All writers get writer’s block at some point. It can be discouraging, but you CAN do something about it. Read on to find out how to remove mental blocks that keep you stuck so you can move on and write again.
Ah, the dreaded writer’s block.
You’re typing on your computer or writing in your notebook when your palms go sweaty and your arms get heavy. Your fingers freeze in mid-air; no words flow from your brain.
The muse has left and inspiration is gone.
What to do now but curl up on the couch and stare catatonically in space?
Ah, writer’s block.
Every writer, from romance writers to bloggers like you and me to academic scholars, struggles with writer’s block. We’re all dealing with the same scourge.
If you write for a living, for your blog, business, or book, then writer’s block is a hindrance that can disrupt your agenda for the day and can even cost you money.
So how do we deal with it? What can we do to get back in the flow? Let us count the ways.
Today, I’ll provide some tips on how to remove mental blocks that keep you stuck so you’re armed to fight writer’s block when it inevitably comes.
The reasons for a mental block vary from one writer to the next because they are deeply personal. Sometimes it’s the pressure of creating perfect work, the anxiety of knowing their work will be judged once it’s out there, or the ideas just haven’t jelled into a coherent yet.
Whatever the reason, once you feel paralyzed, it’s critical that you step away from your work, get out of your writing space, and do something that recharges you. Something that leaves you refreshed and inspired and ready to do your thing.
Here are some suggestions for what to do when you step away from your work. Keep in mind that these are but temporary diversions, so don’t turn them into an excuse to procrastinate or shelve your writing.
Exercise. Numerous studies have shown that exercise is good for the brain. So get up and take a walk. Or pace around the room. Twist your body into simple yoga stretches. Shake that booty. Whatever exercise you enjoy doing would do.
Take a shower. Some of the best ideas are born in the shower. It could be the soothing sound of the water, or the fact that everything you do is automated and doesn’t need much thought. Either way, cleaning your body may just clear your head too.
Do a simple chore. Doing a mundane task that doesn’t take too much concentration can free up your mind enough for inspiration to come in. Clean your room, or just a portion if it’s too overwhelming. Do your dishes. Fold the laundry. Water the plants.
If physical exercise doesn’t do it for you, then perhaps exercising the artistic part of your brain to create something would shake you out of your funk. Assemble some Legos. Knit, sew, crochet. Decorate your journal with beautiful watercolor illustrations. Make paper storks.
Eliminate distractions in your workspace. If your juju isn’t flowing, it could be because your environment is taking your attention away from your work. Take some time to clean, rearrange, and clear the clutter in your space.
This also means no smartphones and no social media while you’re writing. It’s all too easy to fall into a social media black hole and crawl out exhausted and totally depleted.
Only keep things on your workspace that help you become organized and motivated.
Do mental workouts. Doing mental exercises can jumpstart your imagination and get those creative juices flowing again. Assemble a jigsaw puzzle, solve a Rubik’s cube, or do a crossword puzzle.
Read some pages of a book you enjoy. Reading a book strengthens the neural connections in our brain, according to research. When you’re trying to rid yourself of a block, though, it’s probably best to stick to a book you’ve already read and know you’re going to like.
Meditate. Training your mind to be still and not drift off into a million different tangents is difficult. But meditating is a mental exercise that has again been proven to be beneficial to the creative process.
Take a few minutes and meditate. If your workspace distracts you too much, feel free to meditate elsewhere. You might even consider taking up meditation as a habit (mobile apps like Insight Timer can help you get started if you’re a beginner).
Take a nap. It’s like a soft reset for your brain. Nap for a few minutes and tackle your writing again with a rejuvenated mind.
Take care not to nap for too long, though; according to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal nap is somewhere between 10 to 20 minutes. Apparently, if you nap within 30 to 60 minutes, you’ll wake up feeling groggy and less alert, which is the opposite of what we want.
Music can soothe the beast that is writer’s block. The more popular choice among writers seems to be classical music, but jazz or guitar music can also work for you. Film or television scores can also work.
You can also listen to audiobooks if you prefer. Studies have shown that audiobooks activate different parts of the brain from those activated by reading a book. This may be just what you need to stimulate your writing.
Instead of listening to music, how about making it?
If you play a musical instrument, jam a few bars of your favorite song. Or just sing. Maybe yodel it instead.
Not feeling musical? Read aloud from your favorite book or pretend to talk to someone (or something) and share how annoyed you are at being blocked. Shout and curse if you need to and if it helps you release some emotion.
Snacking on nutritious food that are beneficial to the brain may help remove that mental block. Some suggestions include nuts, vegetable sticks, fruit, whole wheat bread or crackers, and dark chocolate.
Avoid eating food rich in refined carbs (such as white pasta, rice, or bread) and fast food that have little to no nutritional value.
Being dehydrated may also cause a slump in brain function, so make sure you’re drinking your water. Plenty of writers swear by caffeine to help energize a sluggish brain, so sip a cup of coffee or green tea or whatever your favorite drink is.
Sometimes, you can only be with yourself and your thoughts for so long.
