According to the writer Philip Pullman, “Writer’s block is a condition that affects amateurs and people who aren’t serious about writing. So is the opposite, namely inspiration, which amateurs are also very fond of. Putting it another way: A professional writer is someone who writes just as well when they’re not inspired as when they are.”
Sounds a bit harsh, right?
Well, as tough as that may be to swallow, there is some truth to it.
The core method of how to get through writer’s block isn’t about tapping into endless inspiration. It’s about putting mind over matter and plowing through, whether you feel like it or not.
Of course, this is easier said than done. If you find yourself staring at a blank page or Word document filled with feelings of overwhelm, self-doubt, burnout, or anxiety, you’re not alone.
Keep reading to learn six strategies for how to combat writer’s block.
You’ve probably heard this writing advice before, and that’s for good reason.
It’s far easier to write about something familiar to you than something you barely know anything about.
If you feel like you’re running into a wall trying to come up with new ideas, try tying it back to your own personal experience. This can apply even if you’re writing something technical or business oriented.
Just think about a time when you were affected by or had to use the skills, knowledge, or insights you’re writing about. For example, if you’re writing an article about project management, think back to a time when you struggled to manage a project. What went wrong? How did you feel?
Write down a personal anecdote, even if you know it’s not going to appear in the final piece. Just the act of getting your thoughts down on paper (or screen) will probably help you come up with new things to say.
And if you’re still struggling to find a personal connection, doing extra research to empathize with the audience your writing is targeting helps too.
When we sit down to write without any road map or plan, it’s easy for our thoughts to feel scattered. This can quickly make it seem overwhelming and even impossible to get anything down on paper at all.
You may find yourself asking questions like:
- Where do I start?
- If I start at A, then how will I incorporate B?
- What if I forget to mention C, D, and E?
- Should I begin at Z and go backward?
- And what about G, which doesn’t fit in anywhere?!
Before you go crazy trying to fit everything together, do some prewriting exercises to help organize your thoughts.
This could be something as simple as brainstorming a list of ideas related to your topic or writing an outline of what you want to cover.
When you do this without adding the extra pressure of writing your entire piece, it becomes much easier to understand what direction you want it to go in. From there, you can fill in the blanks in a calm, collected manner.
Having a reliable workspace that gives you the peace you need to write is extremely important. However, some days, it’s just not enough.
If you’re sitting at the same desk and find yourself blanking on ideas, try mixing it up: Go to another room in your house or maybe even just another part of the same room. Since creativity is often jogged by the sensory input we’re exposed to, even a small change in scenery can help get your creative juices flowing.
Feel like you need to take drastic measures? Try changing environments entirely.
Go to a coffee shop, or sit on a bench outside. You just might overhear a piece of a conversation or see an interaction that sparks your next idea.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything and you’re still not coming up with any ideas, you might need to take a step away from your project.
Sometimes, focusing too hard on coming up with something new can hinder your ability to think up anything at all, and the best solution is to forget about it for a second and let your brain reset.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour or two, and do something unrelated to what you’re working on.
- Switch gears to another project that’s focused on something different, like a hobby project.
- Maybe even just take a break to do something fun that has nothing to do with being “productive,” like watching a movie, going for a walk, or playing a game.
The goal is to allow your mind some time to relax and recharge so you can come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle your project with new vigor. Sometimes you may even come back and have a lightbulb moment inspired by something that happened during your break.
As with many things in life, getting started is the hardest part of figuring out how to get through writer’s block.
There’s something intimidating about a blank page or screen, and we often get filled with psychological blocks that prevent us from conquering it.
These could include things like:
- Worrying your idea won’t come out as great as it is in your head
- Fearing that once you start, the project will be longer, more complicated, and more time-consuming than you’d anticipated
- Overthinking whether your idea is original or good enough
- Second-guessing whether you’ve done enough to prepare with research, prewriting, or brainstorming
While all these are valid concerns, they shouldn’t stop you from getting started. When you’re just beginning a piece, perfection should be the last thing on your mind.
Just focus on getting something out so you have material to work with. You can always go back and revise it later.
Try practicing freewriting (i.e., letting your thoughts flow onto the page without worrying about grammar, punctuation, or logic) for a few minutes.
You can also begin with a simple idea to gain momentum and then make it more complex later.
One of the most important things you can do to get through writer’s block is to write regularly.
This will help you mentally view writing as something that has to get done no matter what rather than something that can happen only when you’re adequately inspired.
Once you train your brain to adopt this mentality, writing becomes a lot easier, especially on those days you don’t feel like doing it.
You also don’t have to jump to extremes with this. Your routine doesn’t have to involve sacrificing massive chunks of your day to writing or turning into a prolific writer overnight.
Instead, focus on making small, achievable goals that you can accomplish with regularity. This could mean setting a goal to write at least something every day, committing to writing for an hour (or a half-hour or even 20 minutes) each day, or giving yourself hard deadlines for specific pieces.
Do what works for you—and stick with it.
Writer’s block can be challenging to get through, and the longer you’re in it, the more impossible it may feel to get out of it.
The most important thing is getting started and committing to making improvements, even if they’re small.
By starting with small, manageable chunks, such as building an outline, writing for only 20 minutes, or connecting a big topic to a small personal experience, you can get your creative juices flowing and create a wonderful piece.
And once you’re done with your piece, it’s always a good idea to reach out to someone else for editing and review. They can provide you with a different perspective and spot issues you may have missed. Super Copy Editors is a great resource for editing and proofreading both small- and big-picture aspects of your writing. Click this link to get a free quote for our services.