“How to beat writer’s block.” It is a phrase every content creator pops into the google search bar at some point or another.
Sometimes, even when you know exactly what you want to write about, the words just won’t come. This is the essence of writer’s block.
Even veteran content creators have moments of mental paralysis, when the pieces simply refuse to come together. It is a super-frustrating experience, especially when you have deadlines to meet.
Common Triggers of Writer’s Block
There are many things that can trigger writer’s block. You may be pre-occupied by something that is happening in your personal life. Maybe you are tired or not feeling well. Or perhaps you find the topic a little dull. This is a common problem when you are paid to create content on subjects that may not be naturally interesting to you.
For me, the most likely source of writer’s block is over-working. When I have been creating content for days on end, there sometimes comes a point where my brain just stops.
I imagine my creative side as an office filled with cubicles, sort of like a call centre. In each cubicle, a minion is working hard to meet their daily quota of creative thoughts. When I push the 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.
You Can’t Beat Writer’s Block With Negativity
Regardless of the cause for your problem, you need to fix it. And berating yourself will not help you beat writer’s block. In fact, the more you give in to negative feelings like frustration and anger, the worse it gets. The relationship between your brain and your creative minions cannot be healed by relying on bullying and brute force.
When writer’s block strikes, you need to PAUSE. This can be harder than it sounds because it is counter-intuitive. You want to get the job done. The deadline is getting closer. The clock is ticking louder and louder. Pausing feels like “giving up”.
But nothing productive will happen just because you keep your fingers on the keyboard. To beat writer’s block, you need to remove yourself from the writing process for awhile.
How to Beat Writer’s Block [Infographic]
Trick #1: Breathe
It is amazing how just a few minutes of focusing on your breathing can help 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 am still a novice, but even with my monkey mind regularly interrupting the process, I still get something out of it. Meditation does help me feel calmer and more focused.
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 having a healthy snack can produce a really quick improvement in your mood and boost your mental powers. I bring a giant bottle of water to work with me each morning and I keep a ziplock baggy filled with almonds in my desk drawer. It is great to have an easily accessed emergency stash for moments when I become “H-angry” (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 help to 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 a toss cushion and a small throw blanket. While it looks like an accent piece, this is really my secret nap spot!
Trick #4: Exercise
Every day at lunch, I either walk my dog in the park or go for a swim at a nearby pool – 5 days of the week. Personally, I consider this the best preventative treatment for writer’s block. But in a pinch, even 15-20 minutes of exercise will suffice!
My favourite quick fixes are a brisk walk around the block or a few sun salutations on my yoga mat. But if you are more attracted to structured exercises, I highly recommend the 7 Minute Workout App. It is intense enough to require your full concentration but short enough not to leave you sweaty and in need of a shower.
Trick #5: Call A Friend
Just talking to someone about the topic you are working on can “stir the embers”. Chatting about the subject to someone who knows nothing about it may bring up questions you hadn’t considered, and perspectives that are different from your own.
And let’s be honest. Sometimes you just need to vent your frustrations and have a good friend offer re-assurance that you are a great writer, you will beat writer’s block in no time, and you will definitely meet your deadlines!
Note: For the sake of your personal happiness, please don’t be “that person” – the one who only calls when they have a problem or want to talk about themselves. Make sure you are equally available when your friend needs to have a turn being the centre of the conversation.
Trick #6: Do A Writing Exercise
10-20 minutes of free-form writing on a subject completely unrelated to the topic you are working on can be really helpful. I have a collection of question journals from the local bookstore.
Each journal is filled with writing prompts. In most cases, the prompts are worded as questions at the top of a blank page. Filling in those pages can help you beat writer’s block. And as a bonus, answering the questions is also a great way to learn more about yourself, which is ultimately helpful to the writing process.
Trick #7: Be Creative In A Different Way
Sometimes, even a writing exercise seems like “too much”. When this is the case, try switching to something more 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 a remarkably helpful strategy to beat writer’s block.
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. None the less, as my very wise grandmother liked to say:
Trick #10: Break It Down
After you have meditated, napped, snacked, exercised, doodled, etc. you will still have to write the content!
Sometimes, writer’s block can be directly related to the length or complexity of what you are 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 like ALOT so I broke it down 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 at least 100 words about each trick on the list.
- End with 100-150 words summarizing the 10 points.
See what I mean? Once I broke it down, the whole thing came together much easier and faster.
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 tea, or meditation, or adult colouring books – ha ha. But you can definitely apply the general principles.
The first step to beat writer’s block is to give yourself permission to walk away. If you are hungry, eat. If you are tired, nap. Breathe deep. Get fresh air. Do something interesting. Give your mind and body a break.
Writer’s block is not a permanent condition. It will pass.