you’ll WANT to give up.
*There’s obviously more than two categories here lololol like of course there’s the “my pet goldfish just died and now literally nothing makes sense in life” category and if that’s you I am sincerely sorry <3
#2: Flip the thing upside-down
Maybe it’s an idea or a concept or a chapter (or THE WHOLE BOOK SOMETIMES LET’S FACE IT) that’s driving you mad. Try flipping it on its head. My father is an artist/inventor and he taught me this once when I was experiencing writer’s block. He told me a story about how he was working on an invention and it just wasn’t working…so he tried flipping the whole thing upside-down. Like, literally. And it suddenly worked! So he advised I try it with the first chapter of my manuscript. (Essentially playing the whole thing backwards.) I tried it, and loved it.
But maybe it’s not a particular scene or chapter or book that’s driving you mad – maybe it’s the way in which you create. Maybe it’s your habit, your routine, that’s blocking your creativity. TRY FLIPPING THAT UPSIDE-DOWN, TOO. You know that Other Person™ who has a totally different creative process than you? Maybe you’re organized and they’re messy; maybe you’re a plotter and they’re a pantser. Try working like they work – just for a day! I know you look at them and think “I would never be able to work like that.” But you never know until you try! And testing something new is always better than sitting around bemoaning your writer’s block.
#3: Get moving
According to my own professional research,* EXERCISE HELPS WRITER’S BLOCK. It only makes sense, right? Sedentary body = sedentary mind. If you’re feeling stuck, maybe it’s simply because you’ve been sitting in one place, staring at a screen for HOURS AND HOURS. You don’t have to go sweat under a bench press – a short walk will do the trick. Fresh air is also a bonus! GET OUTSIDE. DON’T FOLLOW MY BAD EXAMPLE.** Or, if you’re super angry at your book, PUNCH A HEAVYBAG FOR TEN MINUTES. < Super yummy stress reliever right there.
*OK OK my research is not professional it is 100% experiential but here’s an article about exercise and creativity if you don’t believe me.
**My Bad Example™ explained: sitting inside all day and watching the great outdoors from the safety of my tower. I MEAN HOUSE. I mean…I might actually be Rapunzel??? Shh don’t tell anyone. Just send me Flynn Rider ASAP.
#4: Remember why you’re doing it
Purpose begets passion. You started writing that book for a reason, RIGHT?? If you didn’t, make one up. Do it right now. Take a piece of paper and a pen and think of one good reason and write it down and look at it while you work. It’s easy to get stuck; it’s hard to get unstuck. That’s basically how writer’s block works. But if you have a really good reason to keep going, it’s going to be that much harder to stop. HOW you create doesn’t matter. WHAT you create doesn’t matter. WHY you create is what gets you out of bed in the morning.
#5: Uplift yourself
Listen to empowering music! Watch an inspiring movie! Eat waffles! Have a pep-talk with your local sage!* Make yourself HAPPY again. Because happiness determines your ultimate success. I mean, sure – if you’re writing a sad scene or something, feeling a little blue might help you. But if you’re CHRONICALLY DOWNCAST…your creativity is going to suffer. So don’t work yourself ragged! Take a chill pill – enjoy some time with your friends and family. Relax and restore. A happy person is a successful person, regardless of what they create.
*My local sage, I’ve learned, is my mom. 10/10 recommend chatting with parents about this sort of thing. SO RESTORING.
What is your favorite way to blast through writer’s block (or any other creative slump)? Are you going to try some of these tips next time you feel stuck? HINT: YOU SHOULD. Add to this list in the comments!