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What Is Blank Page Syndrome?
Blank page syndrome is another word for writer’s block, which describes the creative blocks and avoidant thought patterns that many writers suffer from at some point in their careers. Though blank page syndrome can hit at any point in a creative process, it seems to come most commonly when you’re starting the writing process—staring at a blank document trying to formulate your first sentence. There are many causes of writer’s block and, similarly, many methods to beat writer’s block. Many great writers, such as Charles Bukowski and Stephen King, have written about their own writer’s block and the steps they’ve taken to beat it.
9 Writing Tips for Overcoming the Blank Page
There are many resources that you can seek out if you’re wondering how to beat writer’s block. Professional writers have a variety of time tested techniques that they employ to help them keep their creative output up. Some of the most popular methods include:
- Commit to a routine. Having a set writing process and a writing routine can help you avoid procrastination and keep your creative muscles active. Keep a set writing schedule and location, whether it be at home or in a coffee shop, to help you stay working and stop procrastinating.
- Work with writing prompts. Seeking out prompts and writing exercises can help you overcome the blank page and push through creative blocks. This is especially useful when you’re feeling stuck in the early exploratory stages of a process and struggling to come up with a general topic or premise to write about.
- Embrace freewriting. Often the best way to cure blank page syndrome is simply to start writing—even if you write outside of the confines of whatever project you are stuck on. Whether you’re struggling with the first sentence of a book or the last paragraph of an essay, taking a second to freewrite and brainstorm can help you break through even the worst cases of writer’s block. If you’re feeling weighed down trying to meet a deadline or reach a word count, take time to daydream a bit and jot down any original ideas that occur to you. The bottom line is that a creative process doesn’t have to be linear, and you can give yourself some unstructured time to just freewrite.
- Start in the middle. Since the blank page is most intimidating at the beginning of a new piece of creative work, a useful creative writing technique is to jump ahead and write a different portion of your piece. If you feel stuck, give yourself the freedom to jump around a story or essay and write what feels easiest.
- Focus on another aspect of your work. Similar to writing out of sequence, one way to overcome writer’s block is to shift focus on a different aspect of your work. If you’re having trouble piecing together an outline, switch to working through other creative problems like character development. A creative block can be draining, so give yourself leeway, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re feeling stuck.
- Work on something else entirely. If you are feeling particularly stuck, one technique to overcome writer’s block is to write on a different project altogether. Switching from the first draft of a novel to a short story can be a great way to shake things up and refresh yourself creatively. If you’re a blogger on the side, writer’s block can be a great opportunity to work on something for your blog.
- Accept imperfection. Most writers struggle with perfectionism and self-doubt. One thing to keep in mind when you are searching to find the right words or perfect sentence is that there is no single element that will make or break your story. Embracing the imperfection and messiness of the writing process will make working on any writing project that much easier.
- Limit distractions. Writing is hard work. Protecting your writing time and limiting distractions is vital. If you’re often tempted to tweet or listen to a podcast or check your notifications during your writing sessions, consider removing electronic devices from your space while you’re writing.
- Take a break. The simplest method for overcoming writer’s block is just to take a break. You’d be amazed at what a quick walk outside or a trip to the coffee maker can do to clear your head.
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