Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How to Overcome Writer’s Block: 14 Tricks That Work

Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.
–Charles Bukowski

It happens to every writer. It’s inevitable. Your prose has turned to mush, you don’t have a creative bone left in your body, and you want to throw in the towel.

Writer's Block

Photo credit: Erin Kohlenberg

Writer’s block. Every writer struggles with it. But what you do with it is what really matters. Before we talk about solutions, though, let’s talk about the problem.

Common causes of writer’s block

The reasons for your block may vary, but some common ones include:

  • Timing: It’s simply not the right time to write. Your ideas may need to stew a little longer before writing them down.
  • Fear: Many writers struggle with being afraid, with putting their ideas (and themselves) out there for everyone to see and critique. Fear is a major reason some writers never become writers.
  • Perfectionism: You want everything to be just right before you ever put pen to paper or touch a keyboard. You try to get it perfect in your head and never do, so you never begin. To help you through this, we created Don’t Hit Publish. It’s a free tool that tells you if your blog post is good enough to publish and also give you tips on how to improve it.

So how do we vanquish this enemy?

It’s a tough question to answer, and I’m afraid I don’t have a great solution. I’ve personally wrestled with writer’s block on many occasions, and each victory looked different.

That’s the thing about writing: it’s an art, not a science. And you’ll have to approach it as such. There is no formulaic fix, no “7 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer Now.”

Well, except one. But you already know what it is: Start hacking away. Begin trying stuff. Sometimes, the quirkier, the better. The trick is find something that works for you.

Creative solutions to writer’s block

Here are a few ideas to help you work through your creative constipation:

  • Go for a walk.
  • Eliminate distractions (I use Ommwriter to focus on just writing).
  • Do something to get your blood flowing. (I like running.)
  • Play. (My personal preference is LEGOS.)
  • Change your environment.
  • Read a book.
  • Freewrite.
  • Listen to music (try classical or jazz to mix it up).
  • Brew some coffee (my personal favorite).
  • Create a routine. Many famous writers have daily routines to summon the Muse.
  • Spend time with someone who makes you feel good.
  • Call an old friend.
  • Brainstorm ideas in bullet points.
  • Read some inspiring quotes to get you started.

The possibilities are endless, but movement is critical. You need to generate momentum to get out of your funk.

Once you start heading in a direction, it’s easier to pick up speed. And before you know it, your block will be a distant memory and you’ll be doing what you once thought impossible. You’ll be writing.

How to not overcome writer’s block

And just for fun, here are some anti-solutions to this problem:

  • You do not overcome writer’s block by refusing to write until you feel “inspired.”
  • You do not overcome writer’s block by wallowing in self-pity.
  • You do not overcome writer’s block by procrastinating or making excuses.
  • You do not overcome writer’s block by watching TV.
  • You do not overcome writer’s block by reading articles on how to overcome writer’s block. (Kinda shot myself in the foot there, huh?)

The fail-proof solution

If you’re still not satisfied, you have one last resort, an ace up your sleeve. The silver bullet solution. The fail-proof way to overcome writer’s block is one you already know. In fact, you’ve been avoiding it this whole time, because it’s precisely what you don’t want to hear.

You overcome writer’s block by writing. (Tweet)

Start somewhere, anywhere. Write a few lines. Say anything. And see what happens. Don’t think about it too much or make any fancy announcements. Just write. It doesn’t need to be eloquent or presentable; it just needs to be written..

Write for the joy of writing. Because you can’t not do it. Don’t try to say or produce anything; just get some words on paper, now. No excuses or justifications.

You can write. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Just type a few words. They don’t have to be good (all first drafts suck). It just has to be written. Then you have something to work it. You can tweak from there.

If you do this, you’ll get past the hump. I promise. The difference between professional writers and amateurs is this: Both encounter blocks, but one pushes through while the other gets paralyzed.

You can do this. Just write.

(One caveat: This technique only works if you’re truly blocked and not “empty,” which is an entirely different matter altogether.)

If you need some help getting started with a daily writing habit, I encourage you to join my 31-day writing challenge. It’s free! Click here to get started.

How do you overcome writer’s block? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Mashallo Samilo

    Great food for creators……….

  • Marty McConnell

    Great post. I totally agree. Put this out this morning on the topic, my thoughts, and a few extra hints like gamification for the writing process: http://writefarmlive.com/2017/02/writers-block-is-bullshit/

  • Beautiful and uplifting Sunday read. Thanks Jeff! I like the term “creative constipation.” It aptly summarizes that brief stop-over that doesn’t seem like it will end anytime soon. Well, will get back to some work. Regards.

    • Maj

      Great help! What really works for me is to expand my characters, put them in different situations, find small quirks that have no place in my book, but still build the character.

  • Lee Nedlog

    Great article! These things do help because subconsciously I’ve used some of them.

  • t

    im only commenting because i am having writers block and i am procrastinating working on my essay… lol i didn’t follow your recommendations but they seem to be very good

  • SarahSS

    Try to sleep. Every time I try to sleep, I get my best ideas and have to get out of bed, turn on a light, and find a pen or keyboard. HA!

