How to Get Writing Ideas When You’re Blocked

Every writer struggles to get going once in a while. Whether you’re a blogger, a novelist, an academic, a journalist, or any one of a dozen types of writers, you know what it’s like to hover over a keyboard and come up with nothing. This feeling can be downright crippling if you’re in a high-pressure situation with a deadline looming. Stress can be poison for creativity and productivity, and the more stressed you get, the further away a good idea can seem. Here are some tips for getting it back.

First, chill out

We’ve established that stress can be incredibly counterproductive. The more you let yourself freak out over your inability to get something down on the page, the less likely it is to happen. You need to remind yourself that this sort of thing is normal and is not a sign of failure. Allowing yourself to ignore the issue or spiral out of control will not get your work done any faster. So take a half-hour break, make a cup of tea, do something you enjoy to get yourself together.

Read up

Most of the time, you have a vague sense of what you need or want to write. Read around this as much as you can. Read blogs, books, articles. Reread old work of your own. Whether you’re writing a blog post or a dissertation, any reading you do around your topic should help nurture even your vaguest ideas until they can be put onto the page.

Talk to someone

This might be a professional, like an editor or a fellow writer, who will be able to relate and should have the experience to assist you in getting going. Perhaps even talking to a friend or family member might help. Sometimes the simple act of saying things out loud can help clarify them to the point that you can expand upon them. You may even consider finding an online discussion forum where you can converse with likeminded people.

Lower your standards

This is not as defeatist as it sounds. Most people hold themselves to a much higher standard than they do anyone else. If you expect every idea you come up with to be the best thing you’ve ever heard, you will tend to come up short more often than not. Sometimes less-than-stellar ideas can be developed into something great, but if you’re continually passing them up in your search for the next great thing, you could miss out. But even if the idea never turns into anything particularly worthwhile, sometimes just the process of getting going can help you to regain your confidence and sense of purpose.

How do you get the creative juices flowing?

Robin Field holds a BA in English and Linguistics from the University of Cape Town where she is currently working toward her Master’s degree in Linguistics with a focus on gender and game studies.

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