This post was last updated on February 18th, 2021
How to defeat writer’s block? It’s the age old question. So many of us struggle with writer’s block but what causes it exactly and how can you be rid of it for good?
For a really long time I really struggled to get past writer’s block and become more consistent with writing.
Accordingly, through much trial and error, I found techniques that really worked for me. So I’m sharing this now so that I can get it out to anyone that’s running into these blockages.
This leads me to list out my findings, as laid out below on how to defeat your writer’s block for good.
“Creative” vs “Mechanical” Writer’s Block
If you analyse the causes of writer’s block, you’ll come down to two fundamental reasons. It could be due to a “creative’ writer’s block or a “mechanical” writer’s block
These two types of blocks have their own solutions. So I’ll analyse each of them in turn below.
Creative Writer’s Block
Creative Writer’s block occurs when you don’t have any trouble sitting down to write, but you just don’t have any idea where to start the story or where to take the story.
This is a really common problem for writers, but we are so lucky to live in an era of information technology, news and entertainment.
Use a Twist on News Events
If you feel that you’re lacking inspiration, be open to TV and radio news. Local news stories tend to be more quirky and interesting.
Be receptive of ideas and cultivate your mind in such a way that you’re always thinking of how you could create a twist on some aspect of a news story. Furthermore, how could you add a story arc to make it interesting.
For example, Stephen King took inspiration for his novel, The Stand from a radio news story on a chemical spill whilst driving through Utah. Also, a real-life incident at a job centre sparked the idea for his book Mr Mercedes.
A favourite pastime of mine while sitting in a cafe is observing people walking by and to develop a character or story for that person. I watch the interactions between couples, families and friends and will sometimes ruminate about what their story is.
There’s a huge amount of inspiration here and millions of stories just waiting to be developed. So, make a game out of developing a story based on people that you see in the street. If you let your creativity run free, it’s amazing what you can come up with!
If you can, I recommend going to a coffee shop to write. It’s a great environment as there aren’t as many distractions as you’d find at home yet there is often inspiration all around you.
Pick a Book at Random in a Library.
Libraries are a great source of inspiration for your writing. If you’re struggling to find ideas, go to the section of the library that matches your interest.
Then, pull a book at random at a random page and start reading. Repeat if necessary. By doing this, you’re bound to come up with sources of inspiration.
Read More to break Writer’s Block
To become a good writer, you need to be a prolific reader. Reading every day will develop your writing mind in so many ways that you won’t even realise.
If you struggle to find time to read, audiobooks from suppliers such as Audible, will allow you to read while you’re doing daily activities such as cleaning the house or going for a walk.
Watch Youtube Channels, Movies and TV shows
All you need is a spark of inspiration to break your writer’s block. This might include Youtube which is the biggest search engine in the world and offers a phenomenal source of inspiration.
Movies and TV shows can offer further inspiration. They’ll also encourage you to think in a way that facilitates story development.
Random Story Tools to beat Writer’s Block
Plot Generator is a website that you might try which will give you random story ideas.
Also, there are many phone apps including writer’s lists and random name generators that can help you. Just search the app store of your phone for “writer tools”.
Mechanical Writer’s Block
So what is it about just sitting down and starting typing that’s so hard? As writers, we love to procrastinate. Everything needs to be just right.
So maybe you’ve spent all day working a job and evening is your only time to write. Then by the time you’ve cooked dinner and done all your household chores, you’re too tired. This is understandable.
So how do you get the work done if you’re in this situation? There’ll always be excuses that you make for yourself, so you need to do something different.
Get Up Early
Distraction is the curse of getting your writing done. By getting up early you can get work done while the world is sleeping (not figuratively, but you know what I mean!).
You won’t be disturbed by other household members, phone calls or messages. It’s a blissful time to write! There’s something powerful that you’ll feel by getting a jump on the day and getting words onto the page before others have even woken.
Don’t even think about looking at email or phone messages from the night before. These things will take you straight out of your creative state.
Be Consistent to ward off Writer’s Block
Writing is a habit that gets easier the more that you do it. Try to write every day and at the same time every day. Most good novelists have a daily writing habit.
You’ll notice that it becomes easier to put words on the page the more that you write.
Turn Off All Distractions
Turn off ALL notifications on your computer. This means that there should be no pop-up messages, particularly from social media.
I like my computer screen to be as clear as possible, so I minimise any buttons on the screen.
Google Docs is my preferred writing environment. It’s website is very clean so the focus is on your work. Also, your work is saved continuously to the cloud so you won’t ever lose your work if your computer crashes.
Accordingly, avoid complex apps like WordPress while writing as it’s far too easy to start tinkering with settings.
