For us, writers, few things are more frustrating than to finally sit down at our desks after taking care of real life chores only to be struck dumb by the blank page or the white screen. Writer’s block can be quite disabling, a form of writerly constipation that the harder we try to overcome, the more it aggravates. It pleases me to say that I have not suffered from this writer’s malady for a long time, which I believe is largely due to the conscious defenses against it I have taken. If you have the time, I would like to share these with you.
1. Maintain a Positive Emotional and Mental State
Writer’s block may not be just a writing problem, it can be a life problem. To write, we need to be in a favorable mental and emotional state, one conducive to creation. To overcome writer’s block and write well, it’s important to minimize stress and anxiety, to sleep well, to have a clear mind, to be in good health. Negative emotions can fuel our writing of course, but we need a certain emotional balance and cognitive lucidity to write.
2. Draw On Your Experiences and Memories
Things happen to us all the time, good things and bad things. Even the most seemingly insignificant incident or memory can be a catalyst for a short story, blog post, or diary entry. We must remember that as writers, we have the power to distort and magnify everything.
3. Reject Perfection
It was difficult for me to start writing because in the beginning I felt that nothing that I wrote could be perfect. I have thrown away many blank pages with just a few words on them, condemning them unjustly to the trash bin without giving them a second chance. Time taught me that writing doesn’t have to be perfect to be worth reading. Of course we all aim for perfection, but we cannot but fail short of it. If we want to write something great, something perfect from the start, it’s easy to end up with writer’s block. We must allow ourselves to be less than perfect, to make mistakes.
4. Read More Than You Write
Where does our writing spring from? From our thoughts, memories, feelings, fears, worries, convictions, from our past, from our present, from our longings and dreams. But the fuel we burn writing is reading. We shouldn’t forget that every writer was first a reader. If we don’t read something new every day, if we don’t read more than we write and gather words like campers gather wood for fire, we will quickly burn our writing fuel and just get stuck with a bad case of writer’s block.
5. Begin By Revising or Editing What You Wrote Yesterday
Doing this can help us refresh our memory and switch into writing mode. It’s like the warm-up exercise athletes do before starting their training. However, there is a danger to this – because the revising and editing can be much easier than the writing, we can end up using it, without even realizing it, as a substitute for the writing itself. This is why it’s good to impose a limit on how much writing and rewriting we do every day.
6. Start From a Favorite Highlight or Quote
Quotes can be a major source of inspiration, especially for blog posts or fiction. Highlights from favorite books can also help us generate ideas or conjure up moods that can help us write.
I’m sure you’ve heard this many times before, but it really works. When we’re out of ideas, we can just put words on paper, any words that come to our mind, even if they don’t make sense and look just like ink bugs. Among all that nonsenses, we will eventually find an idea worth developing, or at least a rhythm that will aid creation.
8. Record Your Ideas
Good writing ideas can come to us when we are not at our desks. Failing to note them down or record them will almost certainly mean losing them. Carrying a pocket notebook around comes in handy, but a voice recorder such as the one available on our phones or iPods is more convenient, especially since we can download our recordings on our computer, label them, and back them up online. Then, when the muse doesn’t want to visit us, we can always draw on our library of recorded ideas.
9. Disconnect From Technology
Mobile devices and the Internet are particularly distracting, and if we keep checking them while awaiting the muse, our page will stay blank for a long time. All those tools for writers, all those writing apps, they can fragment our thoughts and rape our concentration. Did you know that web users have an average attention span of 8.25 seconds? That’s lower than the 9-second attention span of the goldfish.
10. Leave It to Another Day
The simplicity of the actual writing process and the fact that we can write or at least try to write anywhere and at any time, together with the great hunger for content prevalent in our days, can put us under the pressure to write every day, all the time. As you know only too well, good writing requires a bit more than hard work, than dedication, it requires experience and a certain fertile state of the imagination, which for lack of a better term we can call inspiration. Experience and inspiration are not available in an unlimited supply. For my part, I am terrified of taking days off from writing, but I have come to realize that it is necessary to do so from time to time.
How do you overcome writer’s block? Do you have any tips you can share with us?
32 thoughts on “10 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block”
Really helpful! I usually drink an orange juice before getting down to writing and I swear by it as an inspiration booster. Also, sometimes I try doodling for a few minutes and I have found that my hibernating writing bear gives short shrift to my creative torpor.
