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How to Handle Writer's Block

Updated on August 22, 2013

Have you ever reached a point in your writing life where the ink in your mental pen dries up? If so, congratulations. You are an official member of the Writer's Block Club.

Writer's block can be scary. Some writers affected by this phenomenon spend so much time fretting over it that they become paralyzed by fear. They are terrified they won't ever again write anything of value.

Nonsense. Writer's block is nothing more than a desperate cry for help from a brain overloaded with plots, subplots, nouns, conjunctions, verbs, punctuation marks, adjectives, and the occasional adverb.

Writer's Block Solutions

The trick to avoiding extended writer's block is to understand that your brain is a complex part of your anatomy. Just as your tired body needs a vacation from time to time, so does your brain. When you feel you are entering writer's block territory, let your subconscious mind work on the project that triggered the writer's block while you engage in an activity unrelated to writing.

Take a brain vacation:

  • Go for a walk
  • Have lunch with friends
  • Read a book
  • Exercise
  • Play a game with your kids
  • Go hang gliding
  • Organize your office space
  • Go bicycling
  • Pray
  • Clean the house

Just don't let diversions, however noble, continue for too long. An hour, a day, two days, or even a week is fine, depending on your financial circumstances. People whose writing pays the bills need to find diversions that work to get the creativity fired up again quickly.

Another effective 'cure' for writer's block is to set your current project aside (the subconscious will be working on it) and put your focus on a different type of writing endeavor. If you develop writer's block while working on a novel for adults, begin a poem, even if you don't generally write poetry. Writing a rhyming poem or two for children will put you in touch with your inner child, the one that delights in the simplest of pleasures. If writing for kids is your life's work, tackle an article or a short story for adults. Do you write serious or technical stuff? Switch to humor. Venturing outside your comfort zone can help break the writer's block cycle.

Uh, Oh! Now what?

Let's suppose none of the above writer's block 'cures' works for you. Contact members of your critique group for help. No critique group? There are many writers' forums online where you can befriend other authors whose advice often proves invaluable in breaking through times of writer's block. Asking for suggestions from friends or family members who value your writing could result in the 'aha' you need to move forward with your work. Talk to children. They are great at getting to the root of a problem when they know you are sincere about wanting their help.

Open Your Writing Ears

The next time you become frustrated as a writer, listen when your brain screams 'enough!' Try the above mentioned writer's block fixes. Exercise caution if you choose one of the more physical diversions, like hang gliding. It's hard to write while encased in a body cast.

Happy writing!

© 2012 Mary R. Schutter


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