    • Maya Blythe

      Definitely trying that! 😉

  • Faith

    Great article!
    But I have to put an asterisk on your comment that watching TV doesn’t help writer’s block. It helps a lot when you’re trying to write an episode of television. 🙂

  • Son Yejin’s girlfriend

    What works for me is writing on a PC than a laptop. its easier to write for me when im in front of a giant screen and have a mouse to navigate faster

  • Andrea

    There was a time where I did everything you listed in the section for helping with writer’s block and more (change legos to video games though), but nothing helped. I even took a break, which became a one year break, even though I tried going back to it occasionally. I downloaded a simple writing app, thinking it wouldn’t help at all, but it helped so much.
    Now I’m stuck again, but I think I know what to do and what I need. I’m just out of luck on what I need though. >_<

  • There’s no such thing as writer’s block: it’s just a fancy description of a condition that only affects people with nothing to say, but still try to force themselves to put words onto paper.

    • Brandon

      I love that interpretation. I think I see those people putting down words anyway. About half of works you see seem to be the result of this affliction.

    • Curry

      A lot of times words just can’t form in your head, or you have too many topics to convey that words fail you. I think your interpretation is backwards in most cases; often times I find myself with two ends but unsure how to tie the knot between them.

  • jokingmaiden

    As I read the “ace up your sleeve”, I was first thinking, “oh, I probably won’t know it.” When I read the solution, I audibly groaned and worried my grandmother. Whoops.

  • Dolores Kimball
  • Mr. Hooper

    You have to confess that writers block is not just a couple of words but a real problem for every writer that may strike him back for a long time.

  • I’m at the other end, suffering from writer’s diarrhea . . . or something like that. Words just keep coming. The peril is that I slide off topic and just keep plunging ahead. Happens every time I want to make an editorial submission. Always turns out to be more about me and less about the topic. Arrrgh.

    • Maya Blythe

      That’s good really, the thing is, I’m stuck feeling sorry for myself because I don’t know how to write it.

    • Curry

      Keep the stuff that’s essential. That sounds difficult, because everything seems essential, but maybe take a break from writing for a day and then go back and read your stuff with a refreshed mind. Or set an alarm for every 5 minutes reminding you to stay on topic.

  • hammer01

    One of my problems is run on sentences.

    • Brandon

      Go ahead and write your run-on sentences. Then go back and make a completely new and shorter sentence after each comma. When you break up a long sentence like this, the proper place to begin and end will become obvious.

  • Marissa Gaylor

    My problem is that i have an idea but i don’t know how to say it right, any advise?

    • Brandon

      Write down your idea several times from different viewpoints/starting points. Eventually one of your starts will jell and start to make sense. I counseled my school boy son, when faced with an unstarted term paper, to start writing in the middle. The beginning and end will evolve.

      Send your idea to critic friends and see if they have a reaction to help you frame your idea in readable form.

  • Jesille

    For me I know how to start my story, end my story, what the big events that will happen in my story but I don’t know how to fill in the holes to get to that point

    • thegirlfromnowhere

      ^ this
      I already have listed down the major events of my story, but I don’t know how to stitch them well together.

    • Curry

      Think: do my characters have all the information or items or people they need to advance to the next main event? No? How can they get them in a creative way that adds interest to the story? Where and from who will they get this information? How will they get to where they need to be? What happens when they arrive there?

  • Andrew Kim

    Biggest issue here is that I have the whole structure of everything I want to write, estimated at about 10 books worth (ambitious, yes) and then I begin writing, and I watch in horror as 10 books turn into 15, 20, 25 and I end up getting writers block trying to shorten it

    • Curry

      Cut out unessential information! I know it sounds hard, but when you’re reading a book aren’t there always a few things that could have been left out? If there really is so much information that you can’t fit it all into 10 books, then stretch out your goal a little. Everything takes longer than you expect. But make sure you stick to your topic. If your books are diluted with meaningless information, then cut the stuff you don’t need.

    • Tom

      If the length of it is so long, you could try cutting out unnecessary parts of the story, changing the pacing, or maybe the format? Like if it was planned to be a book you could consider changing it to a script format, which could help you focus on the structure of the story if you think “this is a play, and there is an audience that can walk out at anytime. I’m just throwing ideas out there.

  • GalaxyWriter

    What if none of this helps? Any other ideas? I really want to be writing as if I’m in the story. My writer’s block keeps me from doing so. It’s really frustrating! How can I stop it so I can feel connected with characters?

    • Curry

      Try to BE your characters. What would you do in their situations? How would you address a problem? Then, if these characters have similar decision making habits that you have, go off of that. If your characters are different from you, then don’t make them do what you would do.

  • Haleighleaf

    Trying to write a book based in Canada involving a Canadian Prince named Phillip Marsh. He and young American Beanna McKee try to find abducted Princess Cadence McCormick in the Yukon Territory starting in British Columbia. Get blocked trying to decide WHERE in British Columbia they begin. Do you think I should research Canada before writing a book about Canada?

    • Curry

      yeah dude you need to know the geography of your target area, that way not only do you have the rough path you want your characters to go on, but you have surrounding geography that may contribute to detours or weather factors etc that spice up the book

    • bassel

      nah its fine

  • Dinah R

    I have a six-page assignment due tomorrow and I’ve written less than a quarter of a page.
    Thanks anyway, I’ll brew myself some coffee

    • Mirena

      I have a 4 page paper due in 36 hours and I only have a few sentences down. I feel.

  • norah

    thx for the advice

  • Jane Lizlie

    thank you

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