Literary and psychology experts alike agree that writer's block comes from a need for guidance, often combined with a deep-seated fear of the unknown. Writers have come up with many different options for getting past that uncharted territory. And their techniques are generally split into two camps.
There's the take-a-break camp, made up of those who think it's best to rest from the subject (or from writing altogether) for a while in order to focus the mind elsewhere. And then there's the write-it-out group who usually have various outlining, revising or other tricks to persevere with the method in order to hone the writing craft. Depending on how your brain works, you can pick whichever works best for you.
Then there's a new model that borrows from both camps. If you've ever found yourself stuck in that scary in-between -- whether it's not knowing where to take your characters next or the dreaded blank page -- this basic exercise can get you started, no matter how your brain works.
EXERCISE Pick a subject without thinking: Simply gaze upon the object nearest to you. This can be something basic and simple, like your coffee mug or computer keyboard. After about a minute or less of visual study (or contemplation if you're vision-impaired), begin writing whatever comes to mind that describes this object. The key is to be organic and accepting of whatever comes up, so remember: There's no right or wrong here.
First, write a physical description: "My coffee mug is off-white in color and made of heavy stoneware material," etc. Be as specifically detailed as you can be, and take as much time as you like. Remember, the idea is to write more, rather than less.
After you have filled a minimum of half a page, begin to write about what feelings this object -- or anything in the sentence you've just written about it -- brings up in you, physically or emotionally. (Both is even better.) Start writing this next segment immediately. Don't pause! It's perfectly acceptable to write associatively here: "When I think of coffee mugs, in general, I always remember my grandfather, who had a pot brewing at every visit. This makes me feel sentimental and a little sad that he's no longer around to give me his words of wisdom over the rim of his cup." It's also okay to stay literal: "This is my favorite mug, because it always feels warm in my hand -- not so hot that it burns me, like the ceramic ones in the cabinet." Try to write more than a page.
Finally, see if you can bring the writing to a close, coming full circle by mentioning whatever you started with -- even if you have to do this by mentioning how unrelated the two ideas are, in segue. For example: "My grandfather never owned a plain coffee mug like the one I drink from today" or "It's the stoneware that makes the difference." Just closing the loop between the beginning and the ending of your written piece is enough to end the exercise, and still makes for good practice in writing.
This exercise can jump-start anything, from an introspective journal entry to a dryly fact-based report, and is excellent for fiction work. It helps your creative synapses begin to fire and helps you start to draw connections where you wouldn't as easily otherwise. Once your creative cells are firing, you can usually see what was troubling you before with a completely new perspective that's no longer hindered. Try it and see for yourself!