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How To Work Through Writer's Block

Updated on March 11, 2013

We have all heard of Writer's Block, but what's the big deal?

Empty, totally empty is the idea bank of your writer's imagination. Do you have Writer's Block? Your desire to create may still be ticking away, however, your mind has nothing to share. Is it over? Are you completely done with the thing you love most? What's happening when a writer can't write? Some know it as the "writer's demon," and "writer's hell," but most commonly it is known as "Writer's Block," and it requires immediate attention! So many writers throughout history have encountered it, and still, no one has found a way to prevent it. Some studies discuss how to work your way out of it, or how to work through it; but why does it occur in the first place? Let us see if we can narrow down some reasons why, as well as finding a few exercises for avoiding an authors greatest fear, "writer's block."

Getting trapped inside "Writer's Block Right Brain" can ruine a good writer's courage.
Getting trapped inside "Writer's Block Right Brain" can ruine a good writer's courage. | Source

Writer's Block = Writer's Anxiety

When a guy like Earnest Hemingway tells you that war, Spanish bulls, and African big game are less frightening than, "a blank sheet of paper," greater credence surrounds the condition known as writer's block. It is real and might well have been called "writer's anxiety." Considering the fact that writers have several methods for getting their work done, a number of things can cause a writer to feel anxiety, which in some cases leads directly to the inability to place words to the page, which is writer's block. If a highly regarded writer such as Hemingway himself was no stranger to the monster, then you should accept the fact that when experiencing writer's block, you have in fact followed in some grand foot-notes.

In most situations the anxiety will pass or can be subdued and even conquered by speaking to a writer friend or mentor. But, on occasion, writer's block can be so debilitating that a writer must use a more assertive approach to finding the cure for what has ailed even the best of writer's throughout history.

Consider these helpful cures for the "symptoms of writer's block."


Do you think writer's block is anxiety or Neurologically related

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Writer's Block Symptoms and Their Cure

Pressure to produce

Time constraints, volume requirements, the work is directly in correlation to your personal advancement (school papers, contest time lines, editor timeline, job advancement, publication criteria, etc.) These are the things that can paralyze even the most creative of writers.

Literary Success, Even J.K. Rowling Kept Working

When an author has achieved some literary success, the pressure to create more quality works become greater. Even J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame which has sold over 400 million copies) had a bout of writer's block after completing her first book. She found herself frozen with the fear (anxiety) that her second book Chamber of Secrets would be a failure comparatively. Once Rowling worked through her block, by exercising, sleeping on the problem, and talking about it, she found she was able to pop out on the other side and finish her award winning Harry Potter series.

Just Jack - "Writer's Block Music Video"

Unable to Get Started

I believe it was Mark Twain who was quoted as saying, "The secret of getting ahead, is getting started." Easier said than done when you are trapped inside a writer's block prison cell. Many writer's have found the overwhelming task of getting started to be the unexpected end to what might have been a great written work. However, after breaking down these overwhelming tasks into smaller more manageable tasks, the anxiety to write does decrease. Take each segment of the writting project and list each as a single task. Once the tasks have been broken down into several tiny tasks, simply begin with the first one and take each task one at a time.

Writing as performance rather than as a process

Some believe writer's block to be neurological, but most researchers on the subject agree with Julia Kasdorf, director of Penn State's Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, who says that writer's block is associated with our first grade teacher more than anything else. From the very beginning, she suggests, you are told how to spell, create a sentence, and how to construct written format. Then the social pressure to do it right, only intensifies. This is thought to be the deepest rooted cause of writer's block. "We are not machines," says Kasdorf adding, "Right now, just because there aren't leaves on the trees doesn't mean the trees are dead or broken." Writer's require down time to revitalize their creative mind, which is just as important as the periods of production. In short, give yourself some time to recharge and then see if your keyboard looks less like a heavy chunk of brick, and more like a friendly tool to be used in the telling a written story.

Image of utility "tokens for early writing." From Token communication we have evolved into an advanced script writing society.
Image of utility "tokens for early writing." From Token communication we have evolved into an advanced script writing society.

Token to Typing

The earliest written record keeping required the creation of small clay "tokens" that represented a particular subject. For example, to convey the meaning "sheep", a round flat clay piece with an "X" scored into the clay piece or token, indicated the written meaning for ten sheep. The token shape was the "word" for sheep, and the "X" indicated two hands with five fingers each, or ten. These word tokens would be strung together on a necklace; stringing three tokens would mean thirty sheep, and Thus was the beginning of written record keeping.

