Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

When You Need Help Writing, Do This

It will happen. At some point in your writing journey, you will get stuck. Call it writer’s block, the Resistance, or laziness. Whatever the name, the point is this: It can keep you from doing the one thing you need to do. Which is what, exactly?

Keep Writing

Photo credit: Xlibber (Creative Commons)

Ah yes. Writing. So what do you do when this enemy presents itself? How do you vanquish this dragon? Where does your help come from?

When you need help writing, here’s what you do: Write anyway.

Write something. Anything. Don’t edit or worry about it making sense. Just write.

Write for fun or out of discipline. Just do it.

Write something crazy or whimsical. It doesn’t matter. Just put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

When it hurts, write.

When you’re scared, write.

When the voices of self-sabotage and insecurity assail you… WRITE.

Be brave (even as you shake in your boots).

Face your fears — when you are sure they will consume you.

Just. Keep. Writing.

Because the world needs your words. More than you may realize or know.

This is the trick to a lifetime of writing: Don’t think, just write.

Write as if your life depended on it. (It deoes.)

Write not for the sake of writing, but for having written.

Yes, this is hard. Yes, what you write may suck. But do it anyway.

It’s not about love or passion. Not today. Right now, it’s about showing up. Just to prove to yourself that you can.

Do it for five minutes or five hours. Don’t think too hard or too much. You just need to teach your fingers to obey. Tell your mind to shut up and go.

This is about muscle memory, about developing a trainer’s mindset. You can be brilliant another day. This is the day where you just go to work.

Okay, then. It’s your turn. Time to start.

Ready? 

Let’s go.

WRITE.

What do you do when you need help writing? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Xlibber (Creative Commons)

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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  • Conni Biesalski

    Hey Jeff

    you are so right with this post. Nothing else helps but to sit down and write. Everything else is useless. 
    You’ve got to beat writer’s block with writing, as crazy as it sounds, right?
    It works. Every time. It does.

    Thanks for your powerful words!

    Conni

  • Joylynn

    Thanks for this kick in the butt. I will remember this – showing up.

  • Because the world needs your words. More than you realize or know.

    The late Christopher Hitchens had a different take on this. He said that every person had a book in them, and that’s where it “should stay most of the time.” 

    • Hitchens must be a selfish dweeb. We write those stories because they have to come out–for our own mental, emotional and spiritual growth.  No one else is required to read them.  

    • I’m sure there are people who would say he should have taken his own advice.

      But the honest truth is, there are people who need what you can offer. If that is words, then write. If it is action, then take action.

      And if the world doesn’t like it, they won’t buy it. That is the ultimate test.

      • I’m a bit worried about people who need what I can offer. What they may really need is a good therapist.

        • Anonymous

          Yet they may never see one. And so your words, CQ, may be just the ones they happen upon, and find that they need. A chuckle. Reality check. A writing lesson….

          • So true, Garry.  Sometimes a person doesn’t need a whole therapy session, just a good word to get through another day. 

  • gwtting some fresh air always seems to help me out.

  • Love it man. It’s not about passion. It’s about muscle memory. Nice.

  • I think what I’m going to do is begin writing 5 min to 5 hour long comments on your blog. Is that ok? 🙂

  • Good advice. The more you can write the easier it will be during those crunch times!

  • Valkryie27

    Thanks Jeff for just the piece of advice I needed today.
    Because the world needs your words. More than you realize or know.

  • This is such good advice.  Too often, when stuck on a project, we think we have to keep plugging at it.  If, however, we take a break and go write something completely different–for fun–we can refuel our creativity and get the ideas flowing again.  

  • You are spot on with this post!

    If you’re not willing and making yourself to write, it won’t happen. I know there are days I force myself to sit at the computer desk and write. The words eventually come and it turns out well.

  • When I get stuck, I have a couple options.  The first is to pick up my smartphone and play a game.  Oftentimes, when my mind is quieter, I’m able to get some fantastic ideas.  The second is to watch my kids for inspiration.  Someone will do something silly, smart, stupid or just plain adorable.  They always offer some great blogging ideas.

