If you consider yourself a writer (or even if you don’t, but you’ve ever had to write something for someone other than yourself), you’ve probably experienced writer’s block, and read about ways to combat it. Still, I figure it’s always beneficial to hear good advice more than once (especially if you’re hard-headed like me).
Most of these tips apply to writing of all kinds, but given my recent proclivities, I want to support poets in particular with this post.
1. Get outside. Exercise is good for you for a number of reasons, but if you don’t do it regularly, you might be surprised how well it clears your mind and prompts ideas. Running is best, I think, but if you’re unable, a walk, bike or hike is good too. Heck, even a trip to the grocery store or the post office might provide some inspiration. The point is to change up your environment, but bonus points if you can get away from people, road noise and cell service.
2. Journal or meditate, away from your phone. This is related to the last point, and offers another avenue to clear your head of whatever is distracting you and to produce some stream of consciousness that could reveal some poetic inspiration. If you find your mind overwhelmed with to-dos, maybe write those down first, then close your eyes and sit in silence for a while. Set a timer for 10 minutes or so to keep yourself from constantly checking the clock, focus on your breathing, and keep an open mind.
3. Find a (good) prompt. Chances are you’ve written a poem on a prompt before, with varying degrees of success. The point is to get something on paper, but also to attempt something new, so if you’ve already written a poem from the perspective of a dog, maybe don’t try that one again. Rattle provides an image (ekphrastic) prompt once a month, and a written prompt once a week (at the end of each Tuesday Rattlecast), but you can just type “writing prompts” into any search engine and find tons of opportunities. Or, try the dictionary: open it up to a random page, pick a random word and write a poem about it.
4. Find a (new) form. If you always write in free verse, try writing in form. This works best if you have some idea of what you want to write about, but not how to write it — you might find the “container” actually helps you clarify what you want to express. The best ones to get your mojo back are short (haiku, tanka, limerick), repetitive (triolet, ghazal, pantoum, sestina), or recycled versions of other poems (cento, golden shovel). You could also try a sense poem, in which you simply describe what you see/hear/smell/taste/feel, and see what comes out of that.
5. Find an accountability partner. One of the best ways to make sure you get some writing done is to find someone to share your poems with. Whether you swap poems with a group or an individual on a daily or weekly basis, deadlines are vital to your success here (I would avoid monthly swaps, or anything less frequent, because that leaves too much room for you to neglect your practice and fail to develop the necessary habit of writing regularly). It doesn’t matter if you (or your partner) thinks your writing is skilled or unskilled, rough or polished — only that you each gave yourself the same amount of time to complete the work, and that you are committed to the exercise.
What are your favorite methods to combat writers block? Let us know!