What is Writer’s Block?
Writer’s block is a period of time where an artist, traditionally a writer, is unable to produce new work or has a feeling of lack of creativity. It is not because of issues with commitment or a lack of skill.1 Writer’s block can last for days, weeks, months, or even years (though this is rare).
Who Experiences Writer’s Block?
In short — everyone!
While it is scary to know that it can last for a long time, rest assured that it typically doesn’t last for more than a couple of days. It may also help to know that famous writers deal with writer’s block all the time. Even the great Shonda Rhimes, who writes some of the most captivating TV dramas, experiences writer’s block!2
I feel like every blogger has written a post about writer’s block or will write one at some point. If you’re a blogger and you haven’t written a post like this yet, keep this topic tucked in your back pocket for a rainy day! As bloggers, we write what we know…maybe I shouldn’t admit that since this is only my 5th blog post.
Everyone who experiences writer’s block wants an easy fix. They want to snap their fingers and magically feel super creative and inspired again. There isn’t always an easy fix. But there are things you can do to help get yourself over that hump if you’re feeling stuck. With that being said:
Here are 5 things you can do right this second if you are experiencing a creative block:
1. Step Away From the Screen
And I mean EVERY screen.
Yes, even your phone.
And your tablet.
And your television.
Looking at screens all day can tire out your eyes and your brain, leading to a major productivity crash.
So what should you do instead?
Sit in quiet and be alone with your thoughts
That sounds scary to a lot of people (myself included, if I’m being honest!), but you never know what ideas might pop into your head. Take five minutes and try it – see what happens!
Brainstorm by hand
Research has shown time and again that writing things by hand has so many benefits. It activates multiple areas of your brain, and it can help to get creative juices flowing when your river of ideas seems to have run dry.
Do a mundane task
Have you ever noticed that your mind seems to wander the most when you’re doing something really boring? Think about it: do you really pay attention to the task at hand when you’re folding laundry or washing dishes? Most likely, you do not. Boredom is actually good for your brain. It allows it to problem solve and think about things in a more passive manner. And this is great for unclogging a stuck mind.
2. Get Your Blood Flowing
As I like to say, flowing blood equals a flowing mind. Getting up and doing some sort of easy physical activity may just be the rest your brain needs to get those creative juices flowing again.
So what are some easy exercises you can do right now? This may depend on where you are, but:
Take a quick walk somewhere. This is likely the most universal option because even if you’re in an office, you can take a quick break from your desk and walk around a bit. You don’t even have to have a destination in mind, just get those legs moving. (Bonus points if you can walk outside for a bit!)
This one may be a little less accessible. Let’s face it, you’re likely not going to bust out a downward facing dog in the middle of your office (but hey, if you do, more power to ya!). If you have a flexible work schedule, a personal office, or work from home, taking 15-20 minutes to do a quick yoga flow is a great way to clear your head of any clutter and get the blood flowing.
Don’t know where to start? Check out some of my favorite yoga videos: (I’ve even included a yoga at your desk video that you can do if you’re limited in space.)
Take a look around you – chances are, there’s something that can be cleaned up. Whether it’s clearing that stack of papers off your desk, washing some dishes, taking out the trash, or sweeping, there’s likely something you can do to clean.
I love cleaning when I feel stuck. I like to think of it as productive procrastination because I’m still accomplishing a task, even if it’s not the most important task at hand. But the thing is, it’s not really procrastination. It’s a great way to be productive while getting your blood flowing and getting your brain thinking clearly again.
3. Take Care of Your Needs
Often, there is a root cause of writer’s block that has nothing to do with writing. I’ve found that it usually stems from an unmet need. Maybe it’s a physical need, a mental need, or an emotional need. Whatever it is, identifying the root problem (and then fixing it) is usually a good way to get over that block.
So what are some things you might need?
Think for a second: did you eat breakfast? Lunch? Supper? Do you need a snack? If so, listen to your body! Get up and grab an apple or a salad and take 15-30 minutes away from your desk to eat. Food is brain fuel – without it, your brain is going to be useless, so give it what it needs!
In a similar vein, when was the last time you took a sip of water? Is the cup of water you normally keep on your desk empty? Does your mouth feel a little dry? Get up and get something to drink! Refill your cup, then come back to your desk refreshed and ready to write.
This one is the hardest, in my opinion. I always want to get my work done as soon as possible. But there are times when your body just needs a break. And that’s okay. I invite you to listen to your body right now. Give it the rest it craves, and then come back in 30 minutes, an hour, a day (or however long!) with a rested mind, body, and soul.
4. Make a Change
I’ve realized that, sometimes, when your brain gets stuck, it just needs a little bit of change to get things moving again. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change at all – just some little bit of newness to intrigue the brain and coax it over that block.
So what small changes can you make?
Write someplace different
This could be as simple as getting up and going to a different room in your house or office. Or it could be going to a coffee shop or a park. (Again, bonus points if you can find someplace outside to work!)
A change in scenery is really good for your brain, and it can help get things flowing again!
Change your schedule
If you’re a very routinized person like me (hey type As!), you probably have your day broken down into tiny little tasks, and your day-to-day probably looks pretty similar. I’ve found that a simple switch of a few tasks can really shake things up for me and help me when I’m feeling stuck.
Again, this is a little bit like productive procrastination. But instead of doing something entirely non-work-related (unless cleaning is on your to-do list), you’re still doing work, you’re just doing different work.
Change your timeline
Okay this tip is probably the one that you’re most likely to not be able to do. You might not always have the luxury of changing up your timeline. But, like all of the other tips and tricks in this post, it doesn’t have to be a drastic change.
Look for timelines that you control and see how you can change those a bit:
Your boss needs a report by the end of the week and you were hoping to have it finished by the end of the day? Push it back a day!
You set yourself a goal to have a post finished before lunch? Switch to something else and then wait until after lunch!
Even though you will often have hard and fast deadlines, you likely will still have some flexibility as to when you work before the deadline. Play around with that timing a bit, and give yourself a chance to get the juices flowing again.
5. JUST WRITE
Okay, so you’re probably thinking “ummm hello, if I could just write, wouldn’t I do that already??”
Yeah, I’m sure you would. But you’ll probably surprise yourself if you just start to write random things. What I’m saying is stop thinking about what you’re going to write and just write.
So what does that look like?
Write down everything that pops into your head
And I mean literally everything.
Those song lyrics.
That conversation you had earlier.
That random thought about that random embarrassing thing you did 5 years ago. (Anyone else relate? No, just me? Okay cool.)
The very act of seeing yourself write – seeing words appear on the page – can be enough to give you the confidence you need to get back to what you were working on before.
Write something completely “off topic”
Start a new story. About something that has nothing to do with what you’re trying to write about. That you have no intention of ever finishing.
Remind yourself that you are creative, you are smart, you are a writer, and you can do this.
Set a timer and write
Write down anything and everything (see above). Then stop writing when the timer goes off. Put your pen down, close your laptop, plug in your apple pencil to charge. Then come back later (later in the day, the next day, after the weekend, whenever!) with fresh eyes.
Remind yourself that you are human, you are going to have rough days, and it’s okay.
Maybe you need to do all of these steps to get yourself unstuck. Maybe you JUST WRITE, then step away from your screen to do laundry, then eat, then go for a walk, then sit back down on your porch to work instead of in your office.
The important thing is to never stop writing. There’s no writer’s block that you can’t overcome. And if you don’t believe in yourself? Well, I believe in you. Let that be enough!