Have you ever suffered at the cold, merciless hands of Writer’s Block?
If you’ve ever felt that icy chill squeezing your brain, then I’m sure you’ve wondered “How can I get past Writer’s Block?” Probably with salty tears streaming down your face and anguish in your voice.
I feel ya.
There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting at the computer, distractions muted, fingers ready, and a brain that refuses to cooperate.
With that in mind, is there anything a writer can do to overcome the cruel reality of writer’s block?
But first, you need to:
Understand What’s Physically Feeding the Writer’s Block Beast
Because it’s certainly not creativity.
If words and bestselling book ideas aren’t flowing freely in your brain space, consider adjusting these aspects of your life to help stave off the lack of creativity and fight writer’s block.
1. Sleep – Or More Specifically, Lack of Sleep
I know, I know. Who needs sleep when you can write all night!? But sometimes when we deprive our bodies of sleep…bad things start to happen. The munchies turn on and our brains turn off, for instance. Or your eye keeps getting drawn to the corner of the room because of a shadow that may or may not exist.
So if you’d like your fingers to be busy typing instead of digging into a bag of carrots, consider taking a nap or going to bed a little earlier.
Don’t leave! I’m not here to lecture you on your stash of Cinnabuns or curry-covered sticky rice. Carbs have their place. I got you.
BUT, if your brain is fogging over and you have a deadline, switching to food higher in proteins and healthy fats can grease those squeaky noggin cogs and get the words flowing again.
3. Sheer Exhaustion
This is different than lack of sleep, though sleep can help relieve this problem as well. However, exhaustion is far more comprehensive and draining. If you’re training for a marathon, maybe your brain has the creativity to write thanks to all those endorphins, but not the energy.
So, if you’re staring at your screen with your mind going a mile a minute down six different possible endings and through an entirely different story about a bear and a selfie stick, but your fingers aren’t moving— take a break and let your body recuperate. Writer’s Block will hate you for it.
Have you noticed that Writer’s Block feeds on all the bad things in your life? It would.
Stress can take a perfectly word-ready brain and bog it down with worries, lists, appointments, jobs, children, and the million other things that creep in from life. If you want to overcome Writer’s Block, consider making a list of all the things that are worrying you.
Another list!? But you just said—I know, dear stressed one, but this is a good list. Once everything you’re stressing about is down on your list, separate the items into things you have control over and things you don’t. For instance, laundry piling up in the corner of your room would go on the “Can Fix” list, but whether or not JoAnn is talking about you behind your back at work wouldn’t.
Then, work to let go of the things you can’t control. This can be SUPER hard, but it’s for your book. Your creative baby. Be a mama (or papa) bear and protect your creativity by letting go of the bad feelings, and Writer’s Block won’t stand a chance.
5. You Know, Boredom
Maybe this one is obvious for you. Or maybe you’re too bored to care. I don’t know. But this is one of the sneaky things Writer’s Block feeds off of. With that in mind, if you aren’t making any progress in your writing goals, consider spicing your life up off the page.
Go have an adventure. Talk to people in the grocery store lines. Try something new. It can be difficult to write wonderful stories if we don’t make one for ourselves.
Shift the Mental Obstacles to Allow for Creativity and Stop Writer’s Block
Sometimes, lack of progress on a creative writing project comes down to bad habits, false truths we tell ourselves, and sheer stubbornness. Read below for some pitfalls to look out for and how to fix it!
6. Bad Ideas (Writer’s Block in Sheep’s Clothing)
Before I go into this one, I want to declare myself a firm believer in the notion that all ideas are worth exploring when it comes to writing.
The problem some writers who are stuck have is that they won’t let the bad ideas go. For example, if you’re 30k into your story and everything has been going swimmingly until your character makes a dumb choice and everything stops…maybe it was the wrong dumb choice.
Don’t write yourself into a corner. Don’t believe that all your first ideas are grand (sorry). And don’t waste your time on a story idea that isn’t going. If you dig your heels in over one broken idea, the cart won’t be able to follow. So open up the road and give something else a chance.
