The #OrganizedWriter: Break Writer’s Block

Let me say first off, there is no such thing as writer’s block! Yes, I hear you all gasping… well, not all of you, but some of you. Saying you have writer’s block is like your plumber saying, “Sorry, can’t fix your toilet, I have plumber’s block today,” or your hairdresser declaring, “No haircuts today, I’m blocked.” If you’re a writer, if you want to be a writer, then guess what folks, you need to write!

When I was teaching classes at Writer’s and Books in Rochester there were many of the adult students who would announce that they’d finish that novel, that piece of flash fiction, their memoir or poem… wait for it… when they got over writer’s block. Well, because I was being paid I didn’t scream, “Get over yourself, it’s not writer’s block.” People who claim writer’s block as the reason they aren’t putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard are either typically suffering from:

  1. Having too many ideas — yes, that happens
  2. Being stuck at a plot point — they’ve written themselves into a corner
  3. Fear of the blank screen
  4. Procrastination, plain and simple
  5. Wanting to talk about being a writer rather than just being a writer. It’s easier to say, “I’m in the middle of, or beginning a novel, but am so blocked right now…” To that I say… get writing!

You’re not blocked; you just need a kick in the creative pants

writers blockUnplug

Get away from the computer. Turn off the television. Switch off the radio. Let your mind be silent and just breathe.

Social media is distracting. You get all caught up in the drama of others and you don’t pay attention to yourself and your own projects. You know how easy it is to say you’re going to hop on Facebook for fifteen minutes and three hours later, there you are.

Grab paper and pen

You truly do “think” differently when you have a pen or pencil in your hand than you do when you’re at a keyboard. Grab paper and pen and move away from your regular writing spot and scribble away. Free-write. Work out plot points on paper. Mull the protagonists dilemma and let solutions flow from your fingertips. Changing your routine in this way just might jumpstart your creativity.

Pick up a book

When is the last time you lost yourself in a good book? If you’re a writer, you should be a reader. You don’t have to read in the genre in which you write if you’re worried about reading someone else’s ideas and comparing your book to his or hers. When I am writing fiction, I read fiction of other genres. When I am writing non fiction I read in an area in which I am not writing. Reading enhances your writing abilities. When I teach writing classes I always ask, “What is the last book you read and when is the last time you read?” I am amazed when people – wanna-be writers – say, “I can’t remember the last time I picked up a book.” What?!

Get physical

Again, getting away from the computer is always a good idea. Get up. Get moving. Take a walk. Run on the treadmill. Clean the bathroom. Anything is better than staring at a blank screen and let’s face it, we can all benefit from physical activity, am I right?

Why did you want to write?

Are you facing a sagging middle in your novel? Are you working on client blog posts or press releases and are just not “feeling it”? If that’s the case, take a breather. I have been writing for a living for more than a decade and believe me there are mornings when I despise the written word and feel like Scarlet O’Hara when I declare, “As God as my witness, I’ll never write another word again!” Well, when that happens I just might take the morning off. When I do that, though, I will grab my notebook and write down all of the reasons I love my chosen career. Doing that helps ignite my passion and I am back at it churning out my beloved words!

Set a deadline

If you’re just merrily skipping along on a writing project with no deadline in sight it is very easy to meander. Even if an editor or client isn’t waiting for the project, give yourself a deadline and stick to it. If you are writing a book, set the deadline then work your way backwards toward the beginning. What do I mean? Okay, you’re writing a ten chapter book and want to have it done in five months. That means you need to write two chapters a month, right? I’m not great in math, but I think that works out! So now you take those two chapters a month and that means you need to write one chapter every two weeks. Are you still with me? Doesn’t “write a chapter every two weeks” seem more manageable than “write a book.” Also, setting a goal helps you to hold yourself accountable.

Make friends with routine

My family will tell you that I am not spontaneous and that I am stuck in a rut in various aspects of my life. That’s not a lie. For me, routine makes me happy. It keeps me sane. Routines, to me, are comforting. One of my biggest routines is knowing that when I sit down to the computer after breakfast, I am going to work on the items on my to-do list. When my butt hits the chair I am in “word mode” because this is what I do every day to earn a living. Find your writing routine. Discover your best writing time and stick with it.

Where are you stuck?

I can help. Drop me an email at Robbi AT AllWordsMatter

Robbi Hess is #TheOrganizedWriter and works with solopreneurs and writers to help them regain control of their time, their goals & their writing projects. She offers done-for-you writing packages & will also teach you how to do-it-yourself. 