  • I have two foolproof strategies: prayer and song. Martin Luther once said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Enough said. I try to do the same every morning, and since I’ve been somewhat diligent at this, my days have been brimming with inspiration, energy, and productivity. Also, music is an incredible source of inspiration. Lately I’ve been revisiting Jeff Buckley’s Grace, and it’s pure wonder.

    Great advice. In our search for magic spells and complicated formulas, the wisest advice is often the simplest.

  • For me, motion gets me writing again. In the summer, I cycle and process. In the winter, I walk the dog and process. So when I’m stuck, I need motion. But, in the end, I also need the motion of fingers across the keyboard. The worst thing for me to do is settle into computer games.

  • Hey Jeff – Your  post came at a great time. You the man. 

    Craig

  • Pat Washington

    Exactly,  This is what I do, also. (Or, ahem, what I should do….) https://patwashington.blogspot.com/2010/10/writing-from-your-own-emptiness.html. As Bono says, write about your own emptiness; write through your emptiness.

    You have a wonderful blog.

  • I’m currently reading a great book that gives very similar advice. Spot on!

  • I need help writing when I’m physically not feeling well, which is most of the time.  It’s easy to say Hey, I’m not feeling good, I’m taking the day off.  And then the day becomes a week, and well, you know.  So yeah, even if I write for 15 minutes, I need to just do it.  Thanks for the shove. 

    • Anonymous

      Agreed Dorci. 

      Taking that one small step, 15 min that may turn into far longer, is all with which I need to be concerned. Because, by comparison, my own reasons are lame. Ah, gee, nothin’s coming to me right now. And what if I write about …? You name it.  For me, when I start tallying up my excuses I find that it’s my frequent friend, fear.

      Thanks Jeff, for the reminder. I’m just doing my daily scales, not the recital.

    • That’s happened to me many times as well. I always find a little writing is far better than none, even if it’s crap. And, surprisingly, some of the best stuff I ever wrote happened while I was deathly ill!

    • i know this feeling. you have to think like trainer.

  • Dorothy

    I go for a walk or put on some music…

  • Carrie Starr

    I have “writing” as an appointment on my daily calendar.  I treat it like my part-time job and show up every day to do it.  Something gets written no matter how I feel.  Some days I am inspiring and brilliant.  Other days I am bland.  But each day I am learning and growing- and I love it.  Thank you for the encouragement!

  • melody peugh

    Thanks so much for this post. I’ve been struggling with this problem, and for me I think it’s a matter of laziness and a bit of self-doubt. I’m nearing the end of my project, so if I delay, maybe I’ll never have to worry about others not liking it.

  • Love.

    • Wait. I thought you didn’t love this? 😉

  • Jarod Billingslea

    So I’m writing this as I think a little and the main thing i can say is that even though I have errors, this really does work. Somebody should believe me, too. 

    Good post man. I actually do this on a daily basis. I’ll write stuff down that come to mind and just let it loose. Sometime i’ll just write random things that don’t make sense to what I’m talking about, but I’ll eventually come back onto topic and finish what I’m writing. Like now. Anything can come across my mind, and can throw me off. But does it have to make sense on the FIRST draft? No it does not. It just has to be there on the screen/paper before I forget what I was going to say next. Like now. Lol.

    Great post man, which I already said before… but this comment is a good example of what he means yall.

  • These are great “quotable” quotes –  “Don’t think. Just write”, “Don’t think too hard or too much….tell your mind to shut up and go”.

    Love them.

    Okay, they’ll be up on twitter shortly 🙂

    I keep a journal/diary of sorts. And tonnes of other scribbled notes…that lead to er…nowhere. In that private world, am allowed not to make much sense, be a genius, a thinker, great writer. I just write to unclog and unblock the drain, to bring fresh wind. I write like my 14 year-old self did many years ago – as therapy and beauty for her soul..not for others.

  • Grace Peterson

    I get writer’s block when I’m tired. If I write first thing in the morning when I’m fresh I’m usually successful. The rest of the time it’s just rough draft. Really rough. 🙂 

  • I definitely can attest to this since I start writing daily on 750words.com.

