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10 Ways to Kill Writer's Block

Ada is a magazine writer who also enjoys yarn crafts, photography, hiking, and being a mum.


How to write when you can't write

I am no expert in writing, but I can definitely claim intimate knowledge about writer's block. We go way back. And I mean waaaaaay back. To give you a very recent example, the idea for this article came to me when I was really trying to write about something else. But then it happened...

I stared and stared at the blank page in front of me and could not think of anything to write. So I started doing a few things that have helped me in this situation before, and suddenly - in the middle of a deep conversation with my teddy bear (see more about talking to inanimate objects below) I got the idea for this article instead and I set my other project aside for now.

Photo: This and all other photos in this article belong to me, unless otherwise specified.


You're not alone

Writer's block is a psychological barrier that simply hinders you in getting words down on paper. But it can be overcome. Try out some (or all) of the tips below, and take comfort in knowing that you are in good company. According to Wikipedia, the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald ("The Great Gatsby") and cartoonist Charles M. Schultz ("Peanuts") have reputedly both struggled with writer's block.

Photo: This is my cat, Robin Hood, who comes with me everywhere. When he was a kitten he loved sitting by my desktop keyboard. His favourite game that age was hit-Mommy's-fingers-while-she-is-typing, but here he has fallen asleep with boredom. Not much typing going on when Mommy has writer's block...

#1: Skip it!

(for now)

If you are writing something chronologically and get stuck, try skipping this particular part and jump ahead in time. Jump to something more interesting, something that you cannot wait to write. Maybe you even have a whole different project going on, or an idea for one? Take this time to get some work done on this, even if the deadline is not as close as the original. Some writers in fact prefer having more than one project going at once, to prevent boredom or simply to keep a fresh interest in what they are writing.

You can always come back to this part that you are struggling with now, and hopefully feeling refreshed and inspired.

For dummies - Because we all have got to start somewhere

#2: Write anyway.

Write anything. Anything at all. Stream-of-consciousness writing can help you back on track. Find a piece of paper and a pen and write absolute nonsense, if you want. Make sure your pen does not leave the paper, this is the most important thing. Writing down what goes on in your head is like tricking the mind to write around your writer's block. This writing is for no one but yourself to see. You can even throw away the piece of paper without looking at it. The point is that you are writing.

Do you find it hard to even get started with this exercise? Write about what you see outside your window. Write about what you are wearing or what you wish you were wearing. Write about what you were just reading on the internet when you were supposed to write. Just write something. Write about how hard it is to write something.

Bonus tip: Be playful!

#3: Use magnetic poetry

Try playing around with words, using magnetic poetry. Or even cut some words out from a newspaper. Put them all together in a bowl and draw six words. Play around with them until you have a sentence, or six sentences, or more. Do not worry if they fit into what you are writing right now or not. Just play and see what comes up.

Or you can put the box next to the fridge and encourage your parents, room mate, partner, spouse, kids, or visiting friends to create something with them, which in turn might give you some inspiration. The clue is to have fun with words again, and to make writing feel less like a chore.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Steve A Johnson

#4: Keep a notebook with you at all times

Even when you sleep

Write ideas down as soon as you think of them. Do not think you will remember them later, because odds are you will only remember that you had a great idea - not what it was about. Imagine the bestseller you could have written if only you had a notebook with you when you thought of it!

My ideas often come to me late at night as I am about to fall asleep. Or I wake up in the middle of the night from a strange dream and think "That would make a good story." Many times I have thought I will remember these ideas in the morning, but I never have. Then I started keeping a notebook and a pen by the bed, and could write the ideas down right away. This notebook doubles as a dream journal, for those really memorable dreams.

My favourite notebooks from Amazon

#5: Word of the day

Treat yourself to a word of the day calendar, and decide to use that word in a sentence that day. You may end up not using all the sentences for anything in particular, but simply see it as a writing exercise to keep your creative juices flowing. Make it a fun challenge!

Sometimes just a simple word can set you off into a writing frenzy, either from the word itself or something that you associate with it. And if nothing else it might expand your vocabulary, which – especially for a writer – is never a bad thing.

#6: Kill your inner editor

Yes, you will need your inner editor for the actual editing of your work, but right now all you really want is to get some words down on the paper or onto the screen. Going back to read what you have just written will make this sometimes-not-very-helpful voice in your head point out all spelling errors and logical problems. Rather than moving on and floating on your creative progress you end up spending your time perfecting what you have already written. But what you have already written is already there and will not go anywhere (assuming you back it up properly, which I really recommend doing). What you need right now is to keep moving and get the story going. Get the words down and come back and edit when your first draft is finish.