Don’t do anything else while you’re writing which could distract you from your purpose. If you pick up your phone, put it down!
All of these things are to facilitate your purpose right now of getting your writing done for the day!
Don’t Set Writing Targets
Targets put unnecessary pressure on you. As you’re suffering writer’s block and having trouble getting started, don’t put extra pressure on yourself.
Accordingly, don’t even look at your word count as you go as it’s just another form of procrastination. With word count, it’s better not to know what it is until you’re done and have had enough.
What often happens is that you’ll get fired up to keep writing as you go and get much more done than you would have thought was possible.
Your First Draft Doesn’t Need to be Perfect
Most people don’t realise that novel drafts are often reviewed 7 to 10 times. This would obviously be less if you’re writing an article or blog post but you get my point.
Don’t feel that the initial words you put down need to be polished. The main thing is to keep ploughing on and get those words down on the page as quickly as you can. Accordingly, don’t even feel the need to fix typos if it’s slowing you down. These can be fixed when doing the first draft.
Leave an Opening for the Next Day’s Writing
It’s good practice to leave a hook at the end of your writing so that you can jump into it quickly the next day. If you can, stop writing at a “fun” point of the story.
What I mean by this is to create an easy point for you to easily jump back into that flow state the next morning instead of starting cold. This will almost automatically guarantee that you won’t start wth writer’s block the next day.
Writer’s Tip – use TK
During your writing process, you’ll often come up against something you’re missing.. Eg a quote or name of an institution etc. A trick that many writers including Tim Ferris use is to put the letters: TK into the text.
TK isn’t found in any word in the English language. So when you come back to review your draft, use Search and Replace functionality on TK to fill out the information on these items.
The reasoning behind using TK is to Keep Going when writing. This is to avoid you needing to go searching for a reference in the middle of your writing and getting sucked into a Google rabbit hole.
Rituals to help you keep Writing are OK.
It’s OK to stop for a few minutes to make tea etc while you’re writing but don’t look at anything else.
Keep your mind on the writing. Your subconscious will keep working on it even while you stop for a few minutes.
Use Music to put you into a Writing State
I find that by listening to a particular composer or type of music, my mind immediately goes into a writing state. Furthermore, I ONLY listen to that music when I’m writing, This helps to give the music more power to induce a writing state.
Classical music works really well for me. However, the really strident arias should be saved for another time. The goal here is to go into a relaxed state of flow, but not have your senses aroused too much.
Vocals should be avoided as should anything that’s too evocative of time or place. This is because you don’t want to start daydreaming about that overseas holiday when your favourite song comes on.
Obviously, everyone has a different taste in music, but I particularly love listening to Mozart’s gentle melodies during my writing process.
Read Books on the Writing Process
The War of Art is all about creative resistance and how to defeat it. Stephen Pressfield helps you to find ways to get over the creative blockages that are stopping you from your creative work. I highly recommend this book.
Writer’s Block Defeated- Key Takeaways
Developing a daily consistent writing habit is paramount, whether you’re writing blogs, articles or stories.
Put the techniques mentioned above into practice to solidify this daily habit.
To break through creative writer’s block, you need to change up what you’ve been doing. The human mind is in constant need of stimulation and this is such a necessary requirement for writing. I hope you can use the methods outlined in this article to achieve creative inspiration.
Frequently Asked Questions – writer’s block
Why am I getting creative writers block?
It might be because you’re in your head too much and trying to force it. Try stepping back, do some physical exercise and let your subconscious work on the problem.
How can I beat creative writers block?
Instead of sitting at your desk, perhaps take a walk or a run. Try walking in nature or perhaps in an area with interesting architecture.
While you’re on this walk let your subconscious mind muse on your creative work. Take your time and don’t push it. You’ll find that ideas and solutions gradually start to flow.
Why am I getting mechanical writers block
It’s because of the basic resistance that many of us have when we are faced with starting something. Use some creative techniques to just get started. Journalling or free writing often gets you into the headspace to start writing.
How can I beat mechanical writers block?
Use whatever techniques you can to get started. For example, if you have trouble sitting down at your desk you could try grabbing your smartphone and a pair of headphones. Take a walk and just talk into the note taking app. Before long you’ll be into it and it will have beaten the resistance that you had getting started.
Is writer’s block inevitable if you write?
Many writers don’t suffer from writer’s block at all. They avoid it by only writing when they feel inspired and not putting too much pressure on the process.
Why is starting to write so difficult?
We often build up illogical reasons for not starting. We procrastinate and put things off. A blank page can be scary.
How to change this? – go out for some outdoor exercise. Trick yourself into starting by dictating into an app on your smartphone without thinking about it too much.