We are all in search of effective ways to stop writer’s block. When the writing is not flowing, it feels like the blank page or the blinking cursor is mocking us. Sometimes the block comes in the form of retracing the same sentences that we have already written. There was a year where I rewrote the same first few scenes of a story over and over again during my lunch breaks, changing one or two words. The ending felt so far out of reach, but I didn’t yet have strategies for writer’s block.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to overcome writer’s block. By making a few changes in my work process, I discovered effective ways to stop writer’s block, which allowed me to finish writing that story I was stuck on a few years later. I published that story in a literary journal, and later it became part of my collection.
Read on to discover 5 effective ways to stop writer’s block.
Make Time for Your Writing to Overcome Writer’s Block
When I say make time for your writing, I am not telling you that need to write every day. Yes, there are writers who when asked about strategies for writer’s block will say that a “real” writer writes daily. Perhaps you’re the kind of person who is able to write every day. But in reality most of us have a day job or chronic health issues or young children, which means that a daily practice may not be feasible. Writing every day is not one of the effective ways to stop writer’s block.
Let me tell you a secret: I do not write every day. Most people would consider me to be a “real” writer: I have published several books, I teach writing at the graduate level at a university, I earn royalties, and I have a literary agent.
It is necessary for me to limit my time sitting at a computer because my wrist, elbows, and shoulders start aching and if I’m not careful chronic pain sets in. I averted surgery by changing my work habits and my relationship to writing. There is nothing shameful about not being able to write every day.
Instead of writing every day, I make a calendar commitment to my writing. I block out the time in advance and protect it to overcome writer’s block. On Friday mornings, I meet with a writing group and we work together at a bakery. We don’t share our work with one another—we share the time and space together. When I am busy, this may be the only time I am able to write, so I treat this appointment as seriously as I do a visit to the doctor. Unless there is an emergency, I always write at this time. I find this is one of the most effective ways to stop writer’s block.
At the moment I have a few writing projects on the go and it’s important to have strategies for writer’s block in place to keep things flowing. After taking stock of my work commitments, I have scheduled five hours a week for writing. I work in timed 30-minute blocks (where I do nothing but the writing—no reading or research) so this equals ten writing blocks each week. For me, this has proven to be one of the effective ways to stop writer’s block.
The takeaway: Set your own personal schedule for your writing. Tailor it to suit your lifestyle and personal needs rather than trying to live someone else’s life or fantasy. You know what you need to discover effective ways to stop writer’s block.
Create a Writing Space to Overcome Writer’s Block
Environment matters. It is more important than discipline when devising strategies for writer’s block. I learned this from reading Willpower Doesn’t Work by Benjamin Hardy. So one of the effective ways to overcome writer’s block is to create a writing space.
Not everyone has the resources to have a home office, but a little ingenuity goes a long way in implementing effective ways to stop writer’s block. I am writing this post from my IKEA drop-leaf dining table, where I have a flat screen monitor connected to my laptop. I am sitting on a thick art catalogue (that I got for free) to create a cost-effective ergonomic setup. If I’m having trouble getting down to the writing, I light a candle.
Maybe one of your effective ways to stop writer’s block is to have a motivational list or quote written on an index card or a photograph of a beautiful place on the wall next to your writing space. I’ve got a piece of black tourmaline next to my monitor.
Keep your writing space tidy and your computer clean. I have a cover for my laptop keyboard that I can shake it off to keep it free of dust. I have a chamois for the screen. Take pride in the writing space you create so that when you sit down, you feel like a professional. After all, chefs keep their knives sharp and their workstations tidy so they can get through service in the most efficient way possible.
So what happens if you can’t create a dedicated space for writing as one of your effective ways to stop writer’s block? If you really want to write, you will find a way. Perhaps you wake up at 5am on a Monday morning so that you can have the kitchen table to yourself for an hour before your family wakes up. If there truly is no space at home, you may go to a park on your lunch break and write in a notebook or visit the library after work. Lauren Oliver, author of several bestselling young adult novels wrote her debut book Before I Fall on her BlackBerry while riding the subway.
The takeaway: Choose a place to transform into your writing space so that when you sit down to write, you are transporting yourself into a professional working frame of mind and implementing one of the major strategies for writer’s block.
Setting Achievable Goals is One of the Effective Ways to Stop Writer’s Block
When I was trying to finish writing the stories for my collection, I came to terms with the fact that I had a problem with procrastination and perfectionism. While I researching solutions for procrastination I came across The Now Habit by Dr. Neil Fiore. I learned that it’s impossible to do a project. Every single project must be broken down into steps. You can’t write a novel in a day, but you can complete one small step at a time.
Perhaps you may set a modest goal of 250 words every writing session. Or you wish to write one single page every four days. My favourite goal to achieve to overcome writer’s block is from the therapist Barry Michels, which is to write the worst possible sentence you can imagine. That’s it. Write a horrible sentence and see what happens after that. I’m pretty sure that everything gets better from there.
The takeaway: Set a goal you know that you can achieve and perhaps even surpass on a regular basis in order to overcome writer’s block.
Tracking Your Progress is One of the Effective Ways to Stop Writer’s Block
One of the concepts I liked in The Now Habit is the Unschedule. First, you schedule in your day job, necessary appointments, exercise, and fun. The time remaining on your calendar is where you can fit in your writing time.
Every time you complete a block of work, you record it on your Unschedule. I used to use a spreadsheet to do this, but now I record my writing time in my Bullet Journal. I really like colouring in 30-minute blocks with a pretty highlighter. It makes time spent feel beautiful.
Instead of reviewing how you spent your time each day, set aside a time each week to review how much time you were able to devote to writing in your quest to discover effective ways to stop writer’s block. At that time, you can also check in to see if you reached the small goals that you set for yourself and tally up your weekly word or page count.
For a person recovering from procrastination, I found that recording this information helps me to stay on track and focused. You can use this data to make decisions about which days you may be able to squeeze in extra time and which days to avoid. You may even discover that you’re a morning person while you are on this journey to figure out effective ways to stop writer’s block.
The takeaway: Tracking your writing progress will help you figure out what works for you what doesn’t when it comes to your writing process and how to overcome writer’s block.
Celebrating Your Work is One of the Effective Ways to Stop Writer’s Block
Don’t save celebration for the big milestones like finishing a final draft or for external validation like a publishing contract. The work matters so you need to acknowledge it in a positive way on a regular basis, rather than waiting for years for a reward. I swear this is one of the most effective ways to stop writer’s block.
You may want to try what I did when I was recovering from procrastination. At the end of every 30-minute work block when my timer went off I would clap. Yes, I would give myself applause for getting the work done. Doing this made me smile and doing the work became much more fun.
The takeaway: Celebrate the fact that you are taking action and doing the work. This is something you have control over—you do not need to wait for someone else to acknowledge your writing. This is one of the effective ways to stop writer’s block. Bring positivity to every single writing session and soon enough you will look forward to sitting down and transforming the blank page with your words.
There is no need to suffer when you write. By implementing these 5 practical habits in your routine, you will create a positive mindset around writing. Once you view the time you set aside for the work as a time for action, you’ll find your flow. Lack of productivity will become a thing of the past when you implement these effective ways to stop writer’s block. Soon you’ll have a manuscript completed and ready to format!