Tips for Overcoming Writer's Block

For the Record: I don’t really believe in writer’s block. I think there are times when writing isn’t easy or when ideas aren’t flowing, but I don’t think a writer is every truly blocked. We can always write – about something, anything – maybe not what we want to write about, but we can always write.

That said, when asked how to overcome writer’s block, this is what I share:

Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block:

Are you a writer? Maybe you’re not a writer, but part of your job requires you to write… something, anything, web copy, correspondence, emails, newsletters. Maybe you are not a writer but use article writing as a marketing and promotional tool. Any way it goes, if you write anything as part of your job, the time may come when you find yourself sitting in front of the computer screen, hands poised over the keys, the thoughts all in your mind, but the words just won’t flow from your brain through your fingers to actually come out the other side of the screen.

Now what?

I am a writer. I’m also an editor. For me, it’s a bit easier, because I do both for a living, and unless I’m up against a writing deadline, I can simply put the writing aside and move over to an editing project and take my mind off of the writing. Truth is, writer’s block isn’t much of an issue for me anymore. If the idea is in my head, I can usually write about it, but even I have my moments when the idea just won’t flow.

Since I administer a writer’s forum on the internet, I have had the chance to talk to many writers and have discovered that writer’s block is often the single most irritating problem among writers of any caliber. So I decided to do some research and put together this list for people who write.

Ten effective ways to combat or cure writer’s block:

1. Walk away from the keyboard.

I know you may think that this is counter productive, but it can often work wonders. You see, the brain never stops processing information. Even when you are not actively thinking about something, your brain continues to work on the problem. Walk away from the keyboard and take a short break, grab yourself a cup of coffee or a soda, take a bathroom break, or do some other activity that doesn’t require you to think about your writing for several minutes. Often, you’ll find that when you come back and sit down to write again, your brain has solved your writer’s block on its own.

2. When taking a break doesn’t work, put the writing aside and work on something else you need to finish that is not writing related.

This works about the same as the suggestion above, but takes it a bit further by actually redirecting your thoughts to another activity. Later, you can come back to your writing and see if the thoughts flow a bit better.

3. Read something.

If you need to write about something in particular, read something that pertains to what you want to write about. Reading what others have said might inspire some spark in you and get the creative juices flowing again.

4. Write something.

Okay, so you’re asking, “I have writer’s block and you’re telling to write something?” Sure. I mean, you don’t have to write the piece that you are stuck, but write something. Jot down some personal notes, write anything that comes to mind. If you do poetry, write a poem. If you blog, go write in your blog. If you subscribe to newsgroups, go post something. Answer some emails you’ve been putting off. What may be getting you stuck isn’t the writing itself, but perhaps you are stuck on that one piece. If you can get yourself into the writing mode by writing something else, anything else, you might find that the writing will flow again when you go back to the piece on which you were stuck.

5. Make an outline.

I’m not big on outlining stories or articles, myself, but sometimes when I get stuck and don’t know where to go or how to start, making a brief outline of what I want to say, and then moving things on the outline around into some sort of order can help the writing flow by giving it a direction.

6. Write when you are well rested!

Now, number 6 and number 7 are going to seem to contradict each other, but if you read them, you’ll see why I have included them both. Get a good night’s sleep, wake up refreshed, and come to the writing again rested and prepared to write. Sometimes, we can be so tired, or have so many things going through our minds that writing is the last thing we want to do. Now, this doesn’t work for everyone, especially people who get stuck inside their heads, so if this doesn’t work for you, try number 7.

7. Write when you are tired.

Write at the end of the day, when you are so exhausted that your mind isn’t interfering with the flow. Don’t worry about what you have written, or if there are typos or editing errors. You can come back and fix the errors later, when you are more refreshed. The point of breaking writer’s block isn’t to get you to write perfectly – it’s to get you to write at all! Let it just flow from you naturally, and then come back in the morning or the next day when you are rested and then you can make it perfect.

8. Talk to someone about your writing.

Call a friend or family member, chat with someone from one of your writer’s groups. Tell them you are writing something but have become stuck and you need some inspiration, and then, let them inspire you!

9. Do some research.

This falls into the same line as reading about your topic, but takes it a step further. Call some friends, ask them questions about your topic. Post some questions in your blog, get some feedback. When you are confident you know a lot about your topic, writing becomes so much easier. Fill your mind with so much information about your selected topic that you are just bursting from too much information and you just HAVE to write about it.

10. Lastly, write about having writer’s block.

Seriously! Write about why you feel stuck. What is it that seems to be keeping you from writing? Free associate and write about it. When you get down to the reasons why you have writer’s block, you can address them and correct them.

Writing is like any other hobby or profession. You may love your job, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have mornings you wake up and say, “Ugh, I don’t want to go to work today!” There will be days, no matter how much you love to write, that you just don’t feel like writing.

That’s okay, write anyway!

Good luck, and keep writing!

More resources:

Michelle L Devon is a writer and a freelance editor, providing contracted services through her company, Accentuate Services. For more information, you can visit her website at www.AccentuateServices.com or visit the Accentuate Writers Forum and network with other writers. Her Freelancing & Fiction blog is a must-read for new freelancers too!