Scroll to Continue

Fun and motivating - Which is really what we need, isn't it?

Gertrude Street, Melbourne

Gertrude Street, Melbourne

#7: Go for a walk

Walking is almost meditative when you are on your own. It relaxes your mind and body, and gives you some fresh input - not to mention fresh air (sitting for hours in a stuffy room staring at a blank page or an empty computer screen does nothing for your creativity). Exercise is good for you. It will help blood circulation and clear your mind. There is no end to the reasons why you should go for a walk!

But remember what I said before, about keeping a pen and notebook with you at all times. Imagine the stress of coming up with your best idea ever, and not have anything to write on! You do not necessarily have to actively look for something to write about, but if you do come up with something at least you can relax knowing that you have a way of writing it down where you are.

Photo: You never know what you might see on a walk around your neighbourhood. Something as seemingly insignificant as a shadow in a window can get your imagination going. I took this photo in Gertrude Street, Melbourne (Australia) on a late winter evening, and keep coming back to it for inspiration.

#8: Disconnect the Internet

Yes, I can see why you think having a little look at the internet might inspire you. Yes, I am sure creating a relevant folder on Pinterest and then pin everything that has even the smallest relation to what you are writing might help you. And yes, of course looking at funny cats who cannot spell is exactly what you need right now. But the truth is one never has a "little" look at the internet. You open the web browser in the name of research, and then find yourself looking at your friend's colleague's distant cousin's wedding photos on Facebook three hours later. I bet mindless browsing is why you are sitting here reading this article right now (get back to writing!).

#9: Talk to your teddy bear

No, I have not gone crazy. Well, no more than usual, anyway. If you are stuck trying to formulate a sentence or cannot come up with a way to explain something, this is the exercise for you. Find an inanimate object (any inanimate object will do, but I usually find it helpful talking to something with a face) and explain to him/ her/ it what it is that you are trying to say. Yes, it will make you feel silly, and no, the teddy bear will most likely not talk back (and if it does I do not think I can help you anymore), but suddenly you might discover that the words coming out of your mouth are exactly the words you wanted to write down.

However: I would not recommend trying to talk to your cat. Cats tend to look at you as though you are crazy and then walk away. You do not need that right now (yes, I speak from experience).

How about a colourful plotbunny?

A "plot bunny" is an idea for a story which will not go away until written. It can lead you into a magic rabbit hole of unexpected ideas, but at least it will keep you writing. I think having an actual plot bunny sitting on my desk would make me very happy. Inspired, I mean. Inspired.


#10: Change medium

If you use a computer, try writing on paper. If you are writing on paper try the computer. A change in medium can change the way you think of writing. Personally I find that when writing something with a pen on paper there seems to be a direct connection from my brain to my hand, and writing flows more easily. But a friend of mine claims the opposite as she says she types faster than hand writing and therefore is able to get her ideas down quicker when using a computer.

Or what about trying a typewriter? There is nothing like the loud clicking of the keys as the black ink is hammered onto white paper, is there?

Poll: Tell me about your writing habits

Don't forget to share this with a poor struggling writer who might just be suffering right now.

And finally: what are your best tips for beating writer's block?

© 2016 Aibrean82

Thank you for stopping by - And good luck!

John Dyhouse from UK on February 26, 2014:

A few useful tips there, some I have tried but can never have enough ready in the background

James Jordan from Burbank, CA on February 13, 2014:

Great tips! Thank you!

PaigSr from State of Confusion on February 07, 2014:

Yes I always seam to have that note pad and pencil with me. I also find staring out a window seams to help. I did up my first five poll sites staring out of the same window on my lunch and breaks at work. It was a great way to think about something besides work. Of course I think a few people were staring at me as well.

Tip: Finally I would hand out pieces of paper and have people write out ten words on them. This was originally done for my poll and quiz sites. But I did build a few other lenses as words gave me ideas in other areas.

Marianne Gardner from Pacific NW, USA on November 24, 2013:

I like having a notebook by my bed and a small notebook in my purse. I get some of my ideas late at night when I should be sleeping, too. I relate to the tip not to do mindless browsing on the internet with writer's block. You caught me, ha ha, now--- Back to work, like you said.

cookiebear98 on November 19, 2013:

As I have trouble writing, I'll try some of your ideas. I enjoyed your lens. Thank you.

