Tuesday, June 5, 2012

5 Core Practices for Killing Writer’s Block

In last week’s post, I talked about a time when I had given up on writing. It was a dark time in my personal life when I lost all will to continue my craft. It was a sort of chronic Writer’s Block.
Learn how to drool words all over the page!

I’ve heard some writers talk about Writer’s Block like it’s some make-believe disorder of the brain. They say they don’t believe in it. I, on the hand, totally believe and know that it’s not some imaginary ailment.

However, I also believe that Writer’s Block is something that comes from within and only has power over you that you allow it to have.

I think that if you profess Writer’s Block too often, it’ll begin to feel more like the “dog ate my homework” excuse. You can’t just say you have Writer’s Block whenever you don’t feel like writing.

On the contrary, sometimes your puppy really does eat your homework. You can only bring your shredded pile of paper forward as proof. The key here is that you tried.

Looking at the fundamental basics of Writer’s Block, I offer you the following five points that I’ve found you can do to beat the block before it beats you:

Immerse yourself.

While it can come in many forms, I’ve found that my own Writer’s Block stems from a lack of focus. It attacks when my attention is somewhere else whenever I try to write.

When writing, you can’t go at it half-heartedly and expect something great. You have to devote one hundred percent of your attention to it, immersing yourself in the task at hand.

Be willing to lose yourself. It’s harder than it sounds.

Beat distractions.

Maybe it’s a problem with your work or family life. Maybe you’re like me right now, drowning in scattered stacks of paper with notes for various stories and blog posts all over your desk.

Whatever it is, if it’s keeping you from focusing on your writing, it’s a distraction.

My advice is, get up, walk away from your writing and go take care of those distractions. Just get rid of them. It’s far better to spend a little time doing the dishes than poison your writing space by being unproductive.

Be proactive.

If you get Writer’s Block on Tuesday, chances are there was something you could have done Monday to prevent it. Keep on top of things that have to be done so that you don’t get behind on that to-do list.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – stress kills creativity. But by taking preventive measures, you’ll kill Writer’s Block before it can strike down your creativity.

Remember KISS – Keep It Simple Silly.

Form habits.

It’s important to find a time and place where you can write daily – that’s right, I said ‘daily’ – and protect that place at all costs. There are several reasons for this:

The first reason is that writing becomes a habit if you do it daily. Doesn’t much matter what you write, as long as you’re doing it. The second is that writing becomes a habit if you write in the same place every day. It doesn’t have to be a desk in an office, but just some place where you always write.

This whole concept follows the example of the scientist who taught the dog to salivate at the sound of a bell (don’t remember names or dates here, just the principal of the experiment).

So how this relates to writing is, if you write sit down (or stand as one Twitter friend of mine is doing!) in that said place at that said time every day, you’ll be drooling words all over the page.

Just do it already!

Truth: sometimes we just don’t feel very creative. I learned a long time ago that we can’t wait for inspiration to strike – we have to go after it with a club, like Jack London says in his famous quote.

Don’t get me wrong. Inspiration is great. But it doesn’t do much good to be struck by inspiration while at your day job and you can’t even spare a second to make a note.

So, I’ll argue that while there are all kinds of crazy ways out there to overcome Writer’s Block, sometimes it just takes the act of writing to get us going.

And remember: you can always edit later, but not if there’s nothing there to edit.

What are some handy tricks to overcoming Writer’s Block that you’ve found? Or do you not believe there is such an ailment, and why?


  1. Great post. The best way for me to get some words down is to do just that. You can always go back and fix it, but it's the motion of going forward that motivates you toward the next scene.

    1. Thanks For reading and commenting Bethany! While editing may be considered a pain by some people, I'd much rather be editing junk writing than staring at a blank page!

  2. This is helpful and clever! Good post. Personally I have found that I don't have writer's block in the early morning hours. I think it helps to find the time of day that works best for you, I really do. Some people are better writers at night- some in the morning- some mid-day. Of course, it happens to all of us, but I can just say from experience that it doesn't happen as often in the morning for me (:

    1. I'm glad you liked it Katie! I'm curious - for how long have you been writing in the morning? Did you have to test out different times to see what worked for you? I used to be more of a night owl, but am also finding that I'm more productive first thing in the morning :)

      Thanks again for sharing!

