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Overcoming Writer's Block

17 Nov 2010 5:02 PM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

Last November 17, 2010, we met up at Borders Torrance to discuss an issue which plagues writers at least once in their lives: Writer's Block.

We started our discussion by sharing our personal experiences with writer's block. We then moved on to discussing the possible causes for writer's block. I pointed out that while writer's block is common for all writers, the cause and cure for writer's block is different for every writer.

Following are some of the more  common causes of writer's block:


  • Writer's Block happens when you try to do everything at once.
  • Writer's Block happens when you don't know enough to begin.
  • Writer's Block happens when you've exhausted all the good or original ideas and feel your creativity flagging.
  • Writer's Block happens due to physical stress, lack of sleep, depression, and bad health.
  • Writer's Block happens due to mental blocks: fear of failure, fear of success, overbearing inner critic.
  • Writer's Block happens due to psychological disturbances ranging from neurosis to something scary

Each cause, naturally, has a different treatment.

I shared with them some treatments for each cause.  Some of the tips were based on my own personal experience. Others were taken from articles or books I've read on writer's block. Most of the tips, however, were taken from Jenna Glatzer's very helfpul book :  Outwitting Writer's Block and Other Problems of the Pen.


A. Writer's Block happens when you try to do everything at once.

  • Lists are your friend
  • Organize, prioritize

1. Set Weekly Objectives


  • Write down titles of books you want to read
  • Read books/ take courses on children’s writing

2.  Break down your writing into smaller pieces

  • Example:  If you have a 500 word deadline, write 250 now, then 250 later.

3.  Pad your deadline

  • Schedule yourself to submit two days earlier

4. Create Self imposed deadlines

5. Work with other writers - Find a deadline buddy

6. Enter quick contests to get yourself writing

Anvil Press 3 Day novel contests


24 hour short story contes

Toasted Cheese “ 3 cheers and a tiger”  short story contest

7. Decide to meet a deadline by an outside force

8.  Submitting on schedule - Try a commited campaign of submitting brand new material to brand new markets

B. Writer's Block happens when you don't know enough to begin.

  • Lack of research can be a hindrance to our creativity. Err on the side of getting more information than less
  • Maybe you want to write, but don’t know where to start, or where to get your ideas.

Getting Ideas

Keep a dream journal

  • The act of purposely remembering your dreams and recording it first thing every morning will open up chasms in your mind--even if you start with “I had an agitating dream”.
  • You can pick up scenes, emotions, descriptions for your writing.

Daydream, Percolate

* Stories are born from daydreams

Maybe you have a vague idea of what your story is about, but you don't know where your story is supposed to go.

1. Building Your Story’s House

  • Research
  • Read up on your subjectundefinedread books in the genre you want to write in
  • Have a conversation/ interview with your character
  • Call a friend and explain your synopsis
  • Talk into a tape recorder, listen to it and try to determine where you slow down, sound unsure of yourself, skip parts of storyundefinedthese areas need to be developed.

2. Characters Count

  • Create characters who are irresistible to you
  • Otherwise, writing becomes tedious, you try to make them interesting instead of allowing them to be themselves

3. Meeting New Characters

  • Go to crowded placesundefinedwith a tape recorder, sketchpad, camera or video camera
  • Observe people, pay attention to looks, the way they sound, phraseologies, etc

4. Respect your language

Study rules of language to develop a true ear for language

C. Writer's Block happens when you have exhausted all the good or original ideas and you feel your creativity flagging.

1. Train Your Brain

You Have Boundless Creativity

  • You have 72,000 thoughts a day, out of those surely 1 or 2 are worthy of writing down
  • Sometimes you just discount ideas as useless, but they might actually work.

Change Your Brain

  • If you want to see the world differently, you can change the way your brain works
  • Change how you see your writing - Retrain your brain to see writing as a reward in itself

Allow Yourself Time to Write

  • You do not have to write, you allow yourself to
  • Allow yourself to stop

See through writer's eyes.

  • Look at things and see words and metaphors.
  • Example: Woman at a grocery storeundefinedwarm and inviting as a fresh baked cookie, and just as likely to fall apart.

Make these moments happen

  • Practice consciously evoking your writer’s eyes
  • Keep a small notebook or tape recorder handy
  • Keep your perceptions sharp, force yourself to define things in words

Just do it.

  • Start practicing today.

Using Free Association

  • Subconscious will find its way to your head
  • Write without lifting your pen
  • Don’t correct your work, or reread
  • Can set a timer

All writing counts

  • Any form of writing you do helps you keep that brain limber and helps you make an easier transition into writing mode whenever you want to

Message Boards

  • Outwit your Writer's blockundefinedtrick it by actually writingundefinedanything

2. Spice up your writing life.

  • Maybe writing has become more of a chore and less of a pleasurable experience

Change your environment

Claiming Your Writing Space

Build a home office  or consider portioning off a section of the room

Clear the Clutter

If you already have a writing base, maybe all you need is to tidy it. Clear the clutter, organize things.

Get more quotes

Read works that inspire you to write.

3. What to do when you're halfway through the story but you suddenly hit a dead end?

Quick Fixes when you’re stalled

Take a break

  • If you're writing a novel, stop. Write a poem instead.

