If you’ve been googling “how to beat writer’s block”, congratulations! You’ve landed on the right page.
I’ve been creating online content for decades – and I feel your pain. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to squeeze out words of brilliance, especially when you have a looming deadline.
That said, let me reassure you that writer’s block is neither permanent nor fatal. And I guarantee that at least some of the tricks that work for me will work for you, too. But before we jump in to specifics, let’s ponder what might be triggering your problem.
Common Triggers of Writer’s Block
So many different things can trigger writer’s block:
- You may be pre-occupied by happenings in your personal life, or world events.
- Maybe you’re tired, or coming down with the flu.
- Or, God forbid, the topic feels dull.
Dullness is a common trigger when you have to create content on similar subjects again and again. For example, when you write blog posts for an organization.
For me, the most likely source of writer’s block is over-working. When I’ve been creating content for days on end, there comes a point where my creativity shuts down.
I imagine my creative side as an office space, filled with colourful cubicles. Imagine a cartoon version of a call centre. Inside each cubicle is a Disney movie minion, working hard to meet their daily quota of creative thoughts. When I push my minions too hard, for too long, they revolt and go on strike.
Every writer hears voices. The time to worry is when the voices in your head STOP talking to you.
How NOT To Beat Writer’s Block
When you hit a wall, berating yourself will NOT help. In fact, the more you give in to negative feelings like frustration and anger, the worse things generally get. The relationship between your brain and those creative minions cannot be based on bullying and brute force.
When writer’s block strikes, you need to PAUSE. This is harder than it sounds because it’s counter-intuitive. You want to get the job done. The deadline’s getting closer. The clock is ticking louder and louder. Pausing feels like giving up – but it isn’t!
As a matter of fact, the moment you take your fingers off the keyboard, you’re taking a positive step in the right direction.
Now all you need to do is work through my strategies and find the one (or two. or three) that work best for you…
Tip #1: Breathe
It’s amazing how just a few minutes of focusing on your breathing can clear your mind. I have a meditation cushion in my office and the Headspace app on my iPhone. Headspace is a free app that helps you learn how to meditate and provides ongoing access to short, guided meditations.
You start off with simple, 3 minute sessions, and a charming voice helps you stay in the moment. Over time, you can increase the length of the meditations. I’m up to about 10 minutes and that’s usually enough to calm me down.
Trick #2: Fuel Your Body
Busy professionals have a terrible habit of filling up on coffee and skipping meals. The end result is dehydration and low blood sugar – two surefire concentration killers!
Drinking a full glass of water and eating a healthy snack can produce a really quick improvement in your mood and boost your mental powers. I keep a giant carafe of water on my desk and a bag of almonds in my desk drawer. It’s great to have an easily accessed emergency stash for moments when I get “Hangry” (Hungry/Angry).
Trick #3: Take a Nap
Some of the most productive thinkers, including Aristotle and Einstein, were daily nappers. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a short nap of 20-30 minutes can improve mood, alertness, and performance.
WebMD has a great article on The Benefits of Power Napping. According to their findings, a short cat nap in the middle of day is better than reaching for a cup of coffee. While caffeine may make you feel more energized, it actually decreases memory performance and make you more prone to making mistakes.
In the corner of my office, I have a lovely chair with small blanket tossed over it. While it looks like an accent piece, this is really my secret nap spot!
Trick #4: Exercise
Every day at lunch, I go for a brisk, 45 minute walk. In my opinion, this is the most effective preventative treatment for writer’s block.
In a pinch, even 15 minutes to physical activity helps. I love to do a few Sun Salutations on my yoga mat. Or a very fast scurry around my neighbourhood.
If you’re more attracted to structured exercise, I highly recommend the 7 Minute Workout App. It’s intense enough to re-energize your brain, but short enough not to leave you sweaty and in need of a shower.
Trick #5: Call a Friend
Chatting commonly un-earths new ides and perspectives, so talking to someone about your topic is a great way to “stir the embers”.
And let’s be honest. Sometimes you just need to vent. A good friend can empathize with your frustration and offer reassurance that your writer’s block is only temporary.
Note: Don’t be that person – the one who only calls when they have a problem or want to talk about themselves. Make sure you’re equally available when your friend needs to be the centre of attention.
Trick #6: Do a Writing Exercise
Try writing for 10-20 minutes on a subject completely unrelated to the topic you’re working on. I have a collection of writing-prompt journals from the local bookstore.
Each journal is filled with thoughts and questions to spark creativity. Besides helping beat writer’s block, writing exercises can improve your overall skills and refine your writing “voice”.
Trick #7: Be Creative In a Different Way
If completing a writing exercise feels over-whelming, try switching to something visual.
Draw a picture. Doodle. Get out your fine-tipped markers and fill in one of those insanely complicated pictures in an adult colouring book. Shifting your creativity to a different medium can be remarkably helpful.
Other creative options can include things like knitting, crocheting, origami, or even putting together jigsaw puzzles. Ultimately, these activities work because they distract you while simultaneously keeping your creative juices flowing.
Trick #8: Read a Book
The catch here is that it has to be a GOOD book. Something well written. Personally, I keep a very old, dog-earred copy of To Kill a Mockingbird in my office. When I get frustrated and need a break, I pause and read a few pages. Any of the pages. Because Harper Lee was brilliant and her words are perfection.
I don’t know why this works. Maybe a little bit of her genius rubs off on me (temporarily). Or maybe she pulls me into the story so fast and so far that I let go of whatever stressors are causing my writer’s block.
Trick #9: Change Locations
Take your laptop to a coffee shop or the local library, or even just a new location within your home or work environment.
I recently renovated my office space. It is beautiful and functional and I absolutely love it. Nonetheless, as my very wise grandmother liked to say:
Trick #10: Break It Down
Writer’s block can be related to the length or complexity of what you’re trying to accomplish. The task of creating a large piece of writing can be over-whelming. I find it calming to break the job down into smaller tasks. For example:
Trying to write 1500+ words about how to beat writer’s block felt HARD, so I broke it into smaller tasks:
- Write 100-150 words about why it can be hard to write content.
- Add on 100-150 words about the things that trigger writer’s block.
- Squeeze out 100-150 words about the dumb (unproductive) things people often do when they have writer’s block.
- Create a list of my top 10 ways to beat writer’s block then write 100 words about each trick.
- End with 100-150 words summarizing the 10 tricks.
See what I mean? Once I broke it down, the whole thing came together more easily.
Summary: How to Beat Writer’s Block
Writer’s block happens to everyone at some point or another. In my experience, the least effective strategy is to keep pushing yourself.
What works for me may not work for you. Not everybody likes meditation, or adult colouring books, or repeatedly reading To Kill A Mockingbird. But you can definitely apply the general principles.
The first step is to give yourself permission to walk away. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re tired, nap. Breathe deep. Get fresh air. Do something interesting. Give your mind and body a break.
Remember that writer’s block is not a permanent condition. It will pass.