Aibrean82 (author) on November 18, 2013:

@zentao: Aha! I never thought of using that tip for writing! I use it for housework, though. It's such a good idea and great help to just start with the hardest task. I will definitely try it for my writing now. Thanks for sharing!

zentao on November 17, 2013:

Great ideas for killing writers block. I also use Brain Tracy's, "eat the frog" ant-procrastination method, which basically says to do the hardest tasks first thing.

When you write regardless first thing every morning, it begins to become an ingrained habit and seems very natural and easy.

Tom Christen from Switzerland/Ecuador on November 10, 2013:

A very nice lens, thank you very much for sharing!

boiscanot on November 06, 2013:

Wrintg is not primary activity here, but this lens is very inspiring! ;0)


toshia lm on November 05, 2013:

great tips... thank you for sharing

josietook on October 16, 2013:

Good tips, definitely agree with going for a walk and keeping a notepad.

tammywilliams09 on September 05, 2013:

Thanks for the tips especially about using different mediums and word of the day

Aibrean82 (author) on August 13, 2013:

@darkflowers: Thank you, that is really so incredibly sweet! :)

Anja Toetenel from The Hague, the Netherlands on August 13, 2013:

@darkflowers: Update: I came back to like your Lens, as today I have new likes left in my love basket ;-)

Aibrean82 (author) on August 11, 2013:

@darkflowers: Thank you for reading and commenting. Hitting the "likes" maximum can happen to anyone. There are just so many good lenses out there!

Anja Toetenel from The Hague, the Netherlands on August 11, 2013:

Lovely Lens, I enjoyed it, great tips too! Especially the magnetic poetry and I might even consider talking to my Teddy bear ;-) I reached my like maximum for today so I can't hit the LIKE button, but I did like your Lens a lot!

Jogalog on August 08, 2013:

Great ideas. I like to jot down ideas in the notes app on my phone when they come to me.

Aibrean82 (author) on July 28, 2013:

@dancingdiva02: I'm glad you found it helpful!

dancingdiva02 on July 20, 2013:

great lens! As well as your follow up to this! :) I always get writers block when I'm working on school papers! Most frustrating. I just sit there for hours and eventually I get a spark and just write!

SavioC on July 20, 2013:

Hi. Its a very helpful lens. I am very new to writing and have heard a lot about writers block & yet to experience it. Saved this lens for a later day. Thanks for sharing this lens.

Aibrean82 (author) on July 17, 2013:

@joseph-sottile-16: It's hard to do, but really helps!

joseph-sottile-16 on July 14, 2013:

I like number 6 best of all: kill your inner critic. Yes, all writers should do that!

clevergirlname on July 13, 2013:

I get writers block all the time but I always bounce back. Great topic!

Aibrean82 (author) on June 30, 2013:

@nicenet: Awesome! The best of luck to you :)

nicey on June 20, 2013:

I got some good ideas from your lens . Thanks a lot.

Aibrean82 (author) on June 11, 2013:

@ColettaTeske: Thank you! And thank you for visiting :)

ColettaTeske on June 11, 2013:

Thank you for the great information. Very nice lens and congratulations on the Purple Star. Well earned.

JohnGcorner on June 06, 2013:

Taking a break, most preferably a walk. There's no point in forcing it and agonize yourself by just sitting in front of your keyboard hoping something will pop out.

renewedfaith2day on May 24, 2013:

Good suggestions. What helps me is to remember that, as a lensmaster, I have no deadline. Now in other venues this is not the case. Thanks for this one.

Aibrean82 (author) on May 19, 2013:

@wildbluefrontier: Maybe a potted plant?

Nathan M from Tucson on May 19, 2013:

Some good tips. i don't have a teddy bear though so I'll have to make do.

JeannyLeRoux on May 15, 2013:

Really a great lens! Thanks for sharing.



Aibrean82 (author) on May 01, 2013:

@KamalaEmbroidery: Yes, doing something completely unrelated to writing often seem to help.

KamalaEmbroidery on May 01, 2013:

Thanks for the tips - I need to get a teddy bear as writer's block is one of my worse problems. Hot baths and walking or even cleaning house work best for me.

Aibrean82 (author) on April 30, 2013:

@rstaveley lm: There is always the risk of that...!

Richard Staveley from Burley in Wharfedale, Yorkshire, England on April 30, 2013:

Great lens! I always find going for a walk most effective - only trouble is I spend all day walking and never get anything else done.

