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Writers Block: 5 Ways to Beat the Blank Page

Writers Block 5 ways to beat the blank pageBy Armaan Uplekar

For many writers, there’s few things as crippling as a case of writer’s block. It can stunt your productivity, dampen your voice, and shake your confidence in your abilities. Every writer, at some point or another, is forced to grapple with a time where their own words may not come forth so easily. You’re ready to write, the computer is up and running, but your brain is not. Self-doubt begins to creep in and you decide, before you do anything, that you need another coffee.

Moments like this can feel like running headlong into a brick wall. There’s nothing more frustrating than staring at a blank screen, willing yourself to write, but feeling unable to do so. Thankfully, there are a few tried and true methods that can help you shake your writer’s block and get you back on track with your project.

Try Writing Exercises

An excellent way to chip away at your writer’s block is to try your hand at writing exercises. Exercises can loosen you up creatively, and give you a necessary, immediate outlet to practice your craft. “Freewriting” is one example of an exercise that encourages you to write quickly without giving you a chance to second-guess your output. Try setting a timer for yourself, and then forcing yourself to write without regard for editing. The goal is to get words on the page without overthinking your process.

If “freewriting” isn’t for you, try doing some writing based off prompts. Prompt-based writing is another way to exercise your brain and get your words down on paper. Since the writing is purely exercise-driven, it can alleviate some of the self-imposed pressures you might be putting on your own work, and jog some new ideas loose.

Create a Routine

Routines are an excellent way to prime yourself to get back into the rhythm of writing. If you find yourself beset by writer’s block, try committing yourself to a schedule. Structure your allotted writing time around activities that either inspire you or make you feel energetic.

Try writing after a workout, or after reading the morning news. Set a timetable and schedule for when you write, and force yourself to be productive by establishing a word-count or allotted time limit. While this might not seem immediately gratifying, you will eventually train yourself to think creatively with certain stimuli. Routines can give momentum to your day and your process and cause you to think of your projects in a new, workmanlike light.

Read and Research

Sometimes, the best course of action can be to absorb other’s words in order to inspire you to write your own. Put the pen down, and pick up a screenplay from a writer you admire. Take note of how they economize their word usage, and how their scripts read. Take note of the pacing of these scripts, and the way they block out their action and dialogue on the page. These small takeaways can have a significant influence on the way you write, and can inspire you to bust through your block.

You can also throw yourself back into your research. If you find yourself stumped by a particular plot point, research can help you come up with new ideas and workarounds that might inspire you and create new solutions to problems that might be plaguing your story. As important as it is for writers to write, its equally important for writers to read voraciously and consistently, and to learn from others. Reading others’ work is a great way to get a sense of what you may be missing in your own.

Workshop and Get Feedback

We often become so taken by our own story, we are left unable to see the forest through the woods. Maybe you’re several drafts deep on a project and unsure where to take things next. Maybe you feel drained of new ideas, and need some fresh inspiration to reach your next breakthrough. Workshopping your writing is an important part of the creative process. It allows you to put your work directly into readers’ hands and receive their feedback. Never forget that screenwriting is a format designed to cater to an audience, and it’s important to keep the audience’s point of view in mind as you write.

Workshopping can give you new ideas on how to pare down overwritten dialogue or add clarity to a tricky action scene. Readers’ feedback is an important asset to any writer because it allows you to view your work from a new perspective. This perspective can be crucial to working out the kinks and shortcomings in your project, and give you a second wind as you move into your next draft. Sometimes you will find the answer to your script problems are right there in front of you, in plain sight to see. But it sometimes takes a fresh set of eyes to make you see the obvious.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

You’ve come to a point where you can’t write anymore. You spend hours staring at a blank page in Final Draft, second-guessing and shooting down every idea that you come up with. You’re frustrated with yourself, with screenwriting and with the entire process. And any advice you’ve tried to follow has left you empty-handed.

It may sound counterintuitive, even painstaking, but sometimes the only way to go is through. Writing isn’t always a purely creative process. It’s a craft that requires dedication and time to hone. Even if the words come slow -- even if you doubt every word you put on the page – you need to commit yourself to writing.

Writing through your block can be a frustrating, lethargic process. Do not expect instantaneous results. But over time, your commitment to your craft will yield results. You will likely become less precious about your writing, and shake off the self-doubts that keep you from working at your full potential. By committing yourself to writing, even when it may feel painful, you may eventually learn how to overcome the writer’s block that’s been plaguing you.

The next time you don’t know what to write or where to begin, just remember that procrastination is not the answer. By keeping these five tips in mind, you’ll keep yourself productive and find the break-through you’ve been waiting for.