7. One Ending
This goes along with the Bad Ideas section above. Sometimes writers get it into their heads that their book has to end a certain way. In fact, many writers start a book with only the ending in mind. But our characters are strangely organic things and, like errant children, don’t always want to conform.
If your story keeps trying to twist in a different direction and you keep yanking it back and then have nothing to write, maybe your end goal isn’t the right one. Try following the path your character does want to take and see where it goes. Your characters are living the story, they’ll know how to get past any roadblocks if you find yourself stuck behind writer’s block.
8. Pesky Rules
Now, some of you hardcore plotters out there might write me into one of your books and make me pee my pants for saying this, but sometimes outlines are the death knell to creativity.
I say this not because of how it lays a pre-made path for your character (though…see above if that’s not working for you), but because sometimes outline prep for a book can be overwhelming and too much.
I personally know many writers who become a wee bit obsessive when it comes to following tropes, story formats, plot structures, and hitting every single plot point at exactly the right time.
I’m not saying this isn’t a perfectly acceptable way to write. In fact, if I just described your process and you’re rocking it with your writing goals, awesome! But sometimes writers, especially those who are new to the community, can get bogged down obsessing about how the story will unfold so much that they can’t actually unfold any of it.
So if you’re struggling under the weight of story structure and not getting any writing done, set aside the rules, take a breath, lower your standards (Just for a little bit, yeah?), and write.
9. Perfectionism (The Writer’s Block BFF)
Many times, writer’s block isn’t actually a lack of ideas flowing in your mind. Instead, it can often be an inability to move on because you just need to fix one more thing.
You look at the open space waiting for you and just can’t write because what if this tiny change you need to make in the first chapter alters EVERYTHING. You may feel the risk is not worth it. But that’s just Writer’s Block being a lying son of a book. Ignore it. This isn’t the middle ages anymore, and we are not monks painstakingly inking each piece of calligraphy by hand. Write it. Erase it. Make it better.
But first, write it.
10. Acknowledging the Writer’s Block Beast
This may seem counterintuitive. How can I overcome something if I don’t acknowledge it’s a problem?
But, sometimes putting a label on ourselves or what we’re experiencing can be detrimental to overcoming the problem. Take my 7-year-old daughter, for instance. She decided in 1st grade that she was bad at math. After that, it didn’t matter how hard we worked with her or how much she improved, in her mind, she was bad at math. So when tests came, she would shut down and not even try.
If you’re avoiding your writing because you keep telling yourself you have Writer’s Block, then nothing is motivating you to get back to it. Instead of saying “I’m stuck,” try asking yourself “What should I try next to stimulate my creativity?”
Making this simple change takes the power away from the imaginary beast and puts it back in your hands.
So what if you’ve identified all the physical and mental problems that could be contributing to your Writer’s Block and still aren’t making progress?
33 Activities that Stimulate Creativity
- Going for a nature walk
- Visiting a museum
- Playing I Spy
- Drawing (particularly something unusual, like a flamingo or a glass frog)
- Cake Decorating
- Color-blending with Crayons or watercolors
- Playing with a child (your own, preferably, or with a parent’s permission…)
- Listening to music you like
- Listening to music you’ve never tried before
- Performing mundane chores (to give your brain time to think)
- Doing Yoga
- Writing a story in 10 words
- Reading a picture book
- Creating a dream board
- Completing a jigsaw puzzle
- Listening to / serving an elderly person
- Listening to different ambient soundscapes (jungle, ocean, city, etc)
- Practicing empathy
- Building with legos or blocks
- Going somewhere with a view
- Shaking up your daily routine
- Shocking your senses (cold shower, sour bite, loud sound)
- Doing nothing
- Practicing your breathing (Inhale 8, hold 4, release 4)
- Making time for yourself
- Doing a crossword puzzle
- Crawling (I know, it’s a weird one)
- Talking to a stranger
You can also check out our writing prompts section on our Writing Resources page!
Good luck, and keep writing!