Aibrean82 (author) on April 29, 2013:

@dwindhaus lm: Thanks for reading :)

Aibrean82 (author) on April 29, 2013:

@fifinn: Yes, this is really what works best for me :)

Aibrean82 (author) on April 26, 2013:

@aesta1: Thank you! Yes, having a break always seems to help :)

dwindhaus lm on March 31, 2013:

Some good tips here, thank you.

fifinn on March 31, 2013:

Thanks for the tips. Very useful. I agree that fight writer block by write anyway.. anything.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 29, 2013:

I go for a walk...have a break. Congrats on the purple. Well deserved.

Aibrean82 (author) on March 18, 2013:

@WickedWoman: Ahh, you and me both! Thank you :)

Aibrean82 (author) on March 18, 2013:

@hntrssthmpsn: Well done! I have done NaNoWriMo four times now, and that book has helped me a lot!

hntrssthmpsn on March 18, 2013:

Sometimes I feel like writer's block is just kind of my natural state ;). I did NaNoWriMo last November, and the tactic of writing out of chronological order really, really helped! Also, "No Plot, No Problem" is a WONDERFUL book! Chris Baty is really good at writing about writing, and I found the book very helpful... and did finish my 50,000 words in 30 days!

WickedWoman on March 18, 2013:

As a member of the "frequent writer's block club" I appreciate your lens. :) Nice work!

Aibrean82 (author) on March 15, 2013:

@opatoday: Glad to be of help!

opatoday on March 15, 2013:

What an amazing lens I suffer from writer's block and this really helps thanks

goldenrulecomics from New Jersey on March 13, 2013:

Lots of good advice. I never get writer's block -- I just never seem to have enough time to do all the writing I want!

NoYouAreNot on March 13, 2013:

#7 definitely for me!

Long, refreshing walks -- seeing different things, having the energy circulate again freely works like magic, Every.Single.Time.

Aibrean82 (author) on March 12, 2013:

@shellys-space: Teddy bears are the best listeners!

Shelly Sellers from Midwest U.S.A. on March 12, 2013:

I am having a good chat with my teddy bear :) I need all the writing help I can get, thanks for the information!

Aibrean82 (author) on February 28, 2013:

@MJ Martin: Thank you! I am so glad you found some inspiration here - writer's block (and procrastination) can be such a pain!

MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose from Washington State on February 28, 2013:

congrats on purple star, yippee! Great ideas to get me to stop reading stuff and get busy writing anyway, anywhere anything. I LOVE some of the motivation you shared. I so gotta get me a place for my little stuffed animals to tell me their stories. Yep, that is my favorite idea, kudos!

Aibrean82 (author) on February 20, 2013:

@RosaMorelli: I know! They're just magic!

RosaMorelli on February 20, 2013:

Excellent ideas to kick-start writing when the dreaded block happens. One of my favourite notebooks is the moleskine too - just opening it up in my favourite coffee house can spur me on to write :)

Aibrean82 (author) on February 15, 2013:

@Michael Oksa: Thank you for that!

Michael Oksa on February 15, 2013:

I have a theory that states a person is not a real writer until they have written an article on fighting writer's block. Congratulations! Welcome to the club. :)

Aibrean82 (author) on February 12, 2013:

@safereview: Thank you! And thank you so much for the blessing!

Bob from Kansas City on February 12, 2013:

Great lens and so inspiring and helpful!

Aibrean82 (author) on February 11, 2013:

@kathysart: I have a set of magnetic words and I just love playing with them. I used to write a short poem and put it on my fridge each morning, just for fun. Good luck with yours!

Aibrean82 (author) on February 11, 2013:

@Klaartje Loose: Thank you! And well said. I had been struggling with my inner perfectionist for a long time, until I suddenly realised I had stopped writing completely. Not because I didn't have any ideas, but because I was too afraid to get started in case it didn't turn out perfect. I'm very glad I got over that!

Klaartje Loose on February 11, 2013:

I have to slay my inner perfectionist on a weekly base, by reminding myself that all perfectionists have one thing in common: nothing! They accomplish nothing, because of their out-of-this-world-standards. But you covered that one already, with the inner editor I guess. Great lens!

kathysart on February 11, 2013:

I think I am going to get some of those magnetic words on Amazon.. thanks!

