ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing

Tips For Beating Writer's Block

Updated on April 22, 2011
Illustration by E. A. Wright
Illustration by E. A. Wright

Understanding writer's block

Writer's block is often caused by a mounting fear that what you write won't be good enough.

You worry that maybe readers won't like what you have to say, or how you say it. You worry that even you won't like what you write. You worry that you will have no readers at all.

The fear and doubt builds up. Some deep, dark and slightly irrational corner of your mind picks up on these thoughts and runs with them, trying to save the day. If you write nothing, the reasoning goes, nothing bad will be written. Pride saved; problem solved. And so a case of writer's block is born, as a blunt and unwelcome self-preservation device.

To beat writer's block, just relax.

  • Write just to write, just to string words together. Do this for half an hour; longer if you can stand it. Don't judge yourself. Don't analyze. And unless you absolutely have to, don't rush to publish. Give your writing some time and space. Give your mind credit for sensing you might be having an off day. 
  • Later on, when your emotions are more settled, you can go back and assess whether your ideas and execution met your own standards. You can then tweak your work, vastly revise it, or totally scrap it.

Curing writer's block when the clock is ticking

When facing a deadline, no amount of warm-and-fuzzy, get-your-head-in-the-right-place advice will work in time.

Here's how to crank out the words:

  • Take a minute to look back at some of your past work as a reminder of what you can accomplish. You can write. You have proof that the task at hand is far from impossible.
  • View what you have to write as work, not art. Allow yourself to think of your writing as an onerous task, just like weeding thistles or scrubbing grime out of a toilet.Take the assignment you've been dreading and approach it as you would one of those chores. Grit your teeth, get in, get it done, get out.
  • Adopting this attitude from time to time does not make you a bad writer or a mercenary. And even if writing is only a hobby for you, no one will force you to give it up just because you admit hat you don't love every minute of it. If you want to improve, there will be days when you have to work through your blocks. (Say, if you're holding yourself to a Hub Challenge timetable.)

When the blank page is the block

Sometimes, writer's block is more than a fear that you won't be able to write well on some specific project.

You may be in the mood to write, but your fear is that you have no good ideas, and that you don't know how to think of any. You worry that you may never have a good idea again.

Here are a few tricks for brainstorming:

  • Conjure a strong emotion. Think of someone you love or hate, or a time you were scared to death. Write from that vivid mental image you now have, and from the related experiences. Maybe you once had an ornery co-worker. Relive the agony, and now you have some groan-worthy stories and (hopefully) some coping strategies to share.
  • Focus on your areas of expertise. How-to articles are a good fallback, if you write about something you do regularly. Just narrate the task. No deep thoughts involved.
  • Give yourself permission to take a break. If you've been writing, writing, writing, and suddenly feel drained of ideas, take a few days off. A break isn't the same as quitting. While you're on a break from writing, spend time coming up with a plan for how and when to get caught up with your original writing goals. (Say, plan to spend two hours writing Thursday night after dinner, passing up a movie or a run that day.)
  • Take time to soak in new material, new experiences, new places, new scenery. On days you write less, read more. Your mind needs regular inspiration from others' creativity.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays (FSG Classics)
Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays (FSG Classics)

The essay "On Keeping a Notebook" is found in this collection.

 

Preventing future attacks of writer's block

Consider keeping an informal journal full of snippets of overheard conversations, experiences and interesting articles you've come across.

  • If looking for some inspiration — and reassurance that mere bits and scraps of thoughts will do — read "On Keeping a Notebook," an essay by Joan Didion.
  • Your notebook could be a journal you keep with ink and paper. Or, just as easily, your journal could be in the form of a pile of links and random text files stored in the innards of your computer.

With time, you'll find your journal a reliable collection of ideas to turn to when the urge to write strikes, but good ideas seem to escape you.

What do you do when you're trying to write, but you're stuck?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • funmontrealgirl profile image

      funmontrealgirl 7 years ago from Montreal

      Cool hub. Something to ponder upon when experiencing writer's block.

    • Bredavies profile image

      Bredavies 8 years ago

      I need to bookmark this.

    • wannabwestern profile image

      Carolyn Augustine 8 years ago from Iowa

      This is just what I needed to read tonight! Thanks!

    • profile image

      Ghost32 8 years ago

      The tips for curing writer's block are all good. My favorite is, "Write just to write, just to string words together." For me, that one works even when nothing else will.

      It's a clear parallel to the story about an apprentice to a master sculptor. When the student told the master one day that he couldn't think what to make, he was advised, "Make a pile of chips."

      Or, as the sales training folks preach, ACF: Action Cures Fear.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)