If you were to search 'writer's block' on Wikipedia, you'll see it described 'a condition,' and for many writers it can certainly feel that way. Thankfully, however, there are cures. Mark Twain tells us that the secret of getting ahead is getting started, so in that spirit, here are seven ways to get those first words on the page.
1. Make a clean start. When you've been sitting in front of your computer or staring at a blank page for hours, it's time to switch up. Go and have a shower, change your clothes.
You might have a great idea in the shower, but if not at least you'll wash the static away so you come back feeling like you're starting anew.
2. Take a walk. So you've made a fresh start, but you still can't seem to get the ink on page (or the words in the document). Go for a long walk, somewhere quiet – and take a pen and notepad.
With nothing else to do, your mind will wander, and that's when the ideas start flowing in. And you have the added bonuses of relaxation and exercise.
3. Avoid distractions. When you've come back, brimming with new ideas, it's essential that you don't get side-tracked. Find a nook away from your family/roommates/kids and get to work right away.
Writing freehand is great for this, but if you do use a computer stay off the net - Facebook and Twitter are death for inspiration. You could create a new user account on your computer with only the writing essentials, or you could disconnect your internet. Pull the plug at the wall if you have to, but make sure there's nothing standing between you and your ideas.
4. Do a writing exercise. Let's say you've followed steps one to three and they haven't yielded results. It's time to start your brain manually. A ten minute writing exercise is a quick solution. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of these exercises in existence – a Google search will land you with lists upon lists.
Here's an example. Find a book you've not read before and look at the first line. Then, in the next ten minutes, see what you can create using the descriptions or questions raised by the first line. This gives you a place to start, and not knowing what happens in the book will ensure the ideas are all your own.
5. Work on something else.
Maybe you've been working on the same piece for weeks and you've simply hit a wall. It's time to work on something else. Start a new project, or edit an older piece. Working on an unrelated piece means you're taking your mind elsewhere so you'll have fresh eyes when you return – and you're still getting work done. You never know, you may find solutions in your new work to the problems of the older piece.
Note that you can apply this step within the confines of the piece. Stuck with where to go in the middle of your novel? Skip to the end. You can play connect the dots later. Or, if you work on a new piece, you have the advantage of not putting all of your writer-eggs in the same basket, or to use a literal metaphor – all your words on the same page.
6. Keep a schedule.
Habit is a powerful thing. By writing at the same time every day, you train your mind to be 'in the zone.' This step is more like prevention, so it's a good move for those who are prone to writer's block. Of course, the other advantages of keeping a schedule are
A) that you can reliably boost your word count with every instalment.
B) You don't let your writing interfere with the rest of your day (or vice versa).
7. Allow your brain to go on holiday.
The brain is a muscle, and like every muscle it needs time to recover when you work it. When you finish a big piece, it can be good to take a break from writing for a while. This way you allow yourself to build a well of ideas, whilst simultaneously preventing your mind from getting burnt out, preventing writer's block in the future. Then, maybe, you won't need to read articles like this one.