14 tips to combat writer's block
Updated: Jan 3
Ever have writer’s block and can’t seem to break it? Writer’s block is as different for every writer as for each writer. For me, it is a combination of three things: Timing, Fear, and Perfectionism. Let me explain. Timing - sometimes, it’s just not the right time for me to write. Usually, I need to let the story develop in my head a little longer. Then there is that bad four-letter word that starts with an “F”..... Fear, yes, I admit I have fear. I fear criticism of my ideas. And that my writing will never be good enough. Or worse, being fearful of putting myself out there. Lastly, perfectionism -indeed a misunderstood word. Everything from the placement of my pen to making sure my home is organized and clean before I sit down to write engages my perfectionism. Yet, having a clean home does not guarantee I will create a plot or develop my characters.
The following are 14 ideas I use to help me combat writer’s block: Go for a walk. Go for a run. Brew some coffee. Change my environment. Play with a child. Spend time with someone who makes me feel good. Call an old friend. Eliminate distractions. Listen to music. Read some inspiring quotes. Read a book. Free write. Brainstorm ideas in bullet points. Create a routine. I find that movement is critical - it generates momentum to help unleash my writer’s block. Here’s what a few famous writers have to say about writer’s block. 1. ALEJANDRO ZAMBRA: “….The best way to overcome a block is to shave and then sit and wait for the aftershave muses. I think it is good to concentrate on something else, and shaving requires absolute concentration. The risk is nothing less than cutting up your face.” 2. ALEKSANDAR HEMON: “When I don’t feel like writing or have nothing to write, I don’t write….., not writing is very important for writing.” 3. ANDREW SEAN GREER: “Sit down and keep going anyway. Again, willpower is the major force in finishing a novel. No block is permanent.” 4. PAUL AUSTER: “Great patience is needed. You have to go back and examine your motives, your intentions, what you are trying to accomplish. But the essential thing is not to force things merely for the sake of putting words down on the page.” 5. TAYARI JONES: “I just keep at it. I think it’s a lot like using a pen that isn’t working. You can make the scribbling motion, and nothing happens until suddenly it does. Who knows why. But it does.” 6. AMY TAN: “There are many different ways. One is to put on the same music I had on when I was last working on the scene. Music is hypnotic. It aligns all the other senses of the imagination. So that takes me there.” 7. STEPHEN KING: “Go for more walks. Don’t take a book. Throw my mind on its own resources.” 8. DANIEL HANDLER: “I just write anyway, even knowing it’s lousy. Ten pages of bad writing are more useful to me than giving up for the afternoon—let alone the week, or the year.” 9. MEHMET MURAT SOMER: “Usually I don’t get that “block” when writing. I get blocked on planning the plot and pace of events. A nice trip to someplace I haven’t been before or a beach in the tropics, like Rio de Janeiro, usually helps a lot.” 10. YAEL HEDAYA: “I revise. I used to think 99 percent inspiration and 1 percent work. Now I know it’s the other way around. Since I’m always blocked, I’m always” “revising. I never start from where I’ve left off the day before. I always go back to the first sentence..., If you want to move forward, go back. Writing is not about leaping forward like an antelope, or some other fast, graceful creature. Writing is about moving like a crab. Sideways.” 11. EDWIDGE DANTICAT: “I put the work away and start reading other books that have similar patterns. Often I” “find clues in other books as to how to unblock myself. Time itself helps too. I refuse to tell myself that I’m blocked. I tell myself either I’m not ready or the story’s not ready.” 12. SUSAN MINOT: “Painfully, helplessly, dismally, doggedly, despairingly, hopefully. I keep chipping away at it, or banging the dead horse, or screaming into the darkness, or, however, you might put it. Something moves eventually. Blocks are really a loss of the touch . . . you have to work at it to find it.” 13. ANN CUMMINS: “Running or hiking is very important to my writing process. When I get stymied in my daily writing, I go for a run and can usually come back with a few ideas. I don’t know that I’ve had writer’s block, as in “no ideas.” I’ve certainly looked at work and found absolutely no merit in it. I suppose that’s a sort of block. Then I put it away and try to forget it. Sometimes, I’ll see merit when I return to it; sometimes not. I have had periods when I didn’t have the stomach for writing—when I told myself I was done with it. I’ve gone as long as a year without writing. In retrospect, it was good. I didn’t spend the year looking for material or anything. Maybe I was trying to feel a sense of wonder, the kind of wonder I felt when I discovered writing. It’s good to remember that the act of writing, itself, can become deadeningly routine.” 14. MICHAEL CHABON: I just add words. Even bad words. Words that I know, as I type them, I will end up cutting. The point is to get to one thousand.” Excerpts From: The Secret Miracle By Daniel Alarcon