Writing can be difficult, especially for those who like to call themselves writers by profession or deep passion. And one of the things that makes writing so difficult, whether you’re trying to come up with something to write or to hit a word count for an assignment, is writer’s block. What exactly makes writer’s block such a formidable obstacle? And how can we fight it?

There are many things you can try in order to prevent writer’s block from coming into your life so frequently, as well as exercises you can try when all else seems to fail. Maybe you’re using a thesaurus incorrectly, confusing the meanings of affect vs effect, or just having a hard time coming up with a topic. Whatever your situation, we have a few tips you can try.

Stop Getting Tripped Up by Easy to Confuse Words

No matter how experienced you are as a writer, there are always going to be a few things that make you stop dead in your tracks while you’re working, slowing down your entire creative process. For instance, many of us still have trouble determining whether affect vs. effect is the correct way to go.

Right now, I can explain that, in terms of the affect vs effect debacle, this is relatively simple to figure out. “Affect” is typically used as a verb, when something is changing something else. For example, the angle of the sun can affect the growth of the farmer’s plants.

But “effect” is used as a noun, when something has caused an effect. So if I wanted to write the sentence about the sun changing the farmer’s plants, I could explain that the sun caused a negative effect on the plants.

However, explaining how to use affect vs effect here will not change the way you’re able to write in the long term. There are many other words that fall under a problem that is similar to an affect vs effect type issue. How do we combat this on the whole?

It might be useful to create a little cheat sheet for you to use while you’re writing, explicitly for the things that you know commonly give you trouble. This might explain affect vs effect; the problem you have with there, their, and they’re; and other specific rules you’ll need to follow while you’re writing.

Start Using a Thesaurus Properly

Many writers have also gotten into the habit of using a thesaurus in order to make their writing feel more engaging, interesting, or academic. However, by only using this tool to use larger, more important sounding words, you’re not using your thesaurus to its full potential. Additionally, you might even be getting in your own way by following this practice.

Instead of stopping yourself and getting out of your writing flow, write what comes naturally to you as you’re scribbling down notes on the page or typing. Then, instead of ceasing work in the middle of your progress, wait until you’ve hit a certain milestone to pull out your favorite thesaurus.

By electing to use a thesaurus more sparingly and while you’re in an editing mindset, you’ll be able to do a couple of different things to benefit your writing. One of these is opting into editing in the first place. But you’ll also get into the habit of only changing words when you feel the original ones you’ve chosen detract from the best possible flow. And, to go a step further, you’ll also be able to avoid distracting readers by using the same word too close together or too many times.

Consider Taking a Break

Getting into a flow state is a wonderful thing, but writer’s block is kind of the opposite of the flow state. When you find yourself staring at the page and unable to write anything, consider taking a break from the section you’re working on. If you’re working on a novel, move on to a different scene and come back to this one later. If you’re working on a blog or article, start working on the next subsection instead of staying stuck on this one.

You can also continue your work by taking on a different aspect of the project and then going back to the part that’s been troubling you later, such as creating an outline, doing more research, working on character traits, or anything else that applies.

And, if all else fails, you can simply take a break. Switching your mind away from the troubling topic at hand, or off altogether, will allow you to come back to your project with a far fresher mind. Odds are, you’ll have an idea of where you’d like to take your audience next when you sit down again.

Create a Game Plan or Outline

Many students have dealt with teachers who’ve told them to create an outline for their essays and then subsequently rolled their eyes at the suggestion. But if you find yourself getting stuck while you’re writing, having an outline to tell you where you’re heading next can really get you going in the right direction.

Whether the outline tells you what section you can work on next if the present one is confusing you, or if your rough guide just tells you how the next scene in your novel is meant to go, that’s a good thing. Either you’re allowing your brain to switch gears and move on to other work, or you’re priming yourself to figure out the best direction in which to continue your writing.