Podcast Ep. #2: Writer’s Block

Today, I would like to talk about writer’s block and share a few of my tricks for getting through it.

When I was growing up, I thought writer’s block was a real thing that you could get and you just had to wait for it to go away—you know, wait for your muse to come back—before you could continue to write something. That is not at all true. Writer’s block is real, but it’s in your head, and the best way to get over it and be productive again is just to write through it. Write when you don’t feel like writing. Or write when you feel like you’re not coming up with anything good. If you only write on days when you’re ‘in the zone,’ so to speak, honestly, you’re not going to write that much. Personally, if I’m lucky, I may have one day a week where I wake up and I’m automatically ready to write something, in the sense that the words are just coming and coming and they won’t stop. But I write every single day because I have a lot of writing projects, and I can’t afford to lose a day not writing for at least an hour or two. So what do I do on most of those days to combat writer’s block?

– Music

My number one strategy is always music. My other hobby is singing, and when I was younger, I wanted to be a singer/songwriter, so music is a creative space for me already. When I write poetry, I focus on sounds and rhythms, probably because my first love was songwriting, so I’ll listen to genres of music that have a specific cadence to the lyrics, like rap or hip hop, and often when I hear other people get into a flow space with their lyrics, it helps me to slide into that headspace so I can create my own cadences of speech.

When I write fiction, I’ll either pick a song or a playlist with a mood or tone that corresponds with the mood and the pacing of the scene I’m writing. The goal is to immerse myself in the scene in any way that I can, and a lot of times, that simply starts with the mood. I visualize scenes as I’m writing them as if I were watching them on a movie screen, so it’s kind of like having a soundtrack in the background. Sometimes, if I can get the soundtrack going first, then I get myself in the correct headspace for the rest of the scene to materialize. Usually, I write to music that is instrumental only, so no lyrics to get distracted by, but sometimes if I hear a certain song that really matches the moment, I’ll just play that one song repeatedly until I’m finished with the scene.

I’ll add in that I also love ASMR and ambience videos. I have a ton of them saved on Youtube. If you want to be in any type of natural setting or in any sort of library near a crackling fireplace, I highly recommend Miracle Forest; her videos are so calming and immersive. I also like The Guild of Ambience and Autumn Cozy. I get anxiety a lot, and their videos are just generally calming.

– Change your scenery

My number two strategy is changing my scenery. If I have the time and opportunity, sometimes this means changing my physical scenery, so I’ll go to a bookstore or a coffee shop or the park. I have a large backyard at home now, so I also like to go out there if it’s not too hot or cold and write with nature. And my dog. It could also be as simple as writing in a different room in my house. Obviously, I have a lot of options at my disposal now, but two years ago, I lived in a tiny apartment in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, and if this is you and you can’t really change your physical scenery, I learned to change what I would call my psychological scenery. For example, I have a ton of sticky notes and open tabs on my laptop at all times, and if I’m feeling distracted, sometimes, I just need to clear those away. I need to get all of them off my screen. I need to close all my other apps so I can open the one document that I need to focus on. At the same time, I put my phone on silent, and I put it away for however long I can afford to put it away. If I need confidence, I will put on nice clothes and makeup even if I’m not going anywhere. If I’m having a rough day, I will put stuffed animals on the bed with me, and I’ll write from my bed. These are things that work for me in terms of getting myself into a different headspace than the one I’m currently in; everyone is different, so you just have to try things and see what works for you and your schedule. But the goal, just like with the music thing, is that you are trying to get yourself into the headspace where you can write what you want to write.

– Jot down ideas/do research/edit a section

My number three strategy, if I’m still having trouble getting started with a scene, is that I will work on something related to that scene that is not flat-out writing it. So I will jot down ideas about what I want to write in the scene; I will also go ahead and research a topic that I know I will have to know about. And with that, I will not only read about the topic, but I will force myself to write notes that illustrate how that topic is going to play out in the scene. So, for example, if I research sword fighting, and I learn a particular sword fighting move, I will go ahead and write a few sentences where my character is using that move. So I’m explaining the topic to myself, but I’m also working on the scene at the same time. I might not use everything I write down during my research, but it’s going to be clear that I know what I’m talking about when I write out the final scene, and I’ll be more confident about doing that. I’ve found that sometimes writer’s block can result from feeling overwhelmed when you are trying to write about a topic that you have little firsthand knowledge of. So sometimes getting a little of that background work done first will give you more confidence in writing the scene overall because you’re not constantly stopping and wondering if what you’re writing sounds weird. Of course, you can’t ultimately use that as an excuse to never write the scene. Please don’t do that, and I speak from experience.

Under this little umbrella here of writing ‘extra things,’ I will also say that if what I’m having a block on is part of a larger story, I will try to make some edits to another part of the story to get myself in the groove of writing that story or those characters again. Note that I’m talking about substantive edits here, not for punctuation or spelling, but seeing if you can make your sentences flow together better or if you could use better word choices or if there are small sections that could be expanded by adding one or two sentences. Usually I find if I begin by writing just a sentence or two here and there, it gets my creative juices flowing again, and then I’m able to write more.

– Briefly switching to another project or task

My number four strategy, which should definitely be used in moderation, is briefly switching to another project or task. I never use this strategy at the beginning of a writing session—that’s just an excuse to not write! But if I have been trying and trying and trying to get a scene to work and I just can’t do it and I’m getting really frustrated, I will take a little break—a tiny one—from working on that scene. Depending on the level of my frustration, I might try writing something totally different for a few days so I can get into a different headspace for a while, get more relaxed, and then come back and look at the original project with a fresh pair of eyes. If I’m stressed but not that stressed, I might just take a small break in the moment and play outside with my dog or stretch and walk around, listen to a song or two, shake everything out, shake all the tension out, and then go back to it.

-Write anyway

My number five strategy—you guessed it, write anyway! Just write pages and pages of crap; I promise eventually you are going to write something that makes you pause and think ‘huh, I can actually use that.’ It will happen. Keep the faith.

So yeah, those are my five strategies for getting through writer’s block: listening to music, changing my scenery, doing extra research/brainstorming/editing, briefly switching to another task or project, and writing anyway.

I hope this has been helpful! Until next time, take care!

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About Me

JodiMarie Meyer enjoys toeing the line between the mundane and the magical and exploring the dichotomies of good and evil; she primarily writes love stories, but not always. Definitely someone who got in trouble for daydreaming in class. Definitely someone who scribbles frantic story notes while stirring pasta. She makes her home in the Maryland countryside with her husband, dog, and rabbit. She is the author of one short story collection: magic/madness. Currently, she is writing her debut novel, Luc & Lila.