You recognize the title. It’s not a four letter word, but should be. You know what it’s like. You sit in front of the computer (typewriter/blank notebook), gather the writing implements of your choice and get ready to relay your brilliant thoughts to the world at large.

Then the blankness.

You try everything. You put on that CD you haven’t listened to in oh…hours. You pace around the room. Pick up a book—no, wait. Might lead to plagiarism. Put the book down and turn on the TV. Switch that off because you realize you’ll never get anything done staring at that thing. You wear out Solitaire to the point where your eyes cross every time you see a deck of cards on screen.

Now what?

How do you get rid of that ugly blankness that seems to be taking over your mind, eating away at the creative juices you worked so hard to conjure up that day? What do you do to get the ideas that seemed to be dancing on the edge of your mind out and into the world?

Dang if I know.

LOL Sorry. Half the time I’m as stuck as the next writer, staring at a blank page as if it’ll magically fill itself. But I can offer a few tips that might help others with the same problem. After all, I’m writing this during one of my dry spells.

First, try not to stress out about it. (I don’t even say w*****’s b**** because the words themselves seem to get in the way.) Everyone goes through days, even weeks or months when nothing seems to come out right, or come out at all. Take a deep breath and try to relax your body. Even if it doesn’t make the words flow, it’ll go a long way towards getting your mind in the right state. How many writers have you heard of that produced their award-winning pieces while wondering how much time they have to buy the groceries or counting the seconds till their next deadline?

Sometimes, real life does intrude on the fun of writing, but part of your job as a writer is to focus on the task at hand and make telling a good story your priority. Even if it means forcing yourself to forget about everything else for a while.

What else works? Corny as it sounds, writing exercises can be a life saver. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried to start something new and come across a writing exerise done through an e-group ages ago. Even if it’s just a paragraph (or a page of mad libs) to get you started, sometimes it can inspire a new novel or short story or even a new twist to your current work in progress. There are a few places you can find useful exercises online, but my favorite is Charlotte Dillon’s Resources for Romance Writers. The exercises themselves are not always genre specific, so give them a try if you’re looking for a different type of motivation.

Something else you may not have thought of: rewriting. I know, I know. You’re doing that anyway. After all, what writer is so flawless that everything comes out perfectly during the first draft? But sometimes the problem isn’t what your characters should be doing next, but what they were doing before you got stuck. I’ve found it helps to look through my most recent passage, find a problem spot, and rewrite the next few paragraphs or pages. You may like what you wrote. You may love it so much you can’t imagine parting with one word of it. But are you willing to sacrifice the whole story to save one part? In the words of Stephen King, murder your darlings. Take that seemingly brilliant piece of prose out and see if your story doesn’t read better without it. Who knows, you may even be able to put that selection into another story.

You may also want to try getting your friends to help. Everyone should have at least one person they’re willing to show their unfinished masterpiece. If you don’t know anyone with a good eye for your specialty, there are lots of writer’s groups online that offer peer-to-peer critique services. If you’re willing to look at chapters from other writers, you might get a lot of good feedback on your own work. You could even find a little inspiration from fellow children of the craft.

My point is this: getting stuck every once in a while isn’t the end of the world. There are lots of ways to get things going in the right direction again, if you’re willing to give other methods a try.

Then again, there’s always online poker.