A Prescription for Writers Block


“If I waited till I felt like writing, I would never write anything at all” – Anne Tyler

A dear friend called me today lamenting about a particularly bad case of writers block. If my factitious epidemiological data is to be believed, 10/10 writers will experience writers block in their lifetime. While writers block is usually self-limiting, resolving in hours-to-days, severe cases can persist for weeks and require the intervention of a specialist.

Signs of Writers Block are sometimes hard to talk about and include:

-avoidance of writing tasks

-frustration when staring at blank pieces of paper or computer screens

-demoralisation and loss of sense of self-worth

-sudden desire to quit

-googling new careers

The Prescription:

Stage 1 Writers Block

  • bomb2.JPG
    You’re a writer, not a bomb tech.  Don’t feel pressured.

    Plan your writing day. Schedule it. Sleep well the night before. Eat breakfast.

  • Have a reward in mind for after the task. Pizza? Yoga? You name it.
  • Make a list of things you want to write.
  • Change locations. A different room, a coffee shop, a library… find a spot where you can be alone without distractions.
  • Walk away. You have to be in a mood to write. If now isn’t the time, go do something else and come back later.


Stage 2 Writers Block

  • Draw out a skeleton of what you need to write. See if a particular component speaks to you, and start writing about that. If none of the components seem interesting, try writing just one sentence for each one. Sometimes one sentence will turn into two, or three, or a book.
  • Post-it notes with paragraph or section titles stuck on a wall allow you to move things around and use visualization to frame what you are trying to write.
  • Write the end. The end is always the best part, and by writing it, you may feel inspired to tell the whole story. Of course, you’ll edit the end later… maybe.
  • Write something else. Rather than write what you are trying to write, write about something you want to write about. Maybe a poem about cats, or a rant about your toaster. Be silly, be tangential, and write like a lunatic. Once you start to have fun writing, you may start to gravitate back to the work at hand.  The saying is “the worst thing you write is better than the best thing you did not write.”

Stage 3 Writers Block

  • Stop writing; read.  Go read a book.  A book you want to read.  Reading will sometimes encourage creativity and you just might get inspired to run back to that writing task.
  • Consult a friend. Gain perspective. Get inspired. Be told you need to forgive yourself for your writers block, which isn’t your fault at all.
  • Ask for deadlines. Speak to your editor, supervisor, or mentor. Ask them for a due date. Commit to it.
  • Go back in time. What originally inspired you to end up having to write? Remember those emotions. Allow them to carry you through the difficult task of putting pen to paper.

If none of these ideas work, it’s ok. Consult this:

Emergency Writers Block Algorithm

Do you have tips and tricks to write well?  Share them in the comments!


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