10 Tips for Getting Over Writer’s Block

Guest post by Brandon Freund

If anyone were to ask me what I do for a living or in my spare time, telling them I’m a writer would probably be the last thing to come to my mind.  Although I’ve been blogging for some time now, I don’t think I will ever consider myself a “writer”. Perhaps that’s because most of the writing I do is experimental – meaning I’m still trying to figure out if it can somehow pay my bills.

But the truth is that if you blog, you are a writer.  And unfortunately that means we’re all susceptible to common writing ailments – namely, writer’s block.  Let me share with you ten things I’ve learned that help me overcome my stalled brain.

“The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.”  -William Goldman

10.  Rest
This one may seem obvious, but how many times as a blogger have you found yourself sitting down at 1am to write a post?  If you’re anything like me, then that’s an everyday occurrence.  Sometimes I feel like that’s when I do my best work.  But most of the time I’m just trying to ignore my fatigue because I feel guilty that I haven’t written anything all day.  Being tired will not inspire your creative muse.  You’re better off getting proper rest so you can stay focused.

9.  Exercise
Getting your creative juices flowing is nearly synonymous to getting your blood flowing.  Exercise can help wake you up and clear your mind.  It can give you a chance to do some valuable thinking and brainstorming.  And unlike vegging out on the couch, it will help your overall wellness which in turn will make you a better writer.

8.  Read
Grab a good book.  Open that new magazine.  For me it helps if I’m reading something that’s NOT on a computer screen.  It gives my eyes a chance to rest.  And surprisingly, I get a lot of thinking done while reading something in print.  Sometimes I choose to read about topics in my niche, while other times it’s completely unrelated.  Many great blog posts were inspired by the latest Clive Cussler novel!

7.  AVOID TV
Believe it or not, for most people, TV sucks away your creative juices.  We go into a trance where all thinking stops.  And while you may think you’re the exception, I wouldn’t bet my money on it.  Keep away from the TV.

6.  DO Listen to Music
Unlike TV, I find music to be helpful when my brain doesn’t want to think – but only certain types of music.  Stay away from music with vivid lyrics that can distract you.  Try out some smooth jazz or spa sounds.  I find it helps me to play this music both during my rests and my writing times.

5.  Prepare in Advance
One of the best ways I’ve found to avoid writer’s block is to prepare myself in advance with a list of ongoing ideas.  I don’t dip into those ideas when I already have one.  This list is for backup purposes only.  Carry a notepad with you around town and look for inspiration in unlikely places.  Then only refer to it when you’re stuck.  Sometimes even the act of checking over my list will inspire a post completely unrelated…like “Why You Need a List” (I’ve got dibs on that topic everyone…jk  :)

4.  Write Junk
Yep, you got it.  Write junk.  More accurately, give yourself permission to write junk.  There isn’t a single author alive who gets it right in their first draft.  In fact, the more famous an author you are, the more time you spend on revisions – guaranteed.  Don’t stress over writing the next great groundbreaking blog post.  Write about what inspires you.  You always have time to revise.  You’ll find that it’s easier to add creativity to an existing post than it is trying to create it from scratch.

3.  Live Healthy
This kind of goes along with resting and exercise, but is more of a permanent solution.  Instead of resorting to healthy tactics to overcome bouts of writer’s block, try leading a consistently healthy life with regular exercise, rest and healthy eating habits.  You’ll find your brain functions better and you feel better overall.  I’m as guilty as anyone with this one.  My preferred writing strategy involves a Coke Zero and a giant bag of beef jerky at  one in the morning!

2.  Just Start
For me, getting one sentence down is usually the hardest part.  After that, everything else seems to flow fairly easily.  Get that one sentence out, no matter what it takes.  Remember, it can be junk.  I’ve written many posts and then gone back to change the first paragraph once I’m all finished.

1.  Resolve Underlying Issues
Sometimes your writer’s block can be caused by underlying issues that need to be resolved.  Did you just find out your mom was in the hospital?  Probably going to be hard to keep that off your mind (which may be good if that can work for a post of some kind…).  Most of the time pressing emotions or anxiety can get in the way.  There may not be any other solution than to simply wait it out.

