Dreaded Writer’s Block

Questions mark and broken pencil on top of a note pad

At some point in every writer’s life, they’ll come up against the Dreaded Writer’s Block. Those moments when you want to write but either you put your hands to the keyboard (or pick up your pen) and nothing comes out, or you just can’t bring yourself even to start or even be in the same room as your laptop. There are many different reasons for writer’s block and with them a lot of ways to fight back. Here are some ways to get back on track so that you can get your new novel, short story, or poem out for the world to see.

  1. Don’t Panic – You’re not alone. Most people get tripped up at some point, but it won’t last forever. The trick is not to get caught up thinking too hard about being stuck or you can prolong it through worry. Give yourself a break and a chance to breathe. Do something else and often your brain will keep on creating in the background.
  2. Take a Break – Too often writer’s live by the idea that they absolutely MUST write at least 1000 words a day, or some other word or page goal. While steady progress is important, sometimes this pressure can turn into the enemy. Sometimes writer’s block is just a sign that your brain needs a break for a few hours or even a day or two. I find at these times that I’m happier with what I write when I return later than if I force the issue. So give it a day or two and then try again.
  3. Determine Where/Why You Get Stuck – Do you find yourself getting stuck in the same place in a Work In Progress? Does the first sentence of a story or a chapter tend to snag you? Or have you made it all the way through the climax and now need to wrap up the story? Maybe even just picking a name for a new character?

    Once you know where your potential pitfalls are, you can prepare ahead of time or at least not be surprised. Just knowing ahead of time can help break through the cycle or shorten it.
  4. Just Write – In some ways this advice is the easiest and hardest to follow. At some point the only way to move forward is to put pen to page or start typing. Set aside a time and just start writing whatever comes to mind. If nothing is coming just pick a word or a phrase to write over and over. The sheer act of writing can get inspiration flowing. If you’re stuck on the name of a character, then substitute some non-sense like ‘xx’ that you’d never otherwise type so that you can easily Find and Replace it at a later time rather than obsessing over the name.
  5. Don’t Censor Yourself – A lot of times we get stuck because we get self-conscious that what we’re writing is “bad” or “useless” or whatever negative thoughts and feelings that can plague us about our works. Remember, right now we’re just trying to get words down on paper or screen. Later is the time to go back and change them or take them out, but for now all that matters is that the idea is written somewhere so that you can move on to the next idea.
  6. Write Something Else – If you’re still stuck, give that piece a break and work on something else whether it’s a different part of the story or a different Work In Progress entirely. You’ll get some work done and feel accomplished and that can get the words flowing again.
  7. Get Some Inspiration – Look for outside help whether you ask your Beta readers or writing friends or even try going to a prompt book. When I’m stuck, I go back to my own book The Huge Collection of Erotica Prompts Journal to remind myself that there are plenty of ideas out there. Just start writing on a prompt and see if you can get your writing gears going again.
  8. Abandon Your Idea – It’s a painful concept, but sometimes a story just isn’t going to get written no matter how you try. Don’t stay frustrated on something that’s not working. Set it aside and move onto something else. Maybe later you’ll find that you’re inspired to go back and continue or start over with the same idea.

Writer’s Block is a frustrating part of the life of a writer. It’s potentially even crippling to a story. But fighting back with some of these ideas can help you get back on track. What other methods do you use to fight this scourge? Leave a comment or contact me on Twitter @alexisafurr.

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