You’ve just spent an hour cleaning and organizing your desk, you’ve lit a candle, made a cup of tea, and you sit down to write. And, all of the ideas you’ve had and all the feelings of motivation have left and you have no idea what to write about, let alone how to write it. Nothing you write is making sense and you feel like you’ve hit a wall.
Has something like this happened to you? If so, you’ve experienced writer’s block, and I’m guessing you can understand the frustration that follows.
If you are in the creative field, no matter writing or drawing or something else, there will always be stalling periods where your creativity dips and you no longer have any ideas.
Usually, when this happens, it’s a good sign to step back and give your mind a break, but we don’t always have that choice. You might have a deadline coming up, or maybe you need to create items to sell so you can pay rent. In certain situations, we need our creativity to flow; but, how exactly do you overcome writer’s block?
To break this process down into the most straightforward steps, I will be discussing what writer’s block is, some research about it, and then discussing five tips to overcome it and habits to avoid that will help prevent it. In the end, I will include a five-day creativity challenge to help spark creativity and avoid that awful writer’s block.
If you want to jump ahead, here you go:
- What is Writers Block?
- Five Tips to Overcome Writers Block
- Avoid These Habits
- Five Day Creativity Challenge
What Is Writers Block?
Writer’s block is when you hit a wall in writing and can’t seem to break through it. It can feel as though someone stole your ideas and has built a wall around them. The ideas may be there, but you can’t reach them. You may be unsure what to write, how to write it, or just lack the motivation to do so.
This can be frustrating for anyone, but it is incredibly upsetting when your life and career revolve around your ability to write.
Though it may seem odd, there is quite a bit of research on what writer’s block is, how it impacts the brain, and why it happens in the first place. As a writer, I have my own tips and tricks for overcoming a creativity plateau, but I was curious to see if I could find science-backed methods for overcoming it. I did, by the way! From pushing through the block to writing dreams, here are a few ways others have found effective in overcoming writer’s block and a few methods of my own:
Five Tips to Overcome Writers Block
Writer Graham Greene found writing his dreams to be a relief from writer’s block. To Greene, dream journaling allowed him to separate himself from daily anxiety and in turn, was able to write.1
It seems negative emotions of any kind can be a significant source of writer’s block. Psychologists Michael Barrios and Jerome Singer conducted a study on writer’s block to gain further insight into how it works, its causes, and how to overcome it. They separated blocked writers into four groups based on their emotions.
The first group, those who were anxious, feared criticism, which prevented them from writing. The second, the hostile people, didn’t want their work compared to others. The third, the apathetic group, lacked nearly all motivation and struggled in creativity. And, finally, the fourth group, the angry and disappointed people, relied on external motivation.1
After the experiment conducted by Barrios and Singer (check the New Yorker article for more information on the experiment), daydreaming and visualization proved successful in beating the block.
Dreams are one of the best and easiest ways to induce creativity as everyone dreams, and they are unique to each person.
If you have trouble remembering your dreams, try going to a park and people-watching. Take a journal and write what you see.
So, if you are struggling with writer’s block, try keeping a dream journal or something similar to help overcome it.
Writing Prompts, Exercises, and Challenges
Personally, my favorite way to beat writer’s block is to do writing exercises, prompts, and challenges. For me, having the prompts or themes chosen for me takes the pressure to be creative away and allows me to focus solely on completing the task.
If you are interested in writing prompts, check out this post on writing prompts for adults.
Try and find the source of the writer’s block or what part of the writing process you are struggling with the most. If you aren’t able to think of any ideas, prompts are a great way to go. If, however, you struggle more with how to write and not what, try some challenges and exercises.
Two of my favorite writing apps are Writing Challenges and IDeas for Writers. They really help to strengthen my writing and help to get something down on paper. Check out my post on the best apps for writers to hear more about them.
Let It Flow
If you find yourself struggling with how to write what you want, it can help to go against your instinct and keep writing, no matter how “bad” you think it is.
Let your thoughts flow with no judgment and no expectations. Learn at Central has a great article about this. They talk about stream of consciousness writing and how it can help with writer’s block.2 If your only thought is I don’t know what to write, write that over and over.
Writing about something else, no matter how aimless, can help realign your focus when you return to your writing project.
Forcing it can indeed be hit or miss. Depending on why the writer’s block has formed, your personality, and more, forcing yourself to write might be what you need or what you shouldn’t do.
The only way to know if it will help you is to try it out. Sometimes, we need that extra push to gain momentum, and then we’re writing for hours with no problem. It’s like when you can’t bring yourself to workout, but you push past that feeling and do it anyway, and you find yourself going for longer than you thought you would.
However, when it comes to quality, forcing it can be detrimental—forcing yourself to do what you don’t want or feel you can’t can result in resentment for that activity. To prevent this from happening, set a timer for thirty minutes and write. If you struggle to get through the thirty minutes and aren’t getting much writing done, step back and give yourself a break. Try a different method or just set the writing down for a few days if possible. Sometimes, we just get burnt out, and our brains need time to rest.
Everyone is different, and what works for one person might be the worst thing possible for another, so when it comes to writer’s block, you’re most likely going to have to experiment with what works for you.
Go through the tips I previously listed, come up with your own, just experiment with whatever you think might help you break through that barrier.
And, it’s important to remember, sometimes you just need to admit defeat. If nothing seems to be working and you’re stressing yourself out, know that it’s okay to take a break. Try a different creative outlet for a few days until you feel you’re able to write again. Writing will always be there when you’re ready for it.
Avoid These Habits
To help prevent writers block, remember that procrastinating will just solidify it. When you avoid writing (this is different from taking a break), you are reinforcing the beliefs that your work isn’t good enough, that you’ll just do it later. That’s why it’s important to try writing, before you’ve decided you should step away.
Remember not to be too hard on yourself. If you’re beating yourself up for not writing well enough or not being as successful as the next writer, where’s the fun in that? Consistently criticizing yourself will most definitely lead to writer’s block.
So keep in mind the habits to avoid, but if you do find yourself experiencing writer’s block try my five-day creativity challenge which uses the tips to beat writer’s block to help you overcome the struggle to write.
Sign up to access the five-day creativity starter challenge to help identify issues, strengthen writing, and breakthrough writer’s block.
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