For me, the biggest cause of writer’s block is thinking about the massive amounts of writing I need to be doing.  It’s why I’ve put off writing this post for a few days now!  I have a list of posts I need to write and that has led to many distractions.

It was Mark Twain who said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

He couldn’t be more accurate.  Hopefully with these tips you will be able to smash that writer’s block into pieces.  Whatever you do, my final tip is to believe in yourself.  You have a passion that will naturally express itself in your writing.  Don’t let your human weaknesses stand in its way!

Brandon runs Big Dogs Internet Marketing - a company helping small businesses build an affordable and effective online presence. He enjoys providing free internet marketing advice though the Big Dogs blog to help the struggling non-marketer take advantage of great online marketing opportunities.

Comments

  1. Sometimes a break can do more than hours spent watching the empty sheet on the PC. So, my advice is to get outside and do something fun.

  2. Taking a break in writing is the best way to prevent writer’s block. Actually, in my case, short breaks can help me think something new for my article topic. In this way, I can creatively think on how will I discuss my topic. And the most important point here is to avoid distractions while writing since it can cause me not to come up with great ideas.

    • Getting burnt out is a serious threat to our blogs. Unfortunately that balance hardly ever comes naturally with so much to do. Schedule those breaks if you can’t seem to find yourself taking them regularly! Thanks for stopping by!

      • Following schedules for breaks could be a pain at first, that’s for sure! But once we get used to it, taking few breaks while working will be just a normal routine for us.

  3. Its also good to have some break on a peaceful place to refresh your mind. its helpful to come up with fresh ideas.

  4. Omg Avoid TV is a big one, it totally sucks the life out of you, it makes you completely numb to everything.

    • Unfortunately I love my crime procedurals way too much to avoid TV completely! Aside from helping with writer’s block, it would totally free up at least another hour or two of mine each evening :) Thanks for reading!

  5. I agree that having too many things to write is one of the biggest causes of writer’s block. It’s not just the volume of the work that you’d have to do. It’s all these ideas going through your head that you try to figure out which one to write about, only to find out that you’ve been staring at the computer or paper for an hour and haven’t written anything. Your advice to write things down is very helpful. I’ll keep that in mind.

  6. This goes along with #5 – POST in advance – when you’re in the midst of a creative writing blitz – that’s the time to write posts in ADVANCE – whether you finish them up and schedule them to be released on specific dates – OR – keep them saved in files on your computer. These will usually get you through any temporary slumps!

    BLOG ON!

    • Yes! It’s perfectly normal for your creativity to come in bursts. It’s a great idea to write more than one post at a time if you’re on a roll. Just remember to proof read :) I find that around post four I start to get a bit sloppy! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Hi Brandon,

    I have found using a dry-wipe calendar on my home office wall useful in terms of planning out blog posts and emails. I try to plan at least a week or so in advance, even if it’s just an idea, such as “Tv show” or “Q & A”.

    You find yourself thinking about how you can fill in the gaps when you see the idea on the calendar for days at a time and I can consistently write a new blog post every weekday.

    You make a great point about books too, I have written loads since I kicked my Kindle useage up a notch!

    David

    • Excellent idea! They always tell you that a goal isn’t a goal until it’s written down. I think in your case having a goal to fill those spots and seeing them empty with nothing written down would have the same effect! Thanks for reading!

  8. Love some of these tips! I often find myself feeling like I’m going to pull my hair out from writers block… it’s so frustrating! I really like your tip about writing junk! That’s an unusual approach that seems like it might work :) Thanks!

  9. I think one thing that really helps is to carry round an idea pad, use this to note things as they come into your head when doing other stuff and flick back to it when you need to find some ideas.

    • I surprise myself how often I still prefer the traditional pen and paper. Luckily they still sell small ones for us to carry around! Thanks for the comment!

    • James, I also enjoy writing using the traditional way. I always carry a small notepad and a pen anywhere I go. It may be old-fashioned, but it’s a foolproof way of being able to jot down ideas and scribble down things while you’re on the road. Sometimes, using a completely different writing medium and tool can also help deal with writer’s block, too.

