Nothing excites me more than a new writing project. It’s one of the reasons why I’m in this wonderful profession of stringing beautiful words together to form an idea or a tale. It always starts with my heart jumping, adrenaline pumping, soul soaring high and then just like that, I have amazing prose and a story is told. This happens on perfect days (days on which there are no need for “hacks”).
Sadly, it’s also inevitable to have not-so-great days. I wish I could share a secret, magic spell that could unleash an overflow of creativity for all eternity. If you find it, let me know.
It took me more than four years to write my debut novel, After Perfect. I had the story in my heart for years, waiting to be shared, to be set free, and yet there were periods when I simply stared at my computer with nothing to say. There was a time midway when I almost gave up. Thankfully, I didn’t. I persevered. It was my dream after all, and I needed to prove to myself that I was worthy of it.
I had writer’s block. Plain and simple. But worse, I also had to admit to myself that I needed discipline.
Writer’s block is not a myth and it’s not specific to anyone because it happens to the best of us. There will be days when the words simply don’t flow like they did yesterday.
Panic shouldn’t be our default. Recognizing this and understanding what it means may help us come up with simple strategies to lure out our creative juices and develop some discipline.
Here are some hacks that helped me combat writer’s block:
Step away for a little bit.
When you don’t have anything to offer, walk away, take a breather, regroup. It’s easier said than done with deadlines, but take a five-minute walk, a fifteen-minute coffee break, even an entire day off. It’s okay.
Play with your text font.
It doesn’t make sense to some, but it works for me. There is no science to it, or maybe there is and I just don’t know, but experimenting visually helps trigger my creativity.
Find inspiration from other people’s work.
Words of writers I admire bring out the envious artist in me, and so I usually dive into beautiful prose to inspire me. I try to get into their heart, and in some ways, it helps me reach mine. A word, a sentence, or a paragraph often sparks something within me.
Find that music that centers you.
I have a playlist for each of my writing assignments. I pick and choose music that best describes my ideas and my feelings about a particular project. Each time I feel I’m veering away, I just hit play and I’m back on track.
Find that one object that sparks magic.
It can be a piece of art you’ve seen somewhere that invoked an emotion. A favorite pen that has history. An apple that is so red it reminds you of the perfect lips to kiss. Create a story around that object and conjure the magic.
Binge watch something.
Watch a show that inspires you and triggers joy or sadness or whatever you need to get your heart pumping. Korean dramas work for me every time.
You don’t know when creativity will come knocking. Be sure you welcome it with open arms when it does—keep a pen and small notebook handy at all times.
Again, let me reiterate that these are the tactics that work for me and it didn’t happen overnight. I had to sit down to get to know the writer in me, experimented some, and took notes. Find the time to think this through, and eventually you will discover some hacks of your own.
Now, let’s talk about the other factor that could impede our writing process. Let’s talk about discipline. This is on us. And, really, this is probably my greatest enemy.
Here are some hacks to cultivate discipline:
Stop wallowing in imposter syndrome.
You’re a writer. Own it.
Make room for your writing.
Remind yourself every day that this is your dream. It’s up to you to make it happen. Some writers I know get up at 4:30 in the morning to write, and some stay up late until everyone in the house has gone to bed. Find that sweet spot.
Speaking of sweet spot…
Find that one space where creative energy is most abundant.
It’s unfortunate that mine is in bed, which is never great for my back. Yeah, I’m seeing a Physical Therapist for it. I hope your writing spot is better than mine. I’m still working on this.
It’s easier said than done, I know, but that’s why we’re tackling the issue of discipline head on. Set alarms for breaks—whether for food, for errands, and even for social media check-ins.
It’s the ultimate gift. If you love yourself enough then you know that you should do whatever it takes to grab that dream. Find that discipline that will take you from points A to the end.
The beauty of writing is that we grow with it. No strategy is absolute and nothing is set in stone. Like every story, we are a creation of mystery and we evolve as we move along. Doesn’t that make this profession all the more exciting? Good luck! ☺
What are your strategies for overcoming writer’s block and developing “writer’s discipline”?
Maan Gabriel is a mom, wife, dreamer, writer, and advocate for women’s stories in literature. She earned her BA in communications from St. Scholastica’s College in Manila and MPS in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University. She has lived in Manila, Brussels, Dakar, and Mexico City. During the day, she works in strategic communications. Gabriel, along with her husband and son, currently call suburban Washington DC home. After Perfect is her first novel. You can learn more at www.maangabriel.com, or connect with Mann at her Facebook page or on Twitter!