We’ve all been there. The right words won’t come out, if any at all, and you don’t have a creative cell left in your brain - you’re ready to call it a day.
Of course, I’m talking about the dreaded writer’s block. Writer’s block can be stressful when you have writing tasks that need to get done.
Gasp! It cannot be true. If writer’s block is a myth, then explain what I’m feeling right now?
When you attack it from the root cause, you realize writer’s block stems from four underlying causes. These four underlying causes were detailed by Jerry Jenkins, famed author of the Left Behind series.
Fear - Fear can be paralyzing. The thought that you’re not good enough and that your work won’t be accepted.
Procrastination - Nobody’s better at putting of deadlines than writers. Set your deadlines in stone and keep your daily workload manageable.
Perfectionism - Perfectionism can be a good trait during the editing process; however, it is not as valuable while writing.
Distractions - In today's day and age, it’s nearly impossible to avoid distractions.
Now that you know the four root causes of writer’s block, you can take some actionable steps to eliminate it from your writing for good.
If you’re anything like me, you could probably relate to all four of the root causes. As you read along, you’ll find that more than a few of these actionable tips apply to you.
If you aren’t familiar with writing prompts, they are simply guided writing assignments designed to stimulate your imagination and get the creative juices flowing.
Put simply, writing prompts get you writing.
It may not be the topic you originally set out to write about, but it may help you find your muse.
If you’re stuck finding a topic to write about, or lost finding a fresh idea to attack the blank page, writing prompts may be a good habit to implement into your writing routine.
The right prompt can open up new ideas. They can illuminate new ways of looking at things you aren’t able to see on your own. You can find writing prompts a variety of ways. Many are free online, you can buy a book of them, or come up with them yourself. Write them down to use at a later time. You can even have writing prompts sent to your inbox, with Writing Time Fridays! Join here to receive a great writing prompt emailed or texted to you on Friday at 12pm EST. This is a great way to carve out time for writing and get inspired. You can dedicate time for writing on Friday, like we do at Astrohaus, or you can wait and use the prompt over the weekend.
Does this sound like you?
You want everything to be perfect before you ever begin writing. Every pen stroke must be streaked with gold.
You try to formulate the perfect passage in your head, but you never do, so you revert to underlying cause #2, procrastination.
Perfectionism will only hinder your good writing.
I’ve written a number of blog posts over the years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, nobody ever sees my first drafts.
It sounds obvious, but nothing bad will come from writing words down. If you don’t like what you wrote, delete it.
Leave the self-criticism for editing.
Sometimes, It’s just not the right time to write. Your ideas may need a few more moments to formulate in your mind.
Surely, writing isn’t the only thing you ever do. You also need to eat, sleep, read, exercise, and interact with other people.
Even if writing is at the top of your to-do-list. Doing anything else, would be more beneficial than beating yourself up while staring at a blank page.
In a infamous New Yorker article, Ferris Jabr references overwhelming evidence that taking a walk can help you think through problems and be creative.
It’s ok to not always be writing, or thinking about your writing.
Stuck in the mud?
Try using Google Docs or Evernote instead of Word. Put down the computer all together and try out your grandfather’s typewriter.
What’s been most beneficial to me is freewriting in a journal or a piece of scrap paper. Any idea that comes to mind goes down on the paper. Often times, it doesn’t make any sense.
This is one of the four core causes of writer’s block. In a world where we are faced with distractions left and right, we no longer get to sit in our log cabin in the woods and write in a quiet room.
You have to take extra steps to create a distraction free environment in your mind.
5 Easy ways to eliminate distractions
- Turn off your cell phone
- Unplug from the internet
- Clean your desk
- Let everyone know to leave you alone
- Dim the light
I’ve been using Sprinter by Astrohaus to focus on my writing. I even used it while writing this article.
Every morning, I do two things. I wash my face, then I sit down at my desk and open my daily planner.
I don’t check my phone, I don’t look at any emails, and I don’t talk to ANYONE. The second thing I do each morning is plan out my day.
To paraphrase Jim Rohn, “If you don’t build a plan for your life, someone else will.”
I plan my day down to the second, then I execute. It’s easy to say you”ll just get around to it, but taking the extra steps to plan out exactly when and for how long you’ll be writing, you’re that much more likely to do it.
Sometimes, you just have to put your head to the grindstone and write. If you’ve already done this before, then first address the root causes of writer’s block found above.
If a pilot called his boss and said, “I have flyers block.” He would be laughed off the phone and probably told to hang up his wings.
So, why do writers get to have writer’s block?
Jack London once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
Put bluntly, refusing to write until you feel inspired it futile - at best. As a professional writer, you can’t afford to wait several days to find your muse. The world isn’t waiting for you.
Journaling aids in fostering your creativity and helps develop ideas. Similar to freewriting or writing prompts, journaling literally opens a book of ideas. Turn your thoughts and feelings into words.
What do you journal about?
I like to journal about my goals and the things/people I’m thankful for each day. As a part of my morning routine, I write down my goals and three people I’m thankful for.
It’s not uncommon for writer’s to keep journals with them at all times. Sometimes inspiration strikes at the most unlikely and inconvenient times. Bottle that muse, and save it for later.
“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea forever.” - Will Self
I don’t just mean writing outside, but turning off your writing brain completely..
Nature offers an immediate boost to your mental and physical well-being. Sometimes, you have to slow down to speed up.
- Relieve stress
- Improve short-term memory
- Eliminate fatigue
- Improve focus
- Decrease blood pressure
Combined, all of these things can help get the creative juices flowing. Maybe while you’re outside, you’ll find your inspiration.
If venturing outside isn’t enough, maybe you need to change your work setting. Rotating your workspaces can increase your productivity and open yourself up to new ideas. Try a