    2. I've been writing in the morning for a couple months now. I tried other times of the day but nothing works like bright and early. It's pretty weird actually. Haha!

      I get up at 4 am to write and around 9 am every day- I feel like everything stops flowing. I am just plain horrible at getting anything written especially at night.

      Maybe it's because this is the quietest part of the day for us?

    3. Thanks for coming back and replying Katie! 4 am, huh? Wow - you impress me with your dedication! I get started each morning by about 7 (this is after workout, shower, and getting ready for the day). Luckily, I don't have to be into work until 9 am.

      Maybe, also, morning works so well because it's at a point in time when dreams are still fresh in our minds and the realities and burdens of life haven't set in yet and influence our thinking.

      Thanks again for coming back!

  3. There are times when your creativity just leaves you through no fault of your own when you are in creation mode. When this happens, I do agree you should step away, but when you get back to it, just do it and complete it.

    This applies to all creative content producers.

    1. Absolutely! Step away, but just long enough to get rid of those distractions - then get right back at it!

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. I've never had writer's block the way that some people do, I always have something that I want to write, and I usually know where I want the story to go next, but I do run into days when I just can't make myself write, or the words feel like they're moving through a really thick syrup. I've found that rather than wasting the day in front of the computer and accomplishing nothing, I should call it an unplugged day.

    1. Jess, it's nice to meet you and connect! Thanks again for following me on Twitter :)

      I understand where you're coming from here. I still have days when I just feel like I can't write, like the "words feel like they're moving through a really thick syrup," to borrow your words. But I found that I had more days like that before I began taking myself seriously as a writer. When I wasn't sitting down every day and writing something - anything - just to get the words flowing.

      It's becoming a catch-phrase of mine, but I always say, "Write. Even if it's crap, write. You can edit crap. But you can't edit a blank page."

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts! I look forward to reading more from you :)

  5. Four years ago, I began to post daily to a serial novel blog that I started on LiveJournal. Although my brother in law was my only reader 99 percent of the time, I came up with 700 plus manuscript pages in the first year, a complete second novel in the second year and half of a third by the time I stopped daily posting to process the first one. I never spent more than an hour on any day, and I always added a "next line" at the end to give myself something to mull over in the time between posts. A little bit each day gave me confidence, since before posting I had not done much with my desire to write fiction. This works for me.

    1. Jon, Thanks for commenting!

      I like the idea of "adding a 'next line' at the end." I do something similar, if I have to quit writing before I finish a scene, chapter, etc. but I've never done it out of habit at the end of each writing session. That's a good idea, one that I just may pick up!

      "A little bit each day gives me confidence..." - How true this quote is!

      Thanks again for sharing Jon!

  6. Great post as usual, Amanda!

    I don't think I ever really experienced "writer's block" until I knew that my name was going to be formally attached to every word I typed. I spent a large portion of the last fifteen years writing short fiction/drama/role-playing under handles and pseudonyms, and creativity was never an issue because I was somehow stripping my own humanity and mortality from the pieces. I could cloak myself in the perception of invinicibility because, aside from some handy IP-tracking, I was anonymous -- a handle, an ambiguous profile picture, and some awesome characters who could do, say, and manifest as they pleased (or, better, as the anonymous-I pleased).

    Now my name is on crap and 90% of it feels stilted because there are literally THOUSANDS of people out there who are talented and passionate and who may-or-may-not be better writers than I fashion myself to be. Scary business -- a disturbing revelation that is undoubtedly grounds for the writer's equivalent of PTSD.

    Your post is a nice, concise, miniature "boot camp" that could force stagnated writers to overcome their biggest obstacle -- not writing!

    I may actually re-blog this and send more eyes to this post.


    1. I think you’re talking more about Writer’s Shock, not so much Writer’s Block. It’s similar to Writer’s Block, but different in that the more you write for publication, the less it affects you; Writer’s Shock is very similar to Stage Fright.

      lol – okay, for now real: thanks for sharing your story A.M. I really considered writing under a pen name when I started out this year. I kept thinking about the everyday people in my life. Because I’d never shared any of my writing before, I was worried what they would think. But then, I just sort of got over it. I got tired of worrying what every person in the world would think and decided that as long as I’m staying true to God and myself, then no one can touch me.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, thank you for commenting, and thank you for re-blogging this post!

      Write On!


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