If you’re a writer – and if you’re reading this, you probably are – you have no doubt experienced that infamous bane of all creatives.
It happens when you’re staring at a blank page, screen, or canvas, and your mind is equally empty:
It can plague you for a few hours, a few days, or even months. It comes and goes as it pleases. Your flighty muse flits away, and you’re left without any words.
When writer’s block hits, you can easily succumb to it – I know I have, many a time.
Or, you can fight back and get your brain humming once again.
A great strategy to use when you’re fumbling for the right words is to look to the greats.
These writers battled it all: not only writer’s block, but lack of interest, rejection, publishing nightmares, and even their own demons. They came through it all with printed masterpieces.
So, when your muse is hiding, don’t despair. Instead, think about how to write like Oscar Wilde, George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, Shakespeare, and other incredibly engaging authors that can elevate your muse to new heights. Read our blog for inspiration!
How to Turn Off Writer’s Block and Write Like Oscar Wilde in 6 Steps
In 2013, experts discovered a letter written by Oscar Wilde that had been previously unknown. In it, Wilde gives tips and advice to an aspiring writer over 13 pages.
One of the main points he expounded on in this precious artifact was this:
“Make some sacrifice for your art, and you will be repaid, but ask of art to sacrifice herself for you and a bitter disappointment may come to you.”
Unpacking this tidbit, as well as other pieces of advice from Wilde’s work, gives great insight for getting over your own writer’s block. You may even become a better writer.
To write like Oscar Wilde and other greats, sit up and pay attention. Let’s dive in!
1. Understand That Writing Takes Effort
Image from Quote Addicts
Writing isn’t easy. That’s why there are so many bad writers out there – it truly is an art that must be mastered.
When Wilde says “Make some sacrifice for your art,” he means you’ve got to put in the sweat, the tears, and the pain to come out with something worthwhile.
After all, if writing was easy, nobody would ever suffer from writer’s block. In fact, the skill wouldn’t be so highly prized, and businesses wouldn’t bother paying content writers to write their copy for them.
To put it simply, you need to accept that writer’s block comes with the gig. There will be ups and downs, and if you can’t get with the program, you’ll be “bitterly disappointed,” as Wilde says.
What matters is the act of creating, even if it’s like pulling teeth. After all, you can always edit later.
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2. Read Widely and Gather Inspiration
Another famous Oscar Wilde quotes sings to this tune:
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
If you don’t have inspiration to pull from, your well is sure to run dry. As writers, we read not only for entertainment, but for instruction, inspiration, and insight.
So, to improve your writing, read. Read as much as you can, and read widely. The more of the written word you absorb, the deeper your inspirational well.
But remember: don’t copy. Emulate. Practice. Your own style should emerge from your “research.”
And yes, reading is research. That’s one of the great things about being a writer – your passion and interests feed each other.
Comic from Grant Snider
3. Have Faith in Your Point of View
You’re unique in this world. You have something to say – so say it. According to Wilde,
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Don’t be afraid to express an opinion, do something a little differently, or take a leap with your writing. These things are what make your writing yours.
If you’re holding back and it’s causing you to stare blankly at a blinking cursor, stop. Think: what are you afraid of?
Confidence in your unique point of view will take you far in your writing, but remember to avoid cockiness. Nobody likes the snooty writer who brags about their skills.
4. Don’t Fear Failure
A fear of failure can make you want to put your head in the sand and never pick up a pen again.
But, as Wilde says,
“Experience is merely the name men give to their mistakes.”
In short, failure can actually make you a better writer. Failure is experience – you lived through something awful, and you survived to tell the tale. You’re probably a stronger person for it, too. Use that to your advantage!
Failure is never the enemy. Failing to try, however, is.
So, when writer’s block hits, forget worrying about whether your words suck. This anxiety can freeze your brain. Instead, just start. Just try.
5. Don’t Rely on Tired Phrases and Clichés
Using clichés is a good way be unoriginal. These are phrases that people have used in both speech and writing, over and over again, to describe a particular situation, feeling, or person.
This next bit of advice, which comes from George Orwell, is simple: don’t use them! As he says,
“Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”
Why shouldn’t you do this? Not only is it unoriginal, it’s a lazy way to write. Instead of describing a person, place, or thing in a new way that’s unique to your perspective, you’re falling back on overused descriptions that have long since lost their meaning.
“It’s like beating a dead horse.”
“There’s no use crying over spilled milk.”
“It’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”
6. Just Write
According to Henry Miller,
“When you can’t create you can work.”
Even if it feels impossible, just start writing. Get the words on paper, one after another. Don’t just sit there. Write.
If the words sound stupid, good. If you’re forgetting to use correct punctuation, great. If you hate every word you’re putting down, even better.
Open up a blank document in your word processor and start typing. Grab a notebook or journal and a pen, and just scribble. You can even write fragments and ideas on post-its and stick them around your desk.
The point is to get the words out there. You can worry about the rest later – that’s what editing is for.
You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t write through the tough times when the words aren’t flowing. In fact, you may find that the difficult times outnumber the ones where your writing is spinning effortlessly from your mind, like Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold.
If you wait to write until the muse is sitting on your shoulder, crooning in your ear, then you’ll only write sporadically, if at all. And, if you never write unless you’re feeling good, you’ll never become better at your craft.
This infographic from Copyblogger says it succinctly:
How to Write Like Oscar Wilde: Break Through Mental Blocks with Perseverance
Writers write. That’s all there is to it.
They write when they’re happy. They write when they’re sad. They write through mental blocks, and they write through bad days. No matter the circumstances, they keep pushing. They accept failure as experience and keep going.
To overcome your own writing hang-ups, take advice from the greats, like Oscar Wilde, George Orwell, Henry Miller, and more, and run with it.
Remember: writing is hard. You have to forget the fear of failure. You need to have confidence in your point of view. Use your own unique insights. Most importantly, just write.
Share Your Writing Insight and Experience
Finally, once you have acquired your own wisdom about how to write like Oscar Wilde and other great authors, pass it on. As Wilde says:
“The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.”
Now that we’ve examined the words of great writers, what about you? What are some practical tips and strategies you’ve used to stave off writer’s block and get back to work? We’d love to hear your ideas!
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