Writer’s Block – How to Beat It

When I started freelance writing, one my goals was to submit at least one article or short story every month, while I wrote a novel and worked a full time job. Writing energized me. I had more ideas than I had time to write! A writer friend asked me, "Are these submissions newly written or rewrites? Most were new, but some were reworked or sent to markets that accepted reprints.

What Is Writer's Block?

“I don’t have that many ideas,” my friend said.

This is the mindset that stymies many a writer, but it doesn't have to. “The ideas are there," I told my friend, "but you have to look for them.”

Before we look at how to beat writer's black, let's be clear about what it is. The official definition is: “A usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing.” Note the key word temporary. Training your muse to hunt for ideas helps beat this temporary condition.

Strategies to Beat Writer's Block

One of the reasons we run into these temporary blocks is that we don't know what to write next. These strategies work for me:

  1. Work on more than one project: One strategy I use to beat writer's block is to work on more than one project. When I run into a dead end on one, I work on another. This keeps my muse active and creative, and often when I take the pressure off, inspiration strikes and I get an idea for what comes next for the piece I set aside.
  2. Skip to Another Part of the Story: If you're working on a story, especially a longer piece or a novel and you get stuck, skip to another part of the story when you know what happens. I remember when I was working on my novel, The Inheritance, a scene where my protagonist was following a narrow mountain path. I loved the scene, but I had no idea how to get him off that mountain to where he needed to be later in the story. Instead of waiting for inspiration to come, I moved to the scene where he is in the valley. As I worked on it, I had a great idea for how to tie it all together. Today that book has been nominated for an award!
  3. Free Write: Another: Another way to beat writer's block is to set the timer for 20 minutes and write. Don't worry what you're going to write about. It can be anything. Once you get started, you may be surprised to find that your writer's block is gone.
  4. What If?: Another way to conquer writer's block is to ask what if? For example: what if I change from first person to third person? What if I write this from another POV? Dare to ask what if this character has a darker side I didn't see before? Or your evil character has a shred of decency after all?

Where to Find Inspiration

If you, like my friend, think you don't have that many ideas, here are a few places to look for inspiration. When you do, you may be surprised at all the ideas you find!

Interests: Make a list of your interests. Just doing this can inspire an idea for an article or story. Your unique interests open doors to all kinds of ideas. The trick is to write about them. Willingness to be transparent enough to open a window into your life is a necessary ingredient. People read interesting, “real” articles and stories. When you open the window into your life and write from experience, keep it real.

Experience: "Ben Franklin said, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing.” What experience can you share to help others learn, get inspired, or even change their life?

Conversations: Beat writer's block by talking with others. This moves beyond interests and experiences and takes you onto new, fertile creative soil of what interests others.

Classes: Take an online writing class, or even a non-writing related class to inspire new ideas. Classes also challenge you to try something new. For instance, I'm by nature a fantasy writer, but recently took a short mystery class. The result is a story called the Dead Zone, which would never have come about without the class. Dare to stretch beyond your comfort zone.

Writer’s Groups: Join a writer's group. Interacting with other writers strengthens your abilities as a writer, and cultivates new ideas. Listening to the works of other writers, the process they follow when writing, and sometimes even the inspiration behind the story or article opens avenues worth exploration.

The Best Way to Beat Writer's Block

If you find yourself sitting at the computer staring at a blank screen, stop forcing the issue. Change to another project for a half an hour or so. If you don’t have another project, consider your interests, experience, make a phone call or go out to lunch with a friend to engage in conversation. Life is full of things to write about. The trick to beating writer's block is to tune in to the possibilities—and write!

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Comments 18 comments

rambansal profile image

rambansal 5 years ago from India

I beat my writer's blocks by moving around in my garden until I get a fresh idea to write on.. Any way, nice guidelines.. thanks for sharing..

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Good idea rambansal. I often go outside to walk, work in the garden, or just sit on the porch watching the birds. Thanks for the reminder!

jaywigz311 profile image

jaywigz311 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

Great hub! Working on multiple projects tends to keep my creative juices flowing as well. I've never tried the "free writing" idea, but I definitely will if I'm in a jam.

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Another thing I do is keep an idea file. There are times when I have many more ideas than I have time. So I can always go to that for inspiration as well.

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

mljdgulley354 profile image

mljdgulley354 5 years ago

Great hub. Voted up and useful. I have been keeping an idea file. My daughter, tlpoague advised me of doing this so I could write stories my kids have heard from the adults. Right now I am writing of new experiences and memories.

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi Mljdgulley,

An idea file is a great way to trigger memories. I have also kept a journal for years. Your children will cherish your writings for sure!

Charity Squid profile image

Charity Squid 5 years ago

Thank you for the tips. I'm really impressed that you have written a novel and won awards. I find I get my ideas at night lying in bed. For some reason when I'm relaxed, ideas just flow in.

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi Charity,

That time in bed before falling asleep is when I get many ideas. I suggest keeping a little pad near the bed to write them down if they are really good. Another thing I do is read a work in progress before going to bed, then as I lie there the creative thoughts lead me to what happens next. Thanks for the comment.

thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 5 years ago from Sweden

Many great ideas here! We can all use some inspiration and tips from others now and then:) I have a notebook where I write down keywords and ideas. For some reason I have the greatest ideas when there is no time to write! Voted up and useful!


Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi Tina,

I, too, get great ideas when I already have a full plate. When I write them down, I jot enough about the idea to rekindle the original idea. Thanks so much for the vote up!

DonnaCosmato profile image

DonnaCosmato 5 years ago from USA

These are all good ideas, Donna, but I especially liked the one about "What if?" I've never thought about flipping a situation around to look at the other side or point of view and I'm sure that will help jump start my creativity in the future. Voted up and useful.

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks Donna. I wrote a books for writers that is now out of print that is full of exercises to jump start the muse. I call these flip side exercises. They really do get the creativity flowing from a fresh perspective.

DonnaCosmato profile image

DonnaCosmato 5 years ago from USA

Hi, Donna...well, I'm sorry to hear that it is out of print because I would have loved to buy a copy! Maybe you should consider repurposing it for those of us who sometimes get stuck...hint, hint:)

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi Donna,

My publishing company went out of business this fall when the owner died. I think I have a few copies here. If you really are interested, email me and I'll give you the details. I will be looking at making them available again, but right now I have my hands full with marketing for The Inheritance.

Patrice Beaulieu profile image

Patrice Beaulieu 5 years ago from Maine

You have some creative ideas to beat writers block. When I'm sitting in front of the computer and can't think of a thing to write, I get up and do something else for at least 5 minutes. Sometimes all it takes is a little break to help clear your mind and get the creative juices flowing.

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi Patrice, I do the same! I have a friend who schedules 5-10 minutes of exercise once an hour...he stays in shape and inspired.

DonnaCosmato profile image

DonnaCosmato 5 years ago from USA

Okay, Donna. I am interested so I'll follow up with an emai...I hope sales of The Inheritance are increasing daily:)

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks Donna! The local paper is going to cover The Inheritance. Slowly but surely copies are selling.

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