Call a friend or a family member and talk to them. You can also meet them outside or invite them over if you want to really take yourself outside of your current situation. You don’t have to talk about your current struggle with writing. Have fun spending time with a loved one.
If decluttering and cleaning your workspace isn’t doing it for you, perhaps moving it will.
It can be as simple as working in a different place in the house from where you usually work. Or you can take it a step further and work at a coffee shop, or even outdoors (just make sure you can actually work there).
Taking in new sights, sounds, and smells may just do the trick and coax the muse out of its hibernation.
So you’ve exercised, showered, had your coffee, and called your best friend.
You’re feeling upbeat, refreshed, and eager to write.
Get right back at it! Start writing and creating excellent work. Once you build your momentum, it’s easier to pick up speed and you’ll be writing before you realize it.
Here are more tips to remove mental blocks that keep you stuck while you’re writing.
Change the layout of your page. Sometimes, all it takes is changing what’s in front of you. Switch up your font, font color, font size, paper color, or margins; basically visual element you take for granted when you write. It’ll make you more conscious of the words you’re writing.
If you’re a pen-and-paper writer, write in another pen color, or switch from a regular ballpoint pen to a fountain pen or even a pencil. Or write in index cards or a legal pad instead of your notebook.
Eliminate distractions in your digital workspace. If a clean, clutter-free physical workspace inspires you, a similarly clean, clutter-free digital workspace could also work for you.
If you have a preferred word processor, try to use a simpler text editor (like Notepad for Windows or TextEdit for Mac) or a bare-bones writing app (FocusWriter and Hemingway App are free and beginner-friendly).
Change your writing medium completely. Changing your writing medium could change up your perspective and help shake that block loose. If you usually type on a laptop, try writing longhand, and vice versa. Or maybe try a traditional typewriter so it feels traditional but you can still type out ideas faster.
Freewriting is pure writing for a set period of time (10 to 20 minutes a day is best) without any regard for spelling, grammar, punctuation, topic, structure, or any other rules. You can do it longhand or do it on your laptop, but the idea is to keep writing without looking back and correcting your errors.
Don’t overthink it. Write about anything, and I mean anything, that comes to mind. If you’re truly letting your subconscious thoughts out, it’s going be random and messy, sometimes even nonsense.
You might need to do this exercise for a while before you actually have a stream of consciousness type of writing going on because our “thinking” brain insists on being heard. But the beautiful thing is that it doesn’t matter. All that matters is getting those words out.
Many writers swear by this writing exercise because it taps into the hidden recesses of your brain, coaxes out the words, and forces them on your notebook or computer screen.
Plus, this takes off the pressure of having to write perfectly. There’s no such thing as bad writing when you set off to write drivel anyway.
Free writing may shake those words loose, but writing prompts give you a clear direction of your writing.
There are numerous writing prompts out there; you only have to Google them and they’ll come. Choose one and run with it.
Have a master file of writing prompts and use one whenever you feel jammed.
Sometimes, thinking of the nameless, faceless audience that will read your writing can cause you to feel paralyzed.
Visualize a specific person. It can be someone you know, or an imaginary person who fits your target audience. Pick one and write only to that person.
Giving yourself a clear direction and purpose can help “unblock” the creative flow and motivate you to finish your article so that person you’re imagining can theoretically read it.
A writing ritual is a specific action or sequence of actions that you do before you sit down to write.
It can be as simple as touching a certain trinket or talisman on your desk before you turn on your laptop and place your fingers on your keyboard.
Or it can be as complicated as first making a cup of coffee, getting a plate of your favorite cookies, and wearing your favorite fuzzy slippers before sitting down at your workspace.
The purpose of a writing ritual is to prepare yourself and your mind to enter a creative space that should be filled with inspiration and imagination.
In a way, it’s like a religious ritual. For example, taking off your shoes before entering a place of worship is expected in many religions. It’s a way of conditioning your mind and your body that you’re entering a sacred space that should be filled with worship, devotion, and contemplation.
Setting up a writing ritual trains your brain to associate that ritual with the act of writing. But it takes some time for your brain to link your ritual to that act of writing, so you need to consistently implement that ritual every day.
When writer’s block comes, it doesn’t have to stay.
You can do something to get out of your funk.
Here’s a recap of the tips we discussed above.
First, stop writing and get out of your chair.
Here are a couple more reminders for you before you slay the dragon that is writer’s block.
Examine yourself and know when you’re at your best creative self.
What time of day are you most inspired? What does your ideal workspace look like? Do you need to play music or white noise? Do you need absolute silence? What smell can put you in the mood?
Plan your workday around your most productive time. Make sure your workspace helps you work and doesn’t distract you. Set the proper ambiance so that when you enter the workspace, your mind is conditioned to write and create.
You’ve set everything up in your workspace to your liking, knowing that you want to write.
But the muse still can’t be bothered.
You know what? You’re already sitting there. You might as well start writing.
Always choose to show up and carry on writing.
You may not like the result, and what you write may look like crap. But crappy writing is far better than no writing at all. Or, as Jodi Picoult once wrote:
You can always edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank page.
— Jodi Picoult
Have you encountered writer’s block? What did you do to get through it? Share it in the comments!
JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.