Updated: Mar 2
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of a good deal of required writing must be enslaved to writer’s block. At least it feels like that some days. You sit at your computer, facing a white page that may or may not have a bunch of squiggly black lines on it, and You. Simply. Don’t. Know. What. To. Say. Next.
I’ve been a professional writer for over five years, and have written for multiple publications as well as corporate clients. That doesn’t include my overly extensive writing experience from 16 years of school. Put all together, I’ve had a lot of time to work through frustrating writer’s block and try to come up with ways to combat it.
Because, after all, the writing must go on!
While everyone talks about writer’s block, it would help to start by defining it. To me, writer’s block is when you simply don’t know how to continue with a piece of writing. You’re stuck on a concept, you’re stuck creatively, you’re stuck on a way to phrase something, or all of the above. You’ve stalled and you simply can’t seem to push forward despite aimlessly punching keys, talking to yourself, or staring into space. While it’s a frustrating phenomenon no matter what writing you’re doing, it becomes a major issue when that writing is for school or work, and comes with a deadline.
In those instances, writer’s block is like a dreaded, invisible foe, liable to strike at any time and catch you entirely unawares, leaving you gasping for breath and pounding your head against a wall and…
I think you get the point.
How to get past writer’s block then? How can you rekindle your creativity, figure out the best way to say what you’re trying to say, and get those words flowing again? There are a few things you can do to get back into the writing swing of things. Try one the next time you hit writer’s block to see what works for you.
1. Step away from your writing
Just walk away. Do something else. Clear your head. Sometimes writer’s block creeps up because you’ve simply been trying too hard and the creativity with which you first approached your writing has since dried up. So take a walk, dance around, wash dishes, or play with your dog. Then come back.
2. Reread the whole thing
Reread what you wrote, starting from the top. Going over all that you’ve written can help you pick up the train of the thought or figure out the next step by seeing the big picture. Admittedly, this doesn’t help for writer’s block that hits before you even manage to write a single word.
3. Just write
Forget about what you planned to write or what you needed to write. Don’t think about where you were going or where you thought you were going with your paper. Just write whatever come to mind without worrying about whether it makes sense or fits. Get a stream of consciousness flowing and you might just smash that writer’s block in the process.
4. Write something else
Instead of working on the piece of writing giving you trouble, write something else entirely. Whether it’s another assignment, article, journal entry, or Facebook post, sometimes just getting into the flow of writing anything at all can help you push past writer’s block.
5. Talk to someone
Seriously, this works. At least sometimes. If you’re chatting with someone as you write, it can get your mind out of the place where it’s stuck and help you see past the writer’s block. There’s something about distracting part of your mind that can make your writing a lot more intuitive.
6. Eliminate distractions
If talking to someone isn’t your idea of a productive time, try eliminating all distractions instead. Sometimes all you need is a bit of focus, so close all messaging windows and put away your phone. Even turn off the music. And just...focus.
7. Join others
Try to join other people who are writing or working, whether in person or online. Knowing there are others around you being productive can cultivate the focus and mental ease to finally get over your writer’s block.
The next time you find yourself struggling to get your writing from your brain onto your paper (or virtual paper), pick a suggestion and see if it helps! If not, try another, and another, to discover what works best for you. It might depend on the day - sometimes I need people and sometimes I need silence - so don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling and instead just give another idea a shot. Writer’s block is normal and sometimes it’s harder than others to work past it, but you will get past it eventually. Just keep trying!
(No writer’s block was encountered in the making of this post because the author utilized the most powerful suggestion of all: procrastination.)