Exercising The Writer

Now, I don't imagine too many of these early authors suffered from writer's block, their minds were kept fresh by the actual manufacturing of the articles, or tokens, through the exercise of making said items. Along these same lines, the modern writer can keep his/her mind fresh by conducting word exercises. Although not much manufacturing is involved, the act of exercising the mind can release the imagination from its trapped state.

The list provided shows you just how early written record keeping was deciphered.

Clay Token Image compliments of

The Evolution of Writing Chart

This table shows the evolution of writing, starting with the creation of tokens that had defined meaning in their day. As you can see, the evolution takes us through the stages of writing throughout history.
This table shows the evolution of writing, starting with the creation of tokens that had defined meaning in their day. As you can see, the evolution takes us through the stages of writing throughout history. | Source

Exercises that Help Cure Writer's Block

Below is a Writer's Block Activity Guide. The three columns consist of exercise topics, situations, and word count that will help you get through your writer's block.

Here's how the Exercise works:

  1. Choose a topic from the first column.
  2. Choose a situation from the second column.
  3. Choose a word count goal for the topic and situation you have chosen.

The "Writer's Block Activity Guide" below is designed to help you get just a few words into written form. Once you can get even a couple words down, your mind will ignite bringing you fresh thoughts. You can make it more creative for yourself by picking a topic that doesn't seem to go very well with a situation. Use humor, your emotions, and even your writer's block to add creativity to your work. Do as many exercises as you need, and remember: No pressure here, just a fun writer's activity guide to get you back on the "write" path.

*You can use the Writer's Block Activity Guide to help "stretch your writing muscles" between projects, even if you don't have writer's block!

Writer's Block Activity Guide

(click column header to sort results)
Cool styles
Dinner table
Missing animals
Finding it
First date 
Hole in pocket 
Parking garage 
Prayer in school
Lost packages
Falling leaves
Space shuttle
Next launch
Increasing readership
Favorite childhood pet
Summer locations
Specialty foods
Home care
Spring cleaning
Group excursions
New products/discoveries
Best locations

Sometimes, Writer's Block Requires a Good Old Fashion Writer's Retreat

List of Writer Retreats

When writer's block gets too much for exercises and rituals, it may be time to get away from it all. A writer's retreat can be a very helpful tool to refreshing your writers artistic supplies. Many have workshops, educational components, and group gatherings so you can interact with other writer's who may be experiencing your same difficulties. Remember J.K.Rowling made it through hers with the help of a friend; and a little time.

Listed here are 4 great places that might just be the right gathering for you. Look at them as a vacation for your writer's soul.

  1. HubPages HubCamp- This is an exciting gathering of writer's who write on HubPages. The camp is designed to help you improve your online writing skills.
  2. A Room Of Her Own- A foundation for women writer's and artists. Retreats for conferences, teacher's, writer's, and more.
  3. SHAW GUIDE- A Guide to conferences and writer workshops world wide.
  4. Retreats for Writers - This is billed as being the premier resource for finding your next writers retreat. Listings range from an easy weekend get away to extended get-away opportunities.

Plug in your own data to find any of the 4 listed writer's retreats, I've started you off with, the "A Room Of Her Own" location

Placitas, NM 87043:
Placitas, NM, USA

get directions

A Room Of Her Own Site Location: Placitas, NM 87043

Comments for Writing -When a writer can't write: Writer's Block....

Submit a Comment

  • htodd profile image


    7 years ago from United States

    Great post...Thanks

  • Eiddwen profile image


    7 years ago from Wales

    A great hub and I am sure that many will benefit from reading this one.

    Take care


  • Chatkath profile image


    7 years ago from California

    I am embarrassed to say that I also did a Writer's Block Blog, more specifically Blogger's Block Blog (coming up with new posts daily) but you put mine to shame. I love the "Activity Guide" - totally helpful - I did something similar by accident one time and it really got the word count going :-)

    Good Job K9!

  • LeanMan profile image


    7 years ago from At the Gemba

    My problem is not normally knowing what to write but escaping from the family to be able to write it!

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 

    7 years ago from San Francisco

    Whenever I get writer's block, I just sink my teeth into some fresh research. It works like a charm by getting me inspired about new things!


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