How to Beat Writer’s Block

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I am working on multiple manuscripts in various stages of completion. I tried to develop an idea into a rough draft. Nothing. I tried to revise a rough draft. Nada. I tried to tweak a polished manuscript that was still missing something. Zilch. Did I lose my ability to write? What should I do? How will I get unstuck? Panic. Panic. Panic. I turned off my computer. It cannot be forced. The words will come . . .

My #1 job is being a stay-at-home mom. I beat writer’s block by exploring other creative outlets and reading a lot of mentor texts (picture books). I strive to incorporate reading in most of the activities I do with my children.

Idea jar

My two-year-old daughter, Sophie, and I made a rainy day idea jar. Sophie enjoyed coloring, counting, and putting the popsicle sticks in the mason jar. We came up with a lot of fun ideas!

  • Play dress up
  • Build a blanket fort
  • Put a puzzle together
  • Play hide-and-seek
  • Make a collage
  • Jump in puddles
  • Play the djembe
  • Call Grandma
  • Water the plants
  • Play trains
  • Make cookies
  • Paint
  • Pillow fight
  • Draw on the chalkboard
  • Legos
  • Coloring books
  • Play a board game
  • Pick something from the toy box

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Sophie was ecstatic with the first idea she picked. I turned up the tunes and we boogied down in the kitchen.

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Sophie picked read a book for the next idea. She chose I Dare You Not to Yawn by Helene Boudreau, illustrated by Serge Bloch.

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Idea jars are great tools for writing prompts. Pull out three idea sticks and write a story. This exercise helped me come up with two picture book ideas.

Go for a walk

One of the wonderful benefits of being a SCBWI member is receiving the SCBWI magazine. I read a great article in the latest issue about the correlation between walking and creativity.

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I grabbed the leash and took my dog, Charlie, for a walk to the river. It worked! Ideas for a revision started popping into my head one after another. I keep a pocket-sized notebook and a pen with me at all times because the best ideas come at the most unexpected times. When I am walking with my children I try to remember to be observant and follow their lead. What do they stop to look at? How do they explain what they see? Children share incredible descriptions of their surroundings. Pay attention and take notes. Then read a book about going for a walk when you get home!

Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora celebrates the rich diversity in America’s neighborhoods. Carmelita greets everyone in her neighborhood as she takes her dog, Manny, for a walk. My son is always asking me how to say hello in different languages. These are the hellos you will find in this book: Arabic, French, Spanish, Italian, Swahili, Japanese, Mandarin, and Hebrew.

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Visit your neighborhood greenhouse

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Get away from the gray and gloom of winter and go to the greenhouse! The vibrant and warm atmosphere will stimulate your senses and get the creative juices flowing.

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Then read a book about gardens! What Does Bunny See?: A Book of Colors and Flowers by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Maggie Smith is a fun rhyming book with page turns children love. A rabbit explores a garden, finding flowers of every color. Rhyming clues invite the reader to answer the question: What does bunny see?

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Study books with creative page turns. How can you build anticipation and make your manuscript interactive?

Be silly!

Don’t be afraid to be silly or get messy. Explore different textures with your kids. Draw designs in flour on the kitchen floor. Make creations out of beans, noodles, buttons, strings, paper bags, and toothpicks. You just might discover a new character or setting for a book.

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Make monsters with your kids. What do they name them? What sounds do they make? How do they move? Put your story in motion through play.

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I never would have imagined playing with window gel clings would lead to a manuscript idea, but it did! Sophie and I put heart gel clings on a window, a drinking glass, and a toilet paper roll, which she claimed was a telescope.

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Sophie had another super idea when she wanted to put the hearts in a book. We picked Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda.

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Why should the Easter Bunny get all the love? That’s what Cat would like to know. So he decides to take over: He dons his sparkly suit, jumps on his Harley, and roars off into the night. But it turns out delivering Easter eggs is hard work. And it doesn’t leave much time for naps (of which Cat has taken five–no, seven). So when a pooped-out Easter Bunny shows up, and with a treat for Cat, what will Cat do? His surprise solution will be stylish, smart, and even–yes–kind.

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Go to the park

It’s important to be around children if you write for children. I write picture books. My children are the perfect ages for this genre. Parks are great locations if you don’t have children or your children are different ages than your target genre. Listen to what they say. Pay attention to the games they invent. Tune into your imagination by observing children as they play.

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Read a book about parks! My son loves Big Machines by Karen Wallace.

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Crash! Scrape! Scrunch! A new park is being built. See big machines in action and find out what they do.

Blog about your writing experiences

What tricks work for you? How do you beat writer’s block? What mentor texts do you recommend? Where do you write? How do you make your writing space work for you? What time of day do you write? Do you write best at home? At a coffee shop? A bookstore? The library?

If you are writing a blog post you are writing something. I often write a blog post when I get stuck on a manuscript. The simple act of writing something else stirs up ideas for other writing projects. It feels great get words on that screen.

