Writer's block is a dreaded malady in the life of many writers. So, what's the best way to overcome it? In the words of famous freelancer Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City, "You just need to stop thinking about it so much, and go to bed, and it will be all right in the morning."
This advice might work beautifully for some people. But what if it's not that simple for you? Here are 10 ideas to help you bust through:
1.Try a writing exercise. Start by closing your laptop and grabbing a notebook and pen. Choose a writing prompt, such as "I remember..." or "I imagine..." and write for several minutes in a stream of consciousness fashion. This technique focuses your mind and stimulates your subconscious. For a great collection of writing exercises, check out Natalie Goldman's book Writing Down the Bones.
2.Take a walk. A short walk on a nearby path, preferably in nature, might be all you need to get unstuck. The motion of moving your legs, swinging your arms, and breathing fresh air while not thinking about anything in particular, triggers the subconscious. Stow a notebook or voice recorder in your pocket, in order to capture what comes up while you're out, so that you don't feel stressed about trying to remember.
3. Keep typing. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply keep going, because avoiding the page only makes the problem loom larger. And if you sit around waiting for inspiration, you may be making excuses for yourself. Set a timer and require your fingers to keep moving on the keyboard for "x" number of minutes. Even if you start by typing, "I don't know what to say. This really sucks," you'll eventually clear the cobwebs and enter your story.
4.Take the pressure off. The truth is, you can't summon creativity when you're breathing down your own neck, demanding literary greatness or perfection. Instead, tell yourself that you're only writing for yourself, or for a friend or loved one. This tiny change in perceived audience can help words flow more naturally.
5. Set realistic expectations. Especially if you're working on a book-length manuscript, the enormous scope of the project might be what's be shutting you down. You can't do everything at once, so break it down into tasks. During your writing session, commit to a goal, such as writing one scene, or three pages, or 300 words.
6. Change location. Pack up your laptop and head to a coffee shop, park, or the library. A change of scenery may open doors. In addition, plan some "writing getaways" each year, where you travel outside your routine and discover new things, fueling your creativity.
7. Stop when the going's good. During each writing session, plan to stop when you're feeling momentum in the story. Then, turn off your laptop and don't intentionally think about the project until your next writing session. The good news is that your subconscious will be working the whole time.
8. Commit to Internet-free time. The Internet is always beckoning, and it's riddled with distractions. It fuels what Natalie Goldman calls "monkey mind." As in, you could work on your book, or you could quick check Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or read a few blog entries. Resist the temptation. After your writing session, reward yourself with a dive into cyberspace.
9. Switch to another project. Many writers agree that it's a good idea to always be working on more than one project. Maybe you've got two novels in progress, or a few essays or short stories. If one project really isn't working for you, put it aside for a time and try something else. Space can be good for both you and your story.
10. Take a break. Especially for committed, consistent writers, sometimes your brain is simply tired. Maybe you're too exhausted to get words on the page. So, be patient with yourself. Take a bath or a nap, get a massage, or go to yoga or a meditation session. Once you're feeling rejuvenated, you'll be able to leap back into your work.
A version of this piece first appeared on Thought Catalog.