Every writer gets stuck.
Instead of waiting for the creative fog to lift, here are 10 ways to get the words flowing:
1. Cover your screen while you write.
If you find yourself doing more editing than writing, try covering up (or, on a laptop, angling down) your screen while you type. You can just close your eyes instead.
At first, it will seem odd to not see the words that you’re typing. However, this technique can help you write faster and express your thoughts more freely.
2. Set a daily writing goal, and track your progress.
If you want to improve, you must put the work (and the words) in.
Set a specific—and achievable—goal of how many words you want to write per day in 2019. Track your progress over time to hold yourself accountable.
3. Use a writing prompt.
Not sure what to write about? Skimming through writing prompts will often propel your mind toward a good idea.
Here are a few sources to get you going:
If you’re in a rut writing boring corporate copy, see what kinds of stories industry competitors are sharing. Freely “borrow” winning formats or formulas.
4. Start at the end.
Who says you have to start at the beginning? With all due respect to Julie Andrews, sometimes the ending is a very good place to start.
Write out your conclusion, and work backward from there.
5. Rewrite a masterpiece or a famous story.
Choose a famous masterpiece or classic novel, and write your own version.
You could write a short story for children, or you could pen a whole novel or screenplay. The idea is to take a familiar tale and make it your own.
You might decide to bring old stories into the modern world. You could also switch to a completely different genre, such as a sci-fi version of “Cinderella.” That’s an easy way to unleash your creativity.
6. Create a poem from your spam folder.
A “found poem” is one created from text that already exists.
For a terrific writing exercise, pluck out several miscellaneous words and phrases from your spam folder, and reanimate them into an original poem. Your ode to “One weird trick to flush body fat” or “It’s like a power wash for your insides!” might not make much sense, but it’ll get those creative juices flowing.
7. Write something inspired by a piece of music or art.
Do you have a favorite song? Do you admire any artists?
Think about a piece of art that moves you, and just start writing about it.
Another useful trick: Look through a collection of photos or artwork, and choose a piece to use as the basis of a story.
8. Use the alphabet.
This is a fun exercise that can work for almost any type of writing.
If you’re in need of a spark, craft a piece in which each sentence starts with the next letter of the alphabet. Here’s an example:
An airplane roared overhead. Before Heather even opened her eyes, she knew what was going on. Cliff, her neighbor, came busting through the door.
Yes, it’s tricky once you get to X (this list will help), but wending your way through the alphabet narrows the potential for each sentence.
9. Write with a sentence length limit.
Can you restrict every sentence you write to 10 words? How about eight?
This is difficult, even for great writers. However, enforcing brevity is a great exercise. Short, snappy sentences and paragraphs work well online—and most readers prefer concise copy.
Try to craft a post featuring sentences under 10 words.
10. Write without adverbs.
Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. They often (though not always) end with -ly. They are also among the most loathed bits of language.
Writing without adverbs forces you to write crisper, clearer (and shorter) sentences, which often have more impact. You’ll find yourself choosing stronger verbs.
Of course, adverbs aren’t all bad, but this sort of exercise will help you weed out weak words and increase brevity.
Have you tried any of these tricks? Please list any tips or tactics you’d recommend in the comments section.
A version of this post first appeared on Daily Writing Tips.