  10. This is a great article, Brandon!

    I struggle a lot with writer’s block. It usually happens because I get overwhelmed with my blog, and I start wondering how on earth I’m going to finish that post in such-and-such time. Other times, like you mentioned in your article, it’s not my blog that causes it, but other things in my life that are bothering me, and I don’t feel up to writing when I have a thousand things on my mind driving me crazy.

    I don’t think writing will ever be “easy” for me, but it can be easier. I think if I use different techniques for writing, I can avoid those frequent burnouts.

    One technique that works great for me is to start from the middle of an article. Most often, I don’t know how I want to begin an article, but I know a few points I want to make, so I start with those. Then, when I’m done with most of the article, I can go back to the introduction. I’ve found this technique helps me write a much better first paragraph—one that attracts the reader, rather than one full of fluffy nothingness.

    • Hey, I kinda do the same thing. Sometimes when I just have a few points that I want to make I just list them and pick one to start writing about. My post seems to form around the bullet points I start with. If I get new ideas halfway through, I’ll add another bullet point at the end to remind myself to include it somewhere. Works great! Thanks for reading.

  11. Found an awesome article on another blog that you can add to this great list!
    http://writetodone.com/2011/09/09/make-your-brain-creativ/

    • Hey, those are great ideas. Writing is just like anything else, the more we do it the better we get at it. It definitely helps our craft to broaden our brain’s abilities like that. Thanks for the link.

  12. Thanks Brandon for sharing these awesome tips. We all get into that writer block mode and your tips make for a handy checklist. I like to write my blog posts in advance in one sitting when i become inspired on certain topics. I actually get my inspiration through reading other blogs, discussions with groups and forums and also on Twitter.

    • Those are great ideas for inspiration. I’m a strong believer in taking advantage of bursts of creativity for as long as you can. If you do it right, then that in itself becomes a way to overcome writer’s block because you develop a stash of articles to act as a buffer. Thanks for sharing!

  13. great article. thanks for the share

  14. I find the best way for me to get over it is to just sit and write about anything. Gibberish at times, little ideas. If that doesn’t work, I go for a long long walk or a run. :)

    • It’s true. Thriller author James Rollins says to “Give yourself permission to write crap. You don’t have to write brilliant prose each day. Let loose of your inner editor.” Just get it done! Thanks for the comment.

      • I really need to follow that advice. I’m not a writer so I try to over compensate when I do write. I have my best idea when i’m having fun not thinking about writing. Guest I need to relax more.

  15. Sometimes the best way to write is to get over writers block is to simply sit down and write down topics that may interest you and your readers, and then research them, envision what you’d write in your post or article, then just do it.

    Great article by the way. I especially love the choice of picture too.

  16. Check out your old post may give you new ideas.

  17. I like listening to music i dont stop typing but as soon as the music stops i dont feel like writing anymore :( LOL

  18. Sometimes I just take a paragraph of my writing and rewrite it for fun. You can make it funny, tacky, and weird. It helps to get me unblocked.

  19. While reading the post I felt such optimism. I realize that you like writing so much as it is written so smooth and sincere. Cool work. I agree with you about TV which kills everything in your brain. You are right — you just need to start and then it flows like water.

  20. Agree with you that a success never come without consistency and after a long hour of work you need exercises too. all the ten points suits very well to all bloggers.

  21. it let us to realize the things from another point of view,thanks for the sharing.

    http://www.health007.net/atomizer-for-510-ego-in-7colors-p-134.html

  22. Even before I started my own blogging ventures recently, many times I felt like the guy in the picture. I’d clearly be facepalming/headdesking while attempting to get that first sentence out. Writing papers for this class or that one while just trying to get the creative juices flowing was always my biggest constraint. I did find several of the tips you mention here, DO work. First, yes turn off the TV and turn on the Pandora stream. It made a huge difference for me. I used to think it was just the sound but the sound of music helped while the TV seemed to just dumb me down. Go figure. Taking walks would help me think while getting to breathe fresh air instead of the circulated office aromas. Planning, outlining and yes write junk. The brainstorming process generates so many ideas. Cluster similar ideas together with bubbles. Create your scope and modify it several times, get some rest and let the juices flow. Thanks for sharing.

  23. I guess every writer/blogger must have his calm moment before he writes. If a lot of things are running through your mind, then surely the output of your work wont be that perfect. Maybe do some yoga before writing. Its a good way to relax.