Take advantage of the moments when you feel motivated to write. Let your kids occupy themselves even if they turn the house upside down. Leave the mess for later and write, write, write.

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Read an inspirational book about writing. One of my favorites is Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

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I start all my manuscripts with pen and paper because it is a more intimate experience. I feel more connected to my work. I love the rush when ideas come so fast I get a cramp in my hand as it flies across the paper.

Natalie Goldberg writes, “Handwriting is more connected to the movement of the heart.”

Affirmations

Make affirmations and put them in your work area, on the fridge, on a mirror in the bathroom, in your car. Build your confidence. You are a writer! You are a wordsmith! Never give up. Write every chance you get. Don’t worry about grammatical errors. Let go and write, write, write.

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Make a victory jar

I am a member of the Facebook group Mothers Writing Picture books. One of the women shared a fabulous idea with the group. She made a mission accomplished jar. Sometimes we can only get in 15-20 minuets of writing per day. I often feel like I am not accomplishing much in such a short amount of time. I decided to make my own victory jar to celebrate my writing accomplishments. Progress is progress whether you write 25 words or 250 words. The next time I am feeling down about my writing journey I will reach inside the jar and remind myself of all my hard work. Celebrate success!

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Make an idea jar, go for a walk, visit the greenhouse, be silly, go to the park, write a blog post, make affirmations, make a victory jar, and read! Beat writer’s block and create word strings that sing!

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Be sure to check out all the fabulous kid lit related posts on the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

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33 thoughts on “How to Beat Writer’s Block

  1. Good luck getting a contract with all of the competition out there.

    I used to solve some of my deepest problems when I was designing roof trusses by going horseback riding. Stepping away from the confines of my office and setting my spirit (and my imagination) free under the trees oft time brought me the answers I needed. I think you have the right idea when it comes to overcoming writer’s block. Although, to me, writing is the ‘easy’ part .. it is the marketing (and punctuation) that I find suppressing my work. However, never lose faith in yourself. Those answers will come at some point in time.

    • Yes, the competition is fierce. I try to keep a positive attitude and work on my craft every chance I get :). My friend in Eugene used to design roof trusses! Horseback riding is a splendid idea to get out in nature and free your mind. My uncle has horses so I will have to give it a try some time! Marketing can be extremely time consuming and frustrating. I have been focusing more on writing new material so I haven’t been promoting my book very much lately. We have to wear so many hats! Best wishes and thank you for your kind words :).

      • I haven’t even begun to promote ‘Brides’ yet. I went ahead and self published, even though it really needs to be edited for punctuation errors. Still, I think the story is worthy of sharing and I pray the ‘right’ eyes will read the story and see a potential movie in the works. Brides is a trilogy, but I haven’t released book 3 (Topeka) yet, since I am still tweaking that one … another chore. 🙂 Time only allows us to fit so much into one day, as you well know, I am sure. 🙂

      • It is a family Saga, although I guess book one could be considered a romance in many ways, but the story builds around the Sanderson Family, basically. Roger is the main character throughout all three books. I left a link revealing a bit more, if you want to check it out further. Everyone who has read the first two books has had positive things to say about it, but it takes time to ‘become known’. How did your friend go about finding someone to review her work?

        http://orples.net/brides/new-post-blogging-101-your-dream-reader-part-1-brides/

      • Thank you for the link! I will check it out :). I will have to ask her and get back to you. I saw a post on Facebook recently that she met with the screenwriter. Her book is Soul Sale: A Rude Awakening.

      • Thank you! I will look for her book, and the movie to follow. I would love any tips I could get into trying to get a legitimate screenwriter’s attention.

        That link I left, leads to other links for a little more insight into Brides. I need to start a website on that title (if I ever find the time to do it), since my ‘child’ tells me mixing genres on one web site is a mistake. I was using the Orples to promote Brides. So much for that idea?

      • Believe me. I know! And soon, I’ll be opening ‘The Orples Toy and Gift Shop’ … an affiliate marketing venture, to try to make ends meet. I’ve done a few introductory posts on that topic too.

      • … as soon as I learn it from my kids … just kidding. 🙂 We all learn from each other. I think the trick is to hang in there until fruition smiles upon us, or the fat lady sings, which ever comes first. LOL. 🙂 I checked out your website … looks Great!

  2. WOW, what an inspiration. That was fantastic, so many ideas, such awesome ways to include your kids and beat writers block at the same time. You have totally inspired me, so thank you for joining us on the Kid Lit Blog Hop

    • It is nice to connect with you again, Julie! Thank you! You inspired me with your fabulous picture book manuscripts in Jodell’s class. I am excited to participate in the Kid Lit Blog Hop :). And congrats on your latest book!

  3. I *love* the photos of Easter Cat doctored up with hearts! Would you mind if I posted on my Facebook page if I include a link to this page? Cheers, Deborah (Cat’s mom)

  4. Thanks for this great list of ideas. I am about halfway done with an early chapter book and am struggling to get over my block. I am definitely going to try some of your suggestions…maybe the dance party! 🙂

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