Aibrean82 (author) on February 10, 2013:

@anonymous: Thank you very much! I am so glad you like it :)

Aibrean82 (author) on February 10, 2013:

@CampingmanNW: You're absolutely right. I think that is the easiest as well. Thank you for visiting :)

anonymous on February 10, 2013:

Very interesting, well written and im sure no writers block in here;)

CampingmanNW on February 10, 2013:

I find that writing like I think and speak is the easiest. But you have a ton of advice that is really good. thanks for a great lens.

Aibrean82 (author) on February 10, 2013:

@Babbages: Thank you for visiting :)

Babbages on February 10, 2013:

Some great advice here, thanks!

Aibrean82 (author) on February 09, 2013:

@anonymous: That is really an excellent idea! And true, too! Thank you so much for sharing :)

Aibrean82 (author) on February 09, 2013:

@Aja103654: I think dogs make better listeners than cats... Thank you for commenting :)

Aja103654 on February 09, 2013:

Thank you, I really like the walking and teddy bear tip. Cats are kind of mean LOL, they look at you then walk away.

anonymous on February 09, 2013:

I like Seth Godin's tip: write like you talk. He says that no one gets "talker's block." Nice lens!

Aibrean82 (author) on February 09, 2013:

@ChroniclesofaWa: I'm glad you find them helpful :)

Aibrean82 (author) on February 09, 2013:

@tobydavis: Good idea! Thank you for visiting :)

Aibrean82 (author) on February 09, 2013:

@lbrummer: Thank you so very much! I really appreciate it!

Loraine Brummer from Hartington, Nebraska on February 09, 2013:

You've given so many great suggestions to overcome writer's block. Thanks!! Blessed!!

tobydavis on February 09, 2013:

Really like the 'Changing Medium' and 'Magnet Poetry' ideas, and I love a good Note Book! I find doing simple tasks help : like emptying the Dishwasher, doing laundry or taking the bin out. Ideas will pop into my head, plus it gets the housework done :-)

ChroniclesofaWa on February 09, 2013:

I like your tips. I find them very helpful. It is very frustrating to have a writer's block. :)

Aibrean82 (author) on February 09, 2013:

@KerryVor: Dogs are the best listeners, aren't they? :)

Kerry Voronoff from Sydney, Australia on February 09, 2013:

Brilliant! I think I'll talk to my labradoodles more often. They are very good listeners :)

Aibrean82 (author) on February 09, 2013:

@olayanjugto: Thank you so much :)

Aibrean82 (author) on February 09, 2013:

@Spiderlily321: Thank you so much for the blessing!

Aibrean82 (author) on February 08, 2013:

@anonymous: Oh yes, the excuses... Thank you for commenting!

Aibrean82 (author) on February 08, 2013:

@anonymous: That is a great tip! Thank you for sharing it :)

Aibrean82 (author) on February 08, 2013:

@anonymous: Thanks for visiting :)

anonymous on February 08, 2013:

Useful tips thanks for that.

anonymous on February 08, 2013:

Great fun and interesting way to overcome writers block. I always look at the photos my husband and I have taken over the years. I can always find something different. Plus you can use the photos in your article so it is a double I also wrote a lens about doing that. Thanks for a great lens

anonymous on February 08, 2013:

Excellent suggestions. Ultimately I just have to stop making excuses, sit down and start writing.

Spiderlily321 on February 08, 2013:

Great tips. I have often had writer's block. My fiance' and I got it while working on our book. We took some time off to do other things and then came back at it with fresh ideas and had it published. Great lens. Angel blessed!

olayanjugto on February 08, 2013:

Thanks for the wonderful write up

Aibrean82 (author) on February 08, 2013:

@teach: Oh, that's one of my biggest challenges too. Thank you for taking the time to comment :)

Aibrean82 (author) on February 08, 2013:

@victoria91 lm: Thank you so much!

Aibrean82 (author) on February 08, 2013:

@LizMac60: Thank you, and another BIG thank you for the blessing!

Aibrean82 (author) on February 08, 2013:

@PNWGuy: Thank you very much :)

Aibrean82 (author) on February 08, 2013:

@Toy-Tester: I struggle with the same thing! And the magnetic poetry was something I discovered by accident. And I love it!

teach on February 08, 2013:

Love it! My biggest challenge is killing the inner editor as I work...and sometimes just getting up and walking away for a while really helps. Thanks for sharing!

victoria91 lm on February 08, 2013:

This is a great lens.

Liz Mackay from United Kingdom on February 08, 2013:

Great ideas for keeping writing. I have used some of these ideas and more when I am writing poetry. Blessed.

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