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Guide to Overcoming Writer's Block

Updated on May 15, 2019

My Brain is Fried

A quick drawing of Fred Flintstone stuck in Bedrock.
A quick drawing of Fred Flintstone stuck in Bedrock. | Source

There's a Story to be Told

You know there is a story to tell. After all, you’re a writer, but for some unexplained reason, you have hit the proverbial wall of writer’s block. The impact is similar to a gambler who was hot in the casino and couldn’t lose and then, suddenly, they can’t win. There are golf pros who have been at the top of the leaderboards and gradually their rankings start to slip. Almost overnight, the easy putts are missed and routine fairway shots are hooked into the woods. How do they get back on track to winning again?

A strobe light of ideas flash in and out of your mind and then quickly turn into total darkness. One moment we are at the top of our game and then we plummet into a wordless abyss. The light bulb of creativity has burned out in our struggle to put a string of cohesive thoughts together. We question whether we will ever hit the “Lucky Sevens” or make “par” again. It is, to say the least, a lost and empty feeling for a writer.

A Lightbulb of Ideas

The light is on, but no one is home.
The light is on, but no one is home. | Source

Quotes By Authors

Ernest Hemingway: “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”

Jacques Barzun: “Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper, not eternal bronze: Let the first sentence be as stupid as it wishes.”

Jarod Kintz: “Writer’s block, I just drove around it four times. All my favorite writers live there.”

Richelle E. Goodrich: “Sometimes ideas flow from my mind in a raging river of stringed sentences; I can scarcely scribble on the page fast enough to keep up with the mental current. Sometimes, however, beavers move in and dam the whole thing up.”

The Mind Goes Blank

A common refrain from authors is to claim their minds went blank and consequently, they are unable to write. It’s the classic cause and effect scenario. However, upon further examination, things do become abundantly clear. For you see, there is a myriad of reasons at the root of writer’s block. It is our job to figure out what is causing this malady and how to heal the emptiness we are experiencing.

Now What Do We Do

So many questions.
So many questions. | Source

Cause and Effect

  1. The perfectionist can spend days staring at a blank sheet of paper or a computer screen, unable to string even a couple of words together. They are wrought with the fear of composing something less than perfect. Perhaps these authors have a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). They zoom in on minor details of thought, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. Sentences and paragraphs are written, deleted and rewritten. Eventually, they may become so weary of the task at hand that they end up scrapping their entire project.
  2. Daydreamer - We’ve all been there. Sitting in an office or a classroom in the month of May and gazing out the window lost in the thought of being outside basking in the warm temperatures and bright sunshine. We want to scream, “FREEDOM!” like William Wallace in the movie “Braveheart.” We are unable to focus as our minds wander. A song comes on the radio and our feet tap out the beat. The television is on and we see a vacation spot calling our name. The sound of a songbird lulls us into another dimension. Everything has a gravitational pull which yanks us away from writing.
  3. Uninteresting - What we once perceived as a fantastic story or topic begins to morph into a beast of boredom. We begin to question whether or not people will find our work interesting. A “who cares anyway” attitude envelopes our minds and subsequently, we become less and less productive, lost in time and space.
  4. Procrastinator - Oh that pesky procrastination bug is neither viral nor bacterial, but it can still be debilitating and linger longer than we had anticipated. “I’ll do it tomorrow” becomes an all too common mindset as tomorrow and the next day come and go and still pen has not been put to paper.
  5. Futurist - Try as they might, the futurist is unable to remain in the moment. They race ahead of themselves and their content. They are thinking of the last chapter when in reality they are still composing the book’s introduction.
  6. Commitment - Let’s be honest, quite frankly, there are authors out there who lack a commitment to their work. They don’t like being bogged down with deadlines and goal setting just doesn’t fit into their vocabulary.
  7. Fatigue - Being an insomniac can and often is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the writer rationalizes that less sleep equates to more time for creative endeavours. The harsh reality is the difficulty factor in keeping the mind fresh when the body is aching with exhaustion.

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Treatment and Remedies

What are the remedies and suggested treatment for writers to employ when addressing the signs and symptoms of writer’s block? Actually, the answer is not as complex or as difficult as you may think. Open a book and read an article or a story in a magazine. Read more books and more articles. See how other authors present their stories. Imagine you are the person telling the story. Would you present it the same way? How would you tweak this? What style is right for you?

Books and Magazines

Variety is the spice of life
Variety is the spice of life | Source

Pick a Subject

In order to commence writing again, the author needs a subject, but what will the flavour of the day be? Looking at photos, fond memories of vacations, parties, a craft project, a landscaped lawn, the vegetable garden, wildlife, flowers, purchasing a house or car, a relationship, building a patio, camping or simply putting together an article on overcoming writer’s block can be the catalyst needed to get you back, once again, as an active wordsmith.

A Word of Advice

Most people who have found themselves in a rut offer the same advice. Everything begins with the first-word input, followed by another and another. Jot down several non-related words and then attempt to form a sentence around them. In another exercise, set an alarm/timer for 5 - 10 minutes and without looking at your screen, just start typing. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation. It’s believed that once the fingers start dancing across the keyboard then your mind will soon catch up and the thought process will start flowing once again.

Goal Setting

It is always important to have goals in our lives and it is no different in the writing arena. Set yourself up with goals that are attainable. What are your long and short-term expectations? Visualize where you want to be in a month or even a year from now. Make a plan to write just one paragraph per day. Be your own cheerleader and keep pushing forward. Be determined to meet and even exceed the goals you have established.

A Published Author

One of my articles published in a national magazine.
One of my articles published in a national magazine. | Source

Writing is a Commitment

Commit yourself to write during a specified time each day. Many authors find their minds are less cluttered with the onset of each day. Make writing a good habit and your first priority. Pour yourself a nice mug of coffee or a cup of tea and then let those creative juices flow. It is usually easier to have a clear mind early in the day before we are assaulted with phone calls, text messages, emails, and the other chaos that can and often does consume us. Accordingly, set a time to write and follow through on the commitment you have made to yourself.

A Different Atmosphere

A change of scenery can work wonders. If you write at a desk in an office then try moving to the kitchen, living room, den or at a coffee shop nearby. As the chapters and characters in your piece change, you too can alter your own landscape by making your workstation portable and flexible. After all, flexibility is key to any article or story you are putting together.

A Balanced Life

Stay balanced in your life. No one has the ability to write a great novel in a week or two. Don’t short change yourself in the world around you. Go for a walk. Take a day vacation. Weather permitting, work in the garden and plant some vegetables or flowers. If you enjoy cooking then try a new recipe. Exercise your mind, body, and spirit. In other words, live outside the writer’s box.

Write for Yourself

Finally, don’t worry about what may or may not be appealing to your readers. Instead, compose something for yourself. Write about what makes you happy. Tell a story about a funny incident in your life. Reminisce about first love. Simply put, just sit still for a while and write. It really is that easy.

Written by Dennis L. Page


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