There are two common causes of writer’s block: no ideas, and too many ideas.
When you have no idea of what to write about, your mind is literally a blank page. It is like a car with no gas; it can’t get started. On the other hand, when you have too many ideas, your mind locks like a flooded carburetor, and you have to clear it to get going.
Your writing can also stall when there are too many distractions, you feel lazy, or you keep second-guessing yourself by constantly going back to what you have already written. All this can keep you from getting good work done.
To help you out, here are 7 powerful tools to break through your writer’s block.
If you are suffering from a mind made chaotic by many ideas jumping all over the place, you can use Mindmup to bring them to order and clarify your thoughts. It is a free and lightweight online mind-mapping tool, and you don’t have to register to use and save or share your work. It is Java-based, so you don’t need Flash. On the tool bar you will see familiar options, and on the right, you have 21 tools you can use, including a nifty storyboard. It is very intuitive, and works best for simple mind maps.
If you want to find out what people want to read, you can pitch your idea to your social networks on the free HelpMeWrite platform. You sign up with your Twitter account, and give a title and brief synopsis of your idea to send for voter feedback to your social networks. This is a great way to refine what your next blog, feature article, or fictional work should be. Of course, your friends will probably like whatever you put, so take their votes under advisement.
If you have ever used a little notebook to jot down writing ideas, or even to get some content done when on the go, you can use this paid app on your iPhone or iPad to do the same thing. At $2.99 a download, some people may find it a bit pricey for a note-writing app. However, it does a little bit more than that. Once you launch it, it gives you “starting lines” that you can use to get you going. If you don’t like the prompt, you can ask for another one by tapping the refresh icon. Once you start typing, the app goes into full screen mode. You can still get a prompt by tapping the lighting icon for “Quick Prompt.” When you’re done, you can save to the device, send to email, Evernote or Day One, or copy the text to paste on another app.
If you are truly out of ideas, you might want to try Stormboard. An online realtime brainstorming and collaboration tool you can share with others, it is free to join and accessible from any device with Internet access. You can invite people to join in by sending them your ID number and the Key number of the session. Members of a session can put up “sticky” notes of ideas that you can collect and organize on a virtual whiteboard, which you can export (in the paid versions) as a summary at any time to keep. It only takes a minute to learn how to use it because it is so simple. The free version lets you invite up to five people. For $5 a month, you have unlimited invites and reports, and for $8.33 a month, you get more advanced features, including the ability to get images, videos, and documents as contributions to the board.
If your problem is the inability to stop editing your work in the middle of the writing process, or you are easily distracted, Ilys can help. The rationale behind this free online tool is if you do not have the ability to look over your work or even hit the backspace, it will force you to focus. It can be a little disconcerting and downright frustrating if you have banana fingers, but it does challenge you to concentrate, and think before you write. The app asks for a word count, and when you hit go, the screen becomes black with just a window where you can see just the one letter (or space) you just keyed in. You cannot see anything else before you reach your word count. When you do, the screen shows you what you have written, which you can then copy and paste into a text editor for editing and saving. It is an odd app, but strangely exciting. Bad luck if you lose your train of thought, though.
Some writers find that the Pomodoro technique helps them be more productive. You write for 25 minutes, take a break for 5 minutes, then work for another 25 minutes, and so on until the 4th writing session at which point you take a 15-minute break. It commits you to certain discipline, and if you are a habitual procrastinator, you need it. This free online tool also lets you customize your intervals and work straight through without a break. It does not really do anything else, but you acquire good habits over time.
Typewrite is a free online tool that offers a great way to collaborate with other people. You can save as many versions of a shared document as you like, and it keeps track of all changes in each. It has a clutter-free interface, and formatting is basic but adequate for most writing needs. A major plus is it marks up as you format, so all you need is to copy and paste it on your blog or website. However, you cannot change your font type or size. Also, while you can insert online images, there is no option to upload your own images. All writers get writer’s block once in a while, and that is perfectly fine if it is temporary. It usually means you just need to take a break from the writing and do something else to shake it loose. However, if you get writer’s block all the time, it probably means you have some bad habits you need to address. These tools can help you break it down and get you going.