Posted on

Advice: Solitaire, snacks won’t cure writer’s block

Tactics that authors use to break writer’s block, such as playing solitaire, exercising or eating, can be both helpful and hurtful, said Drema Albin, a post-internship resident in the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Counseling Services Unit. These strategies can work more as distractions, said Albin, keeping authors from sitting down and writing. She recommends authors instead make a point to put something down on paper, even if it is just “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over. “The outcome of the writing is not as important as being engaged in the process,” said Albin.

Other ways to break writer’s block, she said, include:

  • Setting small goals and meeting them. Give yourself a reward each time you meet a goal, such as time to shop.
  • Choosing companions who encourage the doing of your work.
  • Setting a time and place that is writing time.
  • Getting it out on paper — even “bad, awful, stinky first drafts.”
  • Finding short assignments that get the “juices” flowing.
  • Doing a “brain drain,” writing a stream of consciousness flow with all the reasons you can’t write today.
  • Setting a line or word goal and writing towards it.
  • Respecting your individual need to rejuvenate. Sometimes a “block” is time to think and plan where you are headed on the page, she said.
  • Keeping a notebook or index cards handy to write down ideas and using these to prompt writing.
  • Recording yourself explaining to someone what it is that you are writing about.
  • Doing an outline if you don’t have one. Editing previous work.
  • Reading on the topic and writing a summary of what you’ve read.

Other authors tell how they deal with writer’s block:

Robert Christopherson, geography author: “Answering students’ e-mail questions in detail helps me warm up.”

Kathryn Henry, Shiatsu and Russian author, said she writes a letter to a friend explaining the project she’s working on. She never actually mails the letter, but by putting into detail what she’s trying to do, without any pressure, helps her work out any problems she’s having.

Annette Cash, Spanish author, said she gives herself mental prep time. She thinks about the writing before she actually sits down to write.