Monday, January 20, 2014

How to Cure Writer's Block

There is a disease that frequently strikes authors and writers and which occasionally may appear to be incurable.  A cerebral blockage prevents ideas from making their way via cortical and sub-cortical networks over a large part of the brain to a person's hand and finger muscles, where said ideas can be transferred via mechanical devices such as pens and keyboards to paper and/or computer hard discs. This disease is commonly known as Writer's Block.

Merriam-Webster defines Writer's Block as "the problem of not being able to think of something to write about or not being able to finish writing a story, poem, etc."

I like my definition of the medical condition better. And now, I can happily report, a cure for this disease has been found.

The 12 Step Approach

On The Creative Penn website, BookBaby marketing coordinator Chris Robley lays out a 12-step cure for Writer's Block, one that stops just short of suggesting that an experienced author sponsor the writer suffering from creative deficiency. One of Robley's 12 steps is simply: "Write every single day." That's a simple task easily handled by writers who don't suffer from writer's block. How does one who is blocked from writing manage to accomplish that step?

Curse like a Sailor
Meanwhile, the Boost Blog Traffic website posted a list of "27 Wacky Ways to Beat Writer’s Block" and that list includes the following suggestions:

** Curse like a sailor

** Wash the dishes

** Goof around on Facebook

** Steal ideas

"Writing is hard work. There’s no doubt about that," author Henneke Duistermaat stresses in the article, which includes some serious suggestions as well. "Experiment. Find out what works for you. Write where and when you like. Be as crazy as you like to be," he writes.

Write about Writer's Block

The Velvet Blues website lists 36 ways to cure Writer's Block. This is getting serious now, as we previously had 12 steps, and then 27 wacky ways, and now "36 Things to Do When Your Brain Is Empty".

I particularly like the 13th item in their list, which suggests: "Write about writer’s block." Hey, that's them talking, not me!

And, "if all else fails, blow off some steam," that website suggests. "Stomp. Scream. Toss your insured electronics at the wall. And pull your hair…"

Don't blame me for any damage caused to your home or health after following their advice.

And the Cure for Writer's Block is…

Evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber, Ph.D., offers a solution to our common medical affliction in an article he wrote for Psychology Today.

"The cure for writer’s block is also the solution for procrastination – and perfectionism," he writes. "There really is no good reason for postponing the start of your magnum opus. There is every reason for beginning right away."

Meaning, don't expect what you manage to put down on paper (or on the computer) to be perfect. It's just a start and can be perfected later.

"Knowing that what emerges may not be perfect, it is nevertheless worth filling some of that blank screen with words. The rough approximation can later be refined and improved."

That's certainly a better cure for Writer's Block than cursing like a sailor or throwing a tantrum.

What about you? How do you fight off the symptoms of dreaded Writer's Block? Comment and let me know.

Related articles:

Daydreaming Is Part of a Writer's Job

Why I Prefer Editing a Novel to Writing One

Writing in My Sleep

Does Caffeine Make You a Better Writer?

Top image photo credit: Drew Coffman, Flickr. Quotes in images from "27 Wacky Ways to Beat Writer’s Block". Graphics made at Quozio.


  1. Nice post!

    I don't get writer's block in that I never run out of ideas. However, I sometimes can't quite find the words or the way I want to write something. I cure this by doing one or all of the following: taking a walk, singing (sometimes at the top of my lungs, not always on key), dancing (you might not want to see this but I don't care if someone does), drawing or painting, and if all else fails, I write it anyway. It may turn out to be crap (and it often does!) but it gets me going in the right direction.

    1. I've never tried singing at the top of my voice to cure writers' block, but that's because I can't carry a tune!

  2. What a great post! I have writer's block sometimes and then I have those moments when I hava so many ideas running around in my head I have to write them all down.

  3. Reading this post made me think about my own frustrations with writers block and how I overcome them. It's not a simple task, but it can be done. I think the key is to look for writing opportunities all around you. There truly is, inspiration everywhere. I've found it helpful to just start writing about anything. It doesn't matter what the topic, it doesn't have to fit with the normal theme of my blog either, as long as I start writing. Once you've started writing again, you'll soon be able to return to your real work. I think you've eluded to all of this in your article Ellis. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Indeed = there are writing opportunities all around us, and that should serve to inspire us to write!

  4. When the dreaded block strikes for me it's usually an act of procrastination fueled by some kind of contradictory emotion tied to something that has little to do with the story in progress, but still bleeds into it anyway. The answer is, yes, to disconnect, get silent, and mute out all foreground noise of the day so that those background ears can once again hear the voice within that finds its way to the page and screen.

    1. Exactly = we need to allow the voice to get from mind to page!

  5. Very insightful. For social media updates, this is how I cure my writer‘s block: I pick any of the books I have written and copy some lines....helps feel the gaps for days my brain just won't cooperate with my hands....

    1. That's an idea I've never tried = thanks for suggesting!

  6. Thank you for writing this excellent article which is excellent to recommend to somebody who has this situation.

  7. I'm really enjoying your blog, Ellis, and am commenting here because of a tussle WB and I had today. I'll be back!

    1. Thanks Ellyn = I look forward to your return visit!

  8. Excellent post, I can't tell you how many times I talked to my 'imaginary friend' when I am trying to over come writers block.

    1. Thanks to both of you (including your 'imaginary friend)!