What’s my New Year’s resolution for 2021? Like most writers, I want to write more, a lot more. My productivity was nowhere near where I wanted it to be in 2020, and I want to change this in the coming months. But, as with most New Year’s resolutions, keeping this resolution will likely be challenging as the year stretches on.
I’ve been professionally publishing for over 10 years now, and I’ve found that creativity comes in cycles and pulses. There are times when it flows like nectar from above, and there are also times when it’s a struggle to even string sentences together. No matter how much I want to keep to my New Year’s resolution, writer’s block will inevitably happen at some point, and I’m going to get frustrated.
Writer’s block is a lot like the common cold. You often just have to wait it out and let it resolve on its own. Sometimes, though, it drags on and on, and you find yourself in a repetitive rut that has no end in sight. Those are times when it helps to stage a creative intervention and get yourself out of that writing rut.
Over the years, I’ve been slowly figuring out what works for me when I need to get myself out of a rut, and I’ve compiled these things into a list of 10 tips for fighting writer’s block in the New Year. What works for some might not work for others, since writing is a process as unique as the individual doing it, but I hope that this list will be helpful and give you some ideas for keeping your inspiration flowing in 2021.
1. Write every day. Yes, every day. It doesn’t have to be much. It could be 50 words, 100 words, a poem, a journal entry, anything that encourages you to put pen to paper and write. Writing every day is a great productive habit to get into and can help you work through very difficult periods of writer’s block. It might feel awkward at first, but it will get easier and more natural with time. Even if you feel uninspired, it will help keep your creativity flowing. Remember, you don’t have to write much. Just try to write something, anything, every day.
2. Read every day. Just as getting in the habit of writing every day can help your creativity, reading every day can also help your creativity flourish even through the worst bouts of writer’s block. It also doesn’t have to be much — you could read several pages of a magazine, a chapter of a novel, part of a comic book, a poem, etc. Just reading something and experiencing someone else’s storytelling can help keep the flow of inspiration alive in your mind while you work through your writer’s block. Sometimes seeing (or hearing) another’s words can help bring out your own.
3. Don’t edit. At least, not at first. Editing is important, but it can come later. What is more important, especially if you are fighting writer’s block, is to write. Don’t censor or hinder yourself in the early stages. Don’t worry about getting everything right on the first go. Just let the ideas flow as they are. Let them take you where they want, embrace their guidance. You can edit when you’re done — right now, it’s important to write.
4. Set small goals. Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about the entirety of your project and all the steps you need to take to complete it. When you look at everything all at once, it might feel daunting and insurmountable. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the process of crafting a creative work isn’t much different. Break it down into smaller parts and set small goals for yourself. They can be as small as they need to be to make you comfortable. What’s one small thing you can do today for your project? Maybe edit a page? Write a few lines? Aim for slow and steady progress, and you’ll get there.
I also like to keep a some kind of visual record of the goals I’ve completed. Seeing your accomplishments quantified visually, whether in the form of a crossed-out to do list, a chart, a graph, etc, can really help boost confidence and keep you motivated.
5. Reward yourself. It’s hard and mentally exhausting work to fight through writer’s block. Reward yourself for completing your goals! You could do this after every goal, or after a specific number of goals, whatever you prefer. I like to buy myself a little treat for every 10 submissions I send out. Not only are you rewarding yourself for hard-earned accomplishments, you will also have further motivation for staying productive.
6. Nurture your creativity. This goes along with rewarding yourself for the goals you complete. Try to do things that nurture your creativity and help you feel inspired and motivated. This will help encourage you to keep writing. This could mean reading books you like, watching TV shows that inspire you, or whatever else works for you. For me personally, I like to play video games and browse through Pinterest. Seeing images/depictions of beautiful, fantastical, and intriguing places helps me think of new stories to write.
7. Change scenery. Seeing new places on the screen is no doubt helpful for inspiration. Sometimes, though, what you might need is a change of scenery to jump-start your writing. You don’t have to travel far or take an expensive trip to do this — simply going for a walk can do wonders for the creative process. Try to seek out new sights and smells. You could visit a nearby park, stroll along a trail, or even just sit and write by an open window. Sometimes a little change is all you need.
8. Get comfortable. Changes of scenery can help get ideas flowing, but it’s also important to be comfortable in your writing space, wherever you choose that to be. Every writer has different preferences for how they settle into and utilize their writing space. Do you like to listen to music while you write? Do you have a favorite pen/notebook? Do you like to write outdoors? Do you like to write in cafes or libraries? Try to lean into your preferences and make yourself as comfortable as possible while you’re writing. That way, you can devote your attention and energy to writing rather than being uncomfortable with or distracted by elements in your writing space.
9. Find a friend. Sticking to New Year’s resolutions can be hard, whether it’s starting a new diet, going to the gym more, or, as we’ve been discussing here, writing more. Having a friend to support you and cheer you on during this process can really make a difference, especially when things aren’t going as well as you’d like. If you are both trying to stick to resolutions, you can help each other along the way. Accountability buddies are so helpful during discouraging times.
10. Be forgiving. Above all, remember to be kind to yourself during all of this. Don’t beat yourself up or get angry with yourself if you’re struggling. 2021 will not be a perfect year, just as none of us are perfect ourselves. Allow yourself to be imperfect. Celebrate when your writing is going well, and forgive yourself when the writer’s block sets in. You can get through it, and you can do this!
Thanks for reading my list of 10 tips for fighting writer’s block in the New Year! Are you also resolving to write more in 2021? What are some things that help you stay productive and fight off writer’s block? As always, I would love to hear from you in the comments.
Happy writing, and happy New Year!