It's a phrase all writers know and dread. Writer's block. There you are, happily working away on your latest magnum opus, when disaster strikes. Like a black cloud across the sun, writer's block hits, and it seems totally out of your control to change it. Your creative well is dry and the muse has fled. The temptation might be to give into despair, but there are some simple tricks you can try to beat writer's block and get the words flowing again.
1. Switch gears. Maybe you're floundering on your epic space opera and just need to change your mind-set. Try changing genres and writing something completely different. It might shake the words loose! It's easy to get too close to our work and too bogged down in perfecting every paragraph, and sometimes writing something entirely new can break us of that.
2. Walk away. Do something physical, even if you just go for a walk round the garden! Get your blood flowing and your brain occupied with something else, and you often find that those sneaky words you couldn't grasp earlier start bubbling up in the back of your head.
3. Routine, routine, routine. It may sound like bad advice at first glance, but creating a writing routine will "train your brain." If you make a habit of being at your computer (or notepad!) at the same time, in the same place, on a regular basis, you will find those words ready and waiting. It takes patience, but it's worth the effort! The brain is like a muscle - practice and use makes it stronger.
4. Brainstorm - bullet points, spider diagrams, mood boards...Whatever works for you! Just let your mind wander and you'll be surprised where it will take you. If you have a friend to hash it out with, do it. Talking through your ideas and frustrations can be a good way to find a solution.
5. Refill the creative well. Whether it's reading a good book, visiting a museum, or just looking at pretty pictures online...give your imagination something to feast on. This ties nicely to the idea of mood boards, too. Create a Pinterest board with inspiring images for your work-in-progress. It's fun and counts as work at the same time!
6. Rest and relax. Don't push yourself until you're burnt out. You won't loose anything by taking time out for a good night's sleep, a relaxing bath, or whatever else it is that recharges you.
7. Whatever you do, don't wait. You can edit anything except a blank page. Don't wait for the muse to come back - go chase it down! You won't beat writer's block by doing nothing. Even if what you're producing isn't the golden prose you want, at least you've got something to work with! You can always re-shape your writing once you're past the block.
Whatever you do to overcome that dreaded block, remember that you're not alone. We've all been there, and the greatest writers in history have plenty to say on the subject too. If you're really struggling and all else fails, take comfort in knowing that Maya Angelou would “write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat’” until, at last, the words she really wanted came back to her. And they'll come to you too. Good luck!