Saturday, May 10, 2014

When Writer's Block Puts You Down, Get Some Research Done Instead

When writer’s block won't go away, I usually discover that I am not really ready to begin writing in the first place. On these days, it is best for me to take a step back to regroup instead.

The following is a list of research strategies that help get my writing back on track. Originally, I wrote this for myself (when I couldn't focus on what I was supposed to be writing!), but now I feel like sharing, so enjoy!

A few favorite books
(plus an Easter egg)
1. Know Your Geography! A little investigation about a location, no matter how briefly visited, may give you the extra creative boost your story needs. Personally, I prefer starting with maps, so here’s a few places I have looked into.
  • Tanzania
  • The Matto Grosso
  • Loch Ness, Scotland
  • And craziest of all, Soddy Daisy, Tennessee city limits, which took me about a million years to find. (Way to go Soddy Daisy officials! Your borders are less available than the boundaries around most South American tribes.)
2. Use Fun Facts to Your Advantage! After all, you must often think of your readers as sharks hungry for inaccurate details, so do not give them anything to chew on. Just as importantly, if you are going to include historical details or facts, try to make them interesting. Sometimes even the most unrelated information, if cleverly placed, can and will keep the most vivacious of readers at bay. Here is a list of the crazier research topics I’ve explored in the past.
  • Strategies to better your chances at online sweepstakes
  • Exorcism prayers
  • Facts about that lady who won millions after burning herself with McDonald’s coffee. (By the way, if you think this case was ridiculous, you may want to read THIS.)
  • Tips for radiation prevention that included everything from learning about the pills and radiation counters to physical shielding (metal vs. wood vs. dirt) and radiation tolerance levels (humans vs. mice vs. fruitflies, of which humanity is on the less resistant side).
  • Kennedy assassination, Cubam Missle Crisis, and moon landing conspiracies.
Of course, I don’t mean to say that these things in the list were written about in literal scenes, however the basic knowledge has done wonders for my writing. 

3. Don’t Forget to Use Multiple Platforms! In other words, don’t search for all your ideas online. Ask a professional for help. And don’t forget you are a writer, so maybe try reading an honest-to-God book every once in a while too.
2012 trip to ruins in Belieze!
4. Act Everything Out! Before you turn on your computer, take the time to actually visit relatable places to better imagine what certain situations feel like. If you are writing about being in the woods, then actually get off your butt and go out in the woods. If you’re writing about being in the woods at dark without a flashlight, then go out in the woods after dark and throw your freaking flashlight in a creek! (God, have mercy. Why did I do that?!) I can almost guarantee that you’ll get something from this exercise, so long as you don’t get yourself killed. 

5. Chat With Your Characters! It may sound crazy (because it is!), but actually take the time to ask your characters about their
  • favorite color, food, and movies,
  • political and religious views,
  • first date and family life,
  • work experience and school grades,
  • and anything else you can think of.
Take each character out to a restaurant and see whether they offer to pay the bill. These are the details your characters need to become a reality.

6. Speak on Behalf of Your Characters! Once you know your characters, try to become them. For example, if carefully and infrequently used, snippets of authentic language can boost a scene too. What better way to actively put yourself into the mindset of your characters? Most frequently, I’ve used:
  • Spanish
  • German
  • Visit
    for free stories today!
  • And (my favorite) Swahili translations for characters.

Don’t Go Anywhere Without Your Toilet Paper!
After all, writing is a lot like crapping. If you don’t write something down when it first comes to you, it will only be a lot harder and more painful to get it out in the future. Carry a notepad with you or use your phone to send yourself messages because writers do not get holidays. Plus, I hate to say this (especially to myself!) but if we all took notes from the beginning, then maybe we wouldn’t be stuck with writer’s block in the first place.

Thanks for reading. Please let me know what crazy tips help you get out of writer’s block in the comments below!


  1. This`s the first #blog i`ve read from you and I think, you`re a great blogger. Liked your work! You`ve cleared all the things so proficiently the way reader boost up his confidence to do literally the same you`ve dropped down.. & to be honest, I like many points you`ve pointed out (in your precious words) ... my fav. points are fifth one, sixth one and this statement .. "Carry a notepad with you or use your phone to send yourself messages because writers do not get holidays" .. from the last point.

    I just enjoyed reading this wonderful blog & It was a fun to me to read your inspiring words.

  2. Thank you so much! I haven't done a lot with blogging because I wasn't sure how many people were seeing it. I greatly appreciate your words of kindness, and I'll definitely post again soon!

    Take care,