Haha. I must try the orange juice trick. (Think it works with water, too.)
These are very good! I enjoyed how you compared editing to a writing warm up. It’s so true!
Is ‘Flower’ by any chance your real name?
It’s actually my middle name. 🙂 For real! Haha!
That’s interesting. Do you think your parents wanted to name you after a flower but they couldn’t decide what flower to choose so they just named your ‘Flower’? 🙂
Well, it’s actually because a surname on my Mother’s side was Flower, and I suppose she thought it also might sound nice. 🙂 But to think I could have been a “Lilly” or a “Violet”.
Or even worse, Petunia! 😛
Thanks Vincent for your valuable insight. Writing for me, comes from within. As soon as I’m under pressure to produce, the outcome is substandard. Should I accept this? Personally, I find it’s bad for me and its bad for the reader. So I wait, until the story within takes control of me. Perhaps I should implement some of your strategies? Cheers Nicole
How long do you usually have to wait, Nicole? And is it the same for all types of writing? I think many writers of fiction have to wait until they have lived certain stories before they can write them.
Hi Vincent. Sometimes I feel compelled to write all day. Words gather in my brain and overflow, with annoyingly not enough hours in the day to put them all on paper.
Other days, I just don’t feel that way. Sometimes it could be a few days or even up to a week before I have a story. Largely I write reflective pieces inspired from personal experiences, which contain imagery. I haven’t ventured into fiction at this stage. I would love to have the ability to write everyday, however I am both time limited and I’m not always in the right mood to produce a piece worthy of publishing.
You are exactly right. Having lived certainly adds to the honesty and credibility of ones writing. Authenticity buried in words is like a bull to a red flag for me. Thanks for your reply and good luck with your writing. You appear to be quite established in your career. Your creativity in your writing is admirable. Cheers Nicole
I like the free write when I feel locked up. I also like to set a goal for what I’m trying to accomplish with my scene. As long as I move forward with it, I’m happy.
I have been suffering from a writer’s block for a week, and reading this helped me free my way out.
I am happy to hear that, Razen. May you remember this post should you ever get stuck again. 🙂
Brilliant thoughts. The way I have conquered writers block is by dropping any sense of perfection. I was going around saying to everybody “I’m a writer! I love writing!” but then I realised that I wasn’t actually writing on a day to day basis. The reason for this being that I wouldn’t even start, because I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect the first time. I have come to accept this: IT WILL NEVER BE PERFECT THE FIRST TIME. A book that really helped (in my opinion the best book on writing ever written) was “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser.
Please check out my blog: http://www.bymybedside.com
I do lots of creative posts xxxx
Alright Madison, I’ll check both On Writing Well and your blog, which by the way, has a promising name.
Reblogged this on Infinite_Interlude and commented:
Some wise words from the Boy with the Hat. Thank you!
This was amazing to read and gave me so many ideas to come up with new subjects. Thank you! I have also reblogged this! With love!
I’m glad you found it useful.
Yes! I reblogged it and made my writer friends read it! We really could use it! Thanks again!
Those are some really great ideas and tip, so simple, yet very helpful.
I Just started, so I always carry my pocket note for my little ideas and I try as much to maintain a bit tranquility within and around me.
This has helped behind compare thank you so much! great words
I didn’t find something extremly new for me in this post. What I really can see here is a great boundless love to writing. It’s so familiar to me…
If you ask me, I can say that if one is really mad about writing he or she would do it instead of everything, finding ideas and inspiration in everywhere. Of course, in bad things which might happen, too (either do I). When people ask about my inspiration, I answer – “my perception”.
Reblogged this on rachaelzana.
Really helpful, how do you find my blog? Although I haven’t written much, try to explore WordPress 🙂
Such useful and simple cool tips! Yes, I have applied these tips to keep my motivation on writing. I have started a blog to share what I see and experience in my everyday life. It would be great if you can visit my any blog post. I am looking forward for your feedback. Please check it out at https://sanselsquare.wordpress.com/
Reblogged this on For the love of literature and commented:
To the writer who can’t seem to write anything.
Hi Vincent! Per your earlier permission, I scheduled this article to be featured as a guest post on July 3rd. As usual, it includes your credit/bio/link. Thanks!