Don't be yourself

  • Be your character or a different person you admire
  • Method writing

Opposite situations

  • Completely alter your writing environment and writing habits
  • Cd in the background, write in silence
  • Change rooms, change times, writing, rearrange furniture

Add a prop

  • Wear a writing hat

Look right before your eyes

Look at objects around you and ask questions about them. Make stories up about them

Let go when you've outgrown your story

There’s not just one way to tell your story

Playing the opposite game: change fundamentals of your story

  • Change sex of main character
  • Change setting
  • Change genre
  • Change POV

If your stuck on a scene, move it.

  • Use contrast to your advantageundefinedterrible fight at a carnival, happy reunion at a hospital
  • Tell your story in emails, phone calls, letters

Raising the Stakes

  • Show the character has a lot to lose then take him to the verge of losing it all
  • Character’s should wind up getting gmore than they intended
  • Moral should evolve naturally from storyline

D. Writer's Block Happens Due To Physical Stress, Lack Of Sleep, Depression, And Bad Health.

De-stress NOT distress yourself.

Dealing with the Stress of Writer’s Block

  • Breathing properly
  • Herbal – lavender n pressure points
  • I’m good enough, smart enough
  • Exercise
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Meditate
  • Bath
  • Repetitive activities – knitting, crocheting, dishes, etc
  • Using music to relax

Invent your own relaxation techniques

E.Writer's Block Happens Due To Psychological Disturbances Ranging From Neurosis To Something Scary

  • Writer’s block may be a symptom of a bigger problem
  • Get professional help

Determine Your Motivation for writing

What would you write for the sake of writing, if you knew you weren’t going to get published anyway?

Your Reasons are the right reasons

  • Be honest with yourself about your motivations for writing
  • You’re allowed to write for whatever reason strikes you

Cognitive Dissonance Causes Writer's Block

  • When your real goals are in conflict with the goals you set for yourself, this can cause uneasiness in your mind
  • WB might be there to show you what your goals really are

Making Time

  • Prioritize
  • Dishes can wait

Long Term Goals

  • Be specific, realistic

Change is Good

  • Try new things, write new things

Carve out Writing time despite family obligations

  • Train  your family to accept writing time.
  • Teach them to recognize boundaries

The Money Issue

  • You can have a full time job and still be a writer

When tough times fall on you

  • Ask yourself: is this writers block or do you just not have the concentration required to write

Using time for simpler tasks

  • Use writing prompts

You Must Write the Hardest Thing to Write

  • Let yourself write the very thing that is begging to come out
  • “Do not for the vanity of intellectual publication, turn away from what you areundefinedthe material within you which makes you individual, therefore indispensable to others.
  • It is the writing we must do that pours out of us effortlessly

F. Writer's Block Happens Due To Mental Blocks: Fear Of Failure, Fear Of Success, Overbearing Inner Critic.

1. Fear of Failure

Stop Being So Serious

  • Writing is merely an extension of those childhood daysundefinedyour writing can be as enjoyable, freewheeling as it was then
  • Drink lemonade, eat alphabet soup while writing, listen to muppets theme song, things associated with youth

You Owe It to the world to Outwit your block

  • Remember you’ve made the choice to write because it gives you some kind of pleasure
  • Zero in on that

Secondary Gains from WB

  • When a person gets something beneficial from something negativeundefinedsecondary gain
  • What is your block trying to tell you?
  • Maybe it’s a form of self preservationundefinedcruel to yourself about your writing talents, then y our block may be a way of saving yourself from criticism

Become your own best cheerleader

Putting Your Writing Into Perspective

  • Writing is just putting words to paper

Negative No More

  • Write down all your negative thoughts about writing
  • Replace them with positive ones

2. Fear of Success

Why Do You Fear Success?


  • Fear of bad reviews
  • Meet a deadline
  • Being better than your spouse
  • Fear of higher expectationsundefinedpeople will expect you to keep producing good work

Perfectionism in Disguise

  • You’ve set yourself up as splendid writer that you can’t live up to your own expectations
  • Procrastination is perfectionism in disguise – Dr. Paul Foxman
  • Take the risk

Writer, Compare not Thyself

  • Get caught up in comparing yourself to famous writers
  • There may be other less talented writers who got published
  • Setting bar high is good, but unrealistically high can paralyze you

By reading good works, you push yourself to excel

  • Bring down your standard of reading material, your writing will followundefinedif you read nothing but trashy magazines, that’s what you’ll be able to write

3. Inner Critic

Rehabilitate Your Critic

  • Make an agreement with your critic
  • You can’t divorce yourself from bad writing because without it, you’d never have made progress

How to Quiet Your Critic

  • Body in motion stays in motion
  • Commit to your badness
  • Write whatever garbage comes into your mind as you wake up in the morningundefineddon’t stop for coffee or whatever

Speak To Yourself Like a Friend

  • Don’t say anything to yourself that you’d never say to a good friend ---Paul Foxman, psychologist, Conquering Panic and Anxiety Disorders

We ended the night by affirming ourselves as writers and sharing our writing goals for the coming year.

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