10 Ways to
Beat Writer's Block
Writer's Block is the bane of every writer's
existence. Even if you've never experienced it, it can
make your toes curl and your stomach roll at the mere
The inability to form a cohesive sentence, or even think
of something worthy of writing down, the strong belief
that everything you write is rubbish, the eye-strain from
hours of staring at a blank screen, deleting work that
took hours to struggle through - all are symptoms of
How do you know if you really have writer's block or if
you're just in a small slump? Ask yourself the following
1) Have you panicked
2) Did you try to
force yourself to writer only to become extremely
frustrated over the quality of slush you were creating?
3) Has it been more
than five minutes since you wrote your last cohesive
4) Have you wept for
the inability to write even an email?
5) Have you begged
your friends to just 'shoot' you?
6) Have you almost
talked yourself into the idea that taking a job as a
check-out chick will be more rewarding than publishing
If you've answered no to any of those questions, you
probably don't have writer's block. If you've answered
YES! to all six, then you're probably not amused at this
moment. You're stuck and you want some help. So let's
examine the primary cause of writer's block. Enlighten
me, you say? Tell me know so I can address the problem,
All right then. Let's get serious. The predominant cause
of writer's block is self-doubt. That nagging little
voice at the back of your mind that says everything you
write is no good and this is a useless pastime, or job as
the case may be. The cause for this self-doubt may not
even be writing related. It may be stress induced: sick
relatives, loss of paying job, reprimand at work, broken
automobile, unwanted pregnancy (yours, girlfriends,
teenage daughter...) you get the picture.
Our lives affect our writing. That's an unalterable fact.
Many American writers, and some out of the USA as well,
expressed an inability to write after the Sept. 11th
bombing of the World Trade Center. Traumatic world events
such as this can cause a serious lack of inspiration.
The good news is that Writer's Block is almost always a
temporary condition and is easily fixed!
So how do you get the creative flow moving again?
There are a few different approaches. While some
suggestions are made with tongue-in-cheek, never
underestimate the power of climbing a jungle gym to
revive the weary spirit.
Ways to Beat Writer's Block
1) Watch a movie - new, old, humorous or sad - Many
writers are visually stimulated and inspired.
2) Take a nap - lack of sleep is detrimental to motor
skills as well as concentration, halting the flow of
creativity as well as making it difficult to type or
3) Take Prozac - seriously - if you've been suffering from
the symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor. There may be
something he/she can do to help, be it medication or
therapy. (of course, always check with your doctor
before taking any medication)
4) Jog, take a walk, mow the grass, work out at the gym -
physical exercise works wonders to reduce stress levels.
5) Let Calgon take you away - a relaxing shower of bath
allows your subconscious time to mull over a character
discrepancy or plot snag. (It's also rumored that
massaging the scalp can release ideas from a cramped
brain... okay, maybe not, but it will help relax you.)
6) Play on the jungle gym, crawl on the floor after your
toddler for 20 minutes - not just for the exercise but
also for down time from life's problems and to marvel in
the joy of exploration.
7) Indulge in the goodie of your choice - hot fudge
sundae, a box of Tim Tams (which I've heard are quite
delicious but I'll have to visit my senior editor in
Australia to try them), my favorite, a cup of Ghirardelli
hot chocolate with whipped cream on top - you might want
to go back to items 6 or 4 after you're done indulging.
Too many goodies are hard on the waistline and wallet.
8) Take a break - do you 'have' to be writing right now?
If you're not working on a deadline, walk away from the
computer or the pen and paper for a few hours or days.
You might need to distance yourself from the story in
order to come back at it with a fresh perspective.
9) Work on something completely different. If your novel
is Blocked, work on a short story for a while instead. If
your article is stilted, write a poem. The change in form
will release you from the pressure of the prior exercise
and who knows? You might even find you have another
format to explore! Stimulate your brain with a new
10) Use a different medium to express yourself - if you
typically type on the computer, switch to pen and paper
for a while. Sometimes the physical sensation of a pen in
your hand can unleash those pent up words and ideas.
There are a magnitude of new gels pens on the market,
using a shiny ink on a dark paper may set your creative
spirit soaring. (Warning... some writers find that pen
buying is addictive. I know I need to buy stock in some
of the pen manufacturing companies so I can make a little
money off my obsession.)
If you usually write your stories longhand, consider
working directly onto your computer. If you're like me, I
can type faster than I write and I prefer to write on the
computer because I can keep up with my train of thought
better that way. This works well for free-flow writing
but my computer work always needs more editing than my
You've tried some or even all of these things and it's
not helping? Consider the "lighten up and
laugh" method. This works very well for my co-author
and me. When we get to the point of feeling so uninspired
we could care less if we ever finish another story, we
turn our project inside out. We make our characters do
completely inappropriate things. Say, having a devout
Catholic nun dress in lingerie and participate in a
raunchy dance contest, or making a macho male character
cross dress and participate in a beauty pageant (complete
with hairy legs in a bathing suit), or an animal rights
activist stalk Toto through the merry old land of Oz with
the intent of shooting him.
Warped? Possibly. But by the time we've finished mangling
our story and offending half of humanity, we're no longer
taking ourselves so seriously that we can't write. And,
of course, no one but us ever sees these
"side-scenes" but us. (except maybe Lee!)
Laughter truly is the 'best' medicine. It's hard to
wallow in self-doubt when you're giggling so hard you
have tears in your eyes and your sides hurt.
On occasion humor fails us. Sometimes it's not the
self-doubt but anger that stills our muse and quiets our
pen. Pent up anger can be hard to see past (can cause
stomach upset) and it's not always socially acceptable to
release it in an adequate manner.
For some of us, expressing that anger through a scene or
character tirade can be very cathartic. I have the
highest respect for human life and I would never
intentionally inflict physical or emotional harm to
However.... having that same nun pack an Uzi into a
congregation filled with pedophiles, murderers, abusive
bosses or spouses, mouthy teenagers, annoying co-workers,
cheating spouses, etc, is the safe way to go
(Just don't tell my boss at my paying job that I used
that word. They frown on their employees perpetrating the
myth that postal workers are more violent than other
Should you feel guilty for venting your anger in a
horrific act of written violence? No. If you're seriously
contemplating following through on your ideas, then you
need to seek professional help. (I'm not joking about
Self-doubt, depression, pain, loss, grief, illness,
stress - all these negative emotions and experiences will
affect our writing just as they affect all other aspects
of our lives. Take a deep breath, assess the underlying
problem to your writer's block and deal with that first.
Once you do, you may find that your writer's block has
Best of luck and happy writing.
Copyright Tina Morgan