34 replies to this post
  1. I definitely struggle from #1. I am going to try these tips this week. Setting deadlines has worked for me in the past but using that with one of your other tips seems like it will help to narrow thoughts down!

    • Just make sure you write your ideas down then you won’t lose them, they won’t be taking up valuable headspace because you know you can get back to them later! Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Create “margin” as in carving out more time for yourself? That’s a great start! Thanks for commenting!

    • I can’t remember the last time I had a restful shower! Henrietta and Murray never seem to leave me alone in the bathroom and if I shut the door they scratch the carpet, when I open the door they spend the time poking their heads through the shower curtain. Sigh! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Those are all great tips and I can honestly say that I do all of them, but subconsciously. I’ve never ever said that I have writer’s block. If anything I may not have content to write about, but if I have content I can write. Sometimes I have a product to write about that I’m just not into, which is when I’ll do many of your suggestions. Unfortunately I haven’t read a book in years, it’s something I used to do until social media claimed all of my time.

    • I don’t read as often as I’d like but given a choice of reading social media or a book, I’m picking the book — it’s much more restful! That’s great you already do these tips! Thanks for commenting!

  3. These are great suggestions. I don’t suffer from writer’s block, but I am not really a writer. I sometimes avoid writing my blog post because I’m afraid I can’t do it justice (like the spotlight post I did today.) I also tend to get easily distracted and waste a lot of time.

    • I think if you write from the heart or write on your true feelings that you can do justice to anything that you write. Hopefully you can write through your distractions. Thanks for commenting!

  4. I tend to procrastinate. The only time I was able to complete a “book” was when I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation and had someone on top of me for two years to get it done. I’m hoping to write some once I retire where I can relax and not have to worry about writing research and professional documents.

  5. I really loved this post, Robbi! I would someday like to write a book, so I started a blog. I had always heard that if you want to write a book, start a blog. Every day, I make that commitment to myself to work on my book by writing another blog post! I’ve only been blogging for a year, so I have lots to learn and articles like this are super helpful to me to stay the course and just do it!!

    • Have you read the book “Blog to Book”? Pretty great road map for anyone who wants to turn a blog into a book. I agree, though blogging every day will help you hone your skills and eventually get your book written! Thanks for commenting.

    • I think that bad self-talk is the bane of many writers. I can tell you though — I love your writing! Great for keeping a schedule!

  6. What do you mean you didn’t scream at your students because you were getting paid? 😉

    Reading a book (for fun) always loosens me up if I’m getting stuck. But when I’m “stuck,” it’s usually because I’ve gotten in a rut with reading. (So I have to force myself to read so I can get unstuck. Did that make any sense at all?) FYI: I’ve recently needed to force myself to read. Yay for books!

    Deadlines work VERY well, too. But I can’t set them, someone else has to.

    Great tips here!

    • Do you read fiction or non to loosen yourself up? Curious if you read in the genre in which you write. Yes, it does make sense. Because my client work is driven by the deadlines I tell them I will have projects to them, it’s a deadline that I can stick with even though I essentially set it myself. Thanks for liking my tips!

  7. I definitely have a problem with too many ideas at once and procrastination! I live in a beautiful place and drive through beautiful scenery where ever I go. One thing that I have found that helps me is to dictate my thoughts while I’m driving. Love my iPhone!

    • I love dictating while I drive. It’s is a time when my mind is most “fertile” it seems. Procrastination strikes with too many, and two few ideas! Thanks for commenting!

  8. Robbi! You have no idea how timely this post is! I was doing so well with getting my blog posts written and posted when I was meeting weekly with a blog writing group I started. For various reasons, after six solid months of productivity, one by one, people started missing the meetings or flaking on their accountability so it was just me and one other person showing up and then she moved 🙁

    I am printing and posting your suggestions on the wall in my office! Thanks!!

    • Thank you for letting me know that this spoke to you! Frustrating that your group fell apart. I have been considering starting an online “mastermind” type blogging group.

  9. Such a great post! You’re right. I’m a procrastinator by nature and I recognize that I need to face that habit head on if I’m going to be a success in this field! Thanks for sharing your insight and kicking rears into gear!

    • One of the best ways to beat procrastination is to truly see that you do it! Many people don’t recognize it! Glad my post helped!

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