Guest Post: Jessica Sunde on Overcoming Writer's Block

Thursday, February 16

Photo by Katie Blair
It’s happened to every writer at some point or another. You sit down at your computer (or, if you are old-fashioned, a typewriter) and all you can see in front of you is the dreaded whiteness of a blank page. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but there are steps you can take to help get the creative juices flowing again. The following are a few tips for overcoming writer’s block that have proven helpful to me over the years.

Start in the Middle

Sometimes the hardest aspect of writing is just getting that first sentence on the page. When you don’t necessarily know where you are headed, it can be daunting to start. When faced with this problem, I always remember the advice my eighth grade English teacher Mrs. Sloane gave me: skip it, and start in the middle! This is almost like free writing, but you will eventually edit together what works and emit what doesn’t. Whether you are writing a piece of fiction or a school paper, starting in the middle allows you to write what is foremost on your mind regarding your topic, without your inner censor getting in the way. Once you get a good idea of where your thought process is headed, you can outline paragraphs around your ideas. This will make it easier to write your introduction and concluding paragraphs when the time comes.

Carry a Recorder

A lot of times, seasoned writers advise people to carry a notebook in case inspiration strikes. But the truth is that the mind is faster than the pen. By carrying a small voice recorder with you, you can catalogue your ideas and inspirations instantaneously, as they strike. Because I have a long commute to work every day, I often keep my recorder in my car. While I am driving, I will often get ideas about stories or freelance articles that I am writing. Talking out loud about these ideas helps me gain perspective, and I’ve even come up with character dialogue this way. Best yet, it helps alleviate boredom during traffic. If you are self-conscious about talking to yourself in the car, you can always put a Bluetooth device in your ear and fake having a conversation. No one will notice the difference.

Observe Your Surroundings

When I absolutely cannot write, I go into what I call my “observation mode.” Instead of creating, I am taking things in, whether it’s a good book, a great film, or a couple walking down the street holding hands. Try to heighten your awareness of your surroundings. Go to an art exhibit or a museum, or a ballet production. There is inspiration and art all around us, ready to fuel our creativity.

Keep a Dream Journal

Before you go to bed, tell yourself that you are going to dream about the next chapter of your book. It may seem strange, but this actually does work. When you wake up in the morning, make sure to have your journal (or better yet, your recorder!) next to your bed. Often the superficial aspects of a dream will seem irrelevant to your book. But take note of the imagery and general “vibe” of your dreams.

I don’t believe that dream interpretation is something that can be applied across the board. A dream about a cat can mean something completely different for two people. Ask yourself what your dream symbols mean to you, and see if you can apply them to your writing. If, for instance, you dream about a tidal wave washing over you, you could interpret that feeling as one of helplessness or overwhelming emotion. Try writing a scene with your main character based on the dream – even if you don’t end up using it in the end. By putting your character in different situations, you will better understand how they would react, and ultimately, they will become more real to you.

When it comes to writing, the best way to keep a steady creative flow is to try to write something every day, whether it’s a few sentences, or ten pages. Understand that there will be times when the words don’t flow as easily, and don’t despair when this happens to you. Keep your mind open, turn off your inner censor, and remember that you can always edit later.


About the Author
Jenni Sunde is a freelance fashion writer and pop culture junkie. Jenni specializes in all things lifestyle-related. From home and design to health and beauty. With her love of art and all things beautiful, she delights in sharing her sense of style from her life to your computer monitor. Her title pegs her as an editor at a website that specializes in providing people with car insurance quotes, but her passion leads her into writing with a little more substance and a lot more heart.

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