When Writing Feels Impossible: How to Overcome Writer’s Block and Get Back to Work

By Alyssa Todd

Anyone who writes has experienced what’s known as writer’s block. You sit down to write and find yourself unable to put words together, or the words just don’t come at all. It’s a frustrating predicament, especially when you have deadlines looming ahead.

Unfortunately, as professional writers, we can’t just wait around for inspiration to strike us. That’s a sure way to never get anything written.

When you type “writer’s block” into Google, one of the top suggested searches is “writer’s block cure.” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no cure. There will always be days when writing is the last thing you want to do. But there are tips and tricks all over the internet about how to overcome writer’s block. Some are more helpful than others.

The following are my favorite ways to get the ball rolling on those days when writing feels more like pulling teeth.

  1. Let yourself write a horrible first draft. Although perfectionism tries to hold us back, just getting words onto the page—no matter how awful the writing is—is a lot better than nothing. You can always revise later.

2. Try free-writing. Sometimes called free association, this is where you simply write down whatever comes to mind. Don’t pause. Don’t erase anything. Reserve judgment for later. More often than not, this exercise will produce something useful, whether it’s an idea or maybe a really good sentence. Whatever the case, it gets the words flowing at least.

3. Make a decision. We writers often get stuck when we aren’t sure where to go or what to say next. In that case, Michael Bremer, author of Untechnical Writing, says to simply make a decision and write. Choose a direction or pick an idea and just go with it. Even if it turns out to be a bad decision, he says, “you’re not wasting any more time changing something than if you sat there doing nothing.”

4. Step away from the computer. I use this as a last resort. When nothing else has worked, I get away from the computer and do something else—like fold laundry, exercise, take a hot shower, anything! Don’t spend all day doing other stuff though. Just take an hour. Thinking about other things will allow you to go back later with a fresh perspective. And who knows? Maybe while you’re out and about, inspiration will strike.



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