    I used to depend so much on working through inspiration. You know we creative people rely so much on it, and then complain and grunt all about being blocked?
    Heh.
    I didn’t know how many times I uttered the same old excuse, over and over, until 100 days ago.

    Indeed the best part about writing daily, is the act of showing up. Writing is not an activity, or a work anymore. It becomes a habit, a time to rest,play, dream and love, a character of this writer that speaks to others how important this mere and yet critical act of putting words out to the world is. Even if the world means only for the eyes of the writer.

    Before the daily writing, when I say I want to be an artist, or a writer, deep inside, my heart is cringing and my inner artist said, “Don’t lie. How can you be when you don’t even practice what you preach?!” I would be beaten with my doubts and get defeated, and she’s right.

    A self-fufilling prophecy, one more brick of writers’ block.
    One more day of a blank piece of paper.

    Do I still get writers’ block? Well, it depends on the perpective, and I wouldn’t say it will disappear after the constant writing. The thing is I still write shitty and there are days writing is one of the last thing on my to-do list.  In fact, pretty much most of the days my writing is so dead boring, they couldn’t see the daylight to others, and it’s okay.

    *laugh* Yes, it’s really okay.
    Because I shown up. I live up to my words. This is enough.

    More importantly, the act sharpen my skills every single day, so I can write better stuff to the world, help me to vent and express myself as geniune as I feel at the moment without all the censoring, and teaching me to laugh at my writers’ block, and still continue to write.

    Actually, this post is not simply for writers. It’s for all the creative people.
    Or pretty much, anybody who wants to live a happy life, a life with purpose.

    Forget perfection.

    Do the work.

    Just do it.

    Ship.

    What you practice, you become.

    Thank you, Jeff. This is beautiful. 🙂

    • As is this comment. Thanks for sharing your regimen.

  • Hey Jeff,

    This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear right now! 🙂 Thanks! I’ll get to it right away.

    Cheers,

    Matt

  • Bruce

    I have trouble writing when I’m sick and tired of the novel I’m working on. After dealing with plot, sub-plot, character development, red herrings, etc., I get to the point where I hate my manuscript, I just want the draft to be finished, I want it to be over.
    The solution for me is to write about something else. Work on a short story, read someone else’s work (I belong to three critique groups), study a book on writing or try to develop a thought in a Dr. Seuss style. I stay in the writing world, I just leave the manuscript and go to something else. I’ve found that getting away from that one piece for a day or two recharges my battery.

    • this is hard, Bruce. i can relate to the love/hate with the work. keep up the good work. and keep resting once in awhile.

  • Anonymous

    I have that trouble all the time–I just get stuck on getting the sentence out. I tried the following the other day and it seemed to work: 1. I thought about what I really wanted to say 2. I simply put the concept down on paper (screen!)–didn’t worry about it being perfect 3. I edited what I wrote, and I came up with a much better sentence.

    • well done. once it’s written, you can shape it. until then, it’s just an idea.

  • Someone

    Thank you

  • Matabhaine

    The first draft is easy, for me; its what happens when you edit that stops me writing

  • Evelyn

    I prefer the editing, but not do-overs. I started out expressing the pains of injustice, and rejection in the form of poetry as a 5th grader in Mr Furgasons class. These days I try to stay away from the pity parties but they want to spoil the page anyway, causing every kind of havoc you can put an emotion to. It always has to be fixed or re-written. I am not strong enough to separate my emotions from the festivities. So I usually have to write it out until it’s gone then cut it out later.

    Or start over.

    It’s true, what he said about not thinking about it. If I think about it I go so blank I have an anxiety attack, feel like I’m wasting my time. Then ultimately go do the dishes I put off last night, just to feel productive. As I fill the sink the voice of my mother singing, “I’m Forever Doing Dishes” starts playing in my head, and I’m awash with weakness.

    I miss her.

  • Janet Snakehole

    Needed this today and found it at the perfect time, thank you.