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20 Ideas For Overcoming Writer's Block

Updated on April 12, 2014

You have a third draft to your editor, two articles to your clients, and a blog post due tomorrow, but your head feels like it has been run over by a truck. Unfortunately, you have been self-diagnosed with writer's block, a dangerous, but non-contagious disease. You feel like a deer caught in headlights, the world is ending, or you are the worst thing since furbies. Do not fret, writer's block is completely curable, and every writer goes through it, often. Here are 20 cures for the common bout of writer's block.

My desk, which sometimes alternates between the pool, the couch, the kitchen table, my bed, my place of gainful employment, or a coffee shop.
My desk, which sometimes alternates between the pool, the couch, the kitchen table, my bed, my place of gainful employment, or a coffee shop. | Source

1. Butt+Chair=Pages. If you sit at your computer long enough, staring at the bright white screen, another word might just pop out at you. You can thank my writing teacher, Jonathan Stephens for that incredible formula. I use it every day.

2. Don't know how to start your next novel? Go to your local bookstore and read the opening line of every piece of fiction you can get your hands on.

3. Feel like quitting? Write one more sentence. Yes, just one. If you can get the next word out, you can keep the momentum going.

4. Read Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. It is the greatest book on writing I have ever read. I keep a torn up and well used copy by my bedside.

5. Look back through your vacation pictures. Maybe a picture of a church, or the way the sun hit the canyon walls, or the way a child dropped his ice cream just as you clicked the shutter, will shark some interest.

6. Think about the most repulsive person you know. Write out what repulses you about that person? Write down the qualities you find horrific or immoral.

My room in a youth hostel that was once used as a cremation parlor and funeral home.  I went downstairs, to where none of the rooms were occupied, but heard a door open.  Maybe the setting for the next horror film?
My room in a youth hostel that was once used as a cremation parlor and funeral home. I went downstairs, to where none of the rooms were occupied, but heard a door open. Maybe the setting for the next horror film? | Source

7. Go to and type in any word or person who interests you. For instance, I typed in "Leonardo da Vinci" and saw this quote, "I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death." If you can't find something yourself, create a character who "pursues their principles unto death."

8. Grab a pen and paper and go for a walk. Sometimes not looking at the annoyingly bright and pulsing white screen is exactly what you need. I often get my best ideas while walking to the grocery store, picking up the mail, or pacing around my complex. You'll get the wiggles out and come back feeling refreshed.

9. Change your view. Go write at a coffee shop, a park, on your patio, or in a different room of the house. If you go to a coffee shop you will be surrounded by other people being productive, which may spur on your own productivity.

10. Do the thing that scares you the most. Send a Facebook message to a celebrity, try a new hobby, eat a food you've never tried, or go to your local police station and ask a question about a local law. Seriously, how many people aren't just a little intimidated by cops.

11. Clean your work space. A clean desk will not only boost your morale, but will provide fewer distractions, and enhance productivity.

12. Skip the word or sentence you are stuck on and just keep going. If I can't get a sentence right I just do this ***** and fill in the missing word later.

Books that inspire me.
Books that inspire me. | Source

13. Be intentional about striking up conversations with strangers. When in Maui, I went down to the rock pilings near the harbor, to watch the sunset, but ended up sharing a moment with a man twice my age, holding a colorful umbrella. We talked about life, art, travelling, and beauty. Then he tried to invite me out to dinner, and then to join his jewelry business, which I politely declined. Was he just looking for a human connection? Maybe a serial killer? Maybe a lost and wandering soul? I will never know, but he may end up in a novel.

14. Go explore a local attraction you've never been to. You might come across some interesting characters, or the location for a story's setting. Having lived in the Bay Area for over twenty years, I decided, on a whim. to go explore the beaches of Marin County and found Muir Beach, a quiet little surfer town, known for its shark population.

15. Go back through your favorite books and read the sections you have highlighted.

Take a walk in the woods for a little inspiration.
Take a walk in the woods for a little inspiration. | Source

16. Flip through a magazine and take a close look at the advertisements. What desire is each advertisement targeting?

17. Go to Google Maps and explore a city you've never been to. Use Street View to virtually walk down any street you like. The world is literally at your fingertips.

18. When you can't move forward, go back and outline your thoughts, objectives, or plot of your story. Clearly knowing where you're going can make all of the difference.

19. Use writing prompts from Writer's Digest to get the creative juices flowing.

20. Watch you favorite movie, one you know well, and write down all of the plot points and sub-plot points. This is a great way to understand how all of the sub-plot points interact with the main story.

What do you do when you have writer's block?

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I Love Writing to this Music. Once You Hit Play, Force Yourself to Write for the Whole 20 Minutes.

© 2014 Jennifer Arnett


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