Writer’s Block—A Common Foe
It happens to all writers, from novice to knowledgeable. You have a magnificent idea, but when you sit down to write, your brain turns to mush all of a sudden, and you can’t get a single word out. You stare at a blank screen, hoping for some sort of muse or miracle to enlighten you, but…nothing. Zip. Zero.
Sure, you can quit and try again another day. Or, you can try the following tips and kiss writer’s block goodbye.
How to Overcome Writer’s Block
#1. Keep a Journal, or Write Every Day
Why does keeping a journal help stop writer’s block? Because it’s a way to work your writing muscles. You don’t have to write about your innermost secrets as if it were a diary. Instead, you could write notes about conversations you had throughout the day, or a movie you might have watched. What you write in it is not as important as writing every day or as often as you can. The more you do, the more you learn about the right amount of detail to include or not. Writing, like any other skill, is one you have to practice to perfect.
#2. Take a Walk, Stretch, or Move Your Body
Before you sit down and write, walk, stretch, or move your body to boost oxygen to the brain and get your blood pumping. Studies show that walking helps boost creativity, but any type of warm-up, from touching your toes, stretching your arms over your head, and doing a little dance, will help. Don’t limit these physical movements to before you write. It also helps to take a break during your writing session to keep the creative juices flowing. Remember, don’t write when you’re feeling fatigued. If these exercises don’t rejuvenate you, then either take a nap or get back to writing after you’ve had a whole night’s sleep.
#3. Eliminate Distractions
We live in an era of constant content—whether it’s a 15-second Instagram reel, a tweet from your favorite celebrity, or a text message from your best friend. It’s impossible to write to your full potential if you’re constantly checking your phone or refreshing your home page. Do what you have to do to eliminate distractions while writing, even if this means leaving your phone in another room. If the thought of missing something important makes you anxious, configure your phone settings to silence all notifications except the ones that you think are important (like calls from your parents, your boss, or your child’s school).
#4. Sit Down and (Free) Write
A writing block can happen at any stage of writing. If you don’t know what to write about or if you’re struggling to string together words that adequately express an idea you have, sit down and start free writing.
What is free writing? It’s a strategy where you write about whatever pops up in your brain for a certain amount of time (10-20 minutes) without concern about spelling, proper grammar, or formatting. It’s a stream of consciousness in written form that helps your thoughts flow freely and limits the chance of you censoring yourself from a potentially great idea.
When free writing, use a font you would never use in an actual document — like size 14, green, comic-sans. This visual trick will help you remember that what you’re currently writing isn’t the final version. If you don’t know where to start when free writing, write about writer’s block. As the well-known writer Charles Bukowski once said, “Writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
Handwriting is a combination of moving your body to warm up and free writing. Writers often start writing on paper, and once they feel that ideas are freely flowing, they switch to typing. A benefit of handwriting is that it strengthens neural pathways, and studies show that it engages the brain, specifically the areas correlated with working memory and learning, more than typing.
#6. Make an Outline and Organize Your Thoughts
Writer’s block can sometimes be caused by the sheer agony of not knowing which direction to steer your writing. That’s why having an outline can help stop writer’s block. Although we recommend writing one, some writers simply have an outline in their minds, and that’s enough to get them writing. The point of an outline is to organize your thoughts and material, which makes writing less daunting. Always leave room for ideas to emerge and let creativity roam freely. An outline serves as a reference to guide you while writing.
#7. Know Why You’re Writing
Writing with no goal or purpose in mind is the perfect way to invite writer’s block into your mind. Knowing why you’re writing helps you decide on the ideal tools, words, and rhetorical devices that’ll help get your point across.
#8. Stop While You’re Ahead
This might come as a shock to some writers, but sometimes it’s best to stop when the ideas start pouring in. This way, the next time you sit down to write, you can skip the hassle of overcoming writer’s block because you won’t have any! You’ll be ready to write where you left off — in the middle of your last great idea. Ernest Hemingway, a renowned writer, used this technique:
“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day…you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way, your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it, you will kill it, and your brain will be tired before you start.”
#9. Understand That Writer’s Block is All Mental
The most important thing to know when overcoming writer’s block is that it’s all mental, and that there is nothing physically going on in your brain preventing you from writing. Writer’s block is fear, perfectionism, or a combination of the two. If you’re afraid that you don’t know enough or aren’t well-prepared to start writing, then give yourself extra time for research. Similarly, you shouldn’t let the desire for “perfect” writing stop you, either. What’s essential is that you just sit down and write. Besides, LanguageTool can take care of perfecting your writing with its free online spell checker and grammar corrector.
Writer’s block is an enemy every writer has faced. It’s like a pesky, uninvited guest that won’t get the hint that you want it to leave. It’s not unbeatable, though. Next time you’re faced with it, try out these tips, and you’ll see it’s easy to kick writer’s block out the door.