What to Do When You Have Writer’s Block?


By Estelle Erasmus

I was stuck working on a piece a few weeks ago, and started researching ways to beat writer’s block. I found some cool ones, plus added tips of my own that have worked for me. I am happy to have my article up on the wonderful site Beyond Your Blog. Check it out.

When I work with my clients as a writing coach, aside from helping them to polish their prose, I’m often asked for tools and tactics on how they can power through writer’s block.

As a writer myself, I know that it’s a common conundrum, whether you are a blogger, an essayist, author, or journalist.

When I’m faced with that feeling of futility, I start by brewing myself a cup of coffee (love my Keurig), getting comfy (this is the time for stretchy yoga pants and a comfortable sweater), and will the muse to come.

She doesn’t always.

When that happens—and it does for everyone—here are a few ways I knock down those writer’s blocks so I can build something lasting with my words.

Write in Free Flow: In Bird by Bird, the seminal tome on writing by Anne Lamott, she says, “write shitty first drafts”. This advice is very empowering. I find that many of my clients are thinking in their heads, and editing as they write, which is a mistake. Your first draft is not the time to parse words (that will come later). You should sit down and write as much as you can, without worrying about grammar, spelling, word count, structure or phrasing.

Fill in the Blanks: As I write my first draft, when I am at loss for a word, a phrase, a quote, I don’t stop writing. I simply write the word SOMETHING in caps (you can choose your own word like ‘BLANK, FILL IN, WORD), etc. The point of doing this is to keep the words coming, without censuring yourself. You will find it easy to fill them in once you get to the editing step.

Take 15: Give yourself a deadline—a short one—about fifteen minutes long. See how much you can write down without thinking in that time span. Some people use a timer.

Learn Something New: If I feel stymied, sometimes I will stretch my brain by researching odd topics I have an interest in (best chocolate cake recipes, or why do camels spit?), or the topic I’m writing about. Often by doing that I’ll discover an interesting word that I want to use. I keep a list handy and refer to it later in the editing process. I recently fell in love with the word unspooled, and just used it in an essay.

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12 thoughts on “What to Do When You Have Writer’s Block?”

  1. All good tips. I will often stop every few paragraphs and ask myself, “What am I trying to say?” Often I’m off track -or- I find I’m actually writing something I like better.

  2. Freewriting is a good technique, I agree! I find that if I am under pressure of a deadline, I just write and write, even if it’s bad, Eventually I can carve something good out of it.

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