  24. Exercise is a great tip for stopping writers block- get out and get some blood flowing and this relaxes the mind and usually sets it up for a creative session.

    • I’d imagine that it helps if you don’t completely wear yourself out too! I’ve had times when I exercised and all I wanted after was a nap! :) Thanks for the comment!

      • No I would not suggest that either. I have found though that its almost as good as a change of scenery. I have had a few occasions where I have been stuck with something, and gone off for a run listening to music and all of a sudden the answer to my problem pops into to my head.

  25. This is so great, I think it’s very important to listen to music as it truly helps you get inspired and getting into a flow of focusing on something else ever so slightly that will relax you and allow your ideas to fully flow.

  26. These are so great! I think allowing yourself to write junk is really good advice – not everyone CAN allow themselves to just write whatever comes to mind knowing full well that it might not be anything amazing, but often times it makes for great ideas. Awesome tips, thanks!!

    • Glad you liked the post. I find it’s much easier to make a full page of crap better than it is to write a full page perfectly the first time. Guaranteed it’s how all the NY Times bestsellers do it! It takes a lot of practice to put aside the inner perfectionist though. Thanks for the comment!

  27. Rohan Banerjee says:

    The tips that you gave are simply outstanding, i really didn’t knew about these in reality, our article is really very helpful for bloggers…thank you…

  28. Hi Brandon…
    nice post :) u said it all…

    starting is the biggest hurdle a writer faces initially..

    As Nike says….JUST DO IT…..will solve the problem

    Moreover writers initially cant think of what to write..
    forums and sites like ehow,about.com,yahoo answers can be a great place to get inspiration to write content because here one can find out what questions people are asking…

    Regards
    Aniket

  29. This may seem a bit trivial…but it works for me.

    One word – good cup of strong coffee.

    I have this small ritual when I have a block. I make coffee, go to bathroom and wash my face with cold water. When I get back to my computer, the coffee is just the way I like it and it takes two sips before I begin to brainstorm some ideas.

    • Hey, whatever works! Like i said, I prefer Coke Zero and a bag of jerky – mix in some of those gummy orange slices covered in sugar and I could write for days! Not sure I’d want the sugar induced coma that would follow :) But thanks for the insight!

  30. I have been reading this book called The Artist Way and practicing some of their exerciser. You have some of the same ideas. #4 write junk. In the book it encourages you to sit down and write sub-conscious thoughts, any thing that comes to mind even if it is not a complete sentence. The idea is to get all that is on your mind out, and clear the pallet so to speak. Works amazing. Gets all the stress and anxiety off your mind and creates space for creativity.
    -Karen

    • Thanks for sharing this .I ‘m trying to find the ebook version of this book .Hope it will help.I can find the solution of everything except writers block and I think you have to work continuously to fight it.This is not a one time process .

  31. Thanks for the useful tips. Sometimes I suffer from terrible writers block, but I am getting better.

  32. Angelos Fernandes says:

    Sometimes, hair length can cause writer’s block.

  33. Great stuff.

    I see the connection between #6, #7 and #8.

    Basically, put your self in a position to create. Watching TV gives nothing to think about, you don’t use any imagination, the images and audio is given to you. If you listen to music, or read a book, you’re given an outline, but no illustration. Which brings forwards the creative juices.

    Nice post.

  34. I totally agree. Being a blogger means being a writer. You need to make sure that you’re providing valuable information to your readers so that they would keep on coming back. Also, you need to write creatively for them to enjoy your write up. Through this, it would increase your site traffic and build your online reputation.

  35. Thanks Brandon for sharing. I have been having writer’s block for the last three years since I started freelancing. It has really been a huge problem since it affects my results and also my pay. But according to your post I think what I need to focus on is to create small manageable tasks before I embark on any project.

  36. Thanks for the great tips, Brandon…some of these I’ve seen before, other’s are good even for healthy living, but there were a few I hadn’t thought of. I’ll take all these in stride, my most obvious blocker is all the real-life distractions going on. If I can figure out a way to step out of their energy sucking vortex and get back to writing, I’ll feel much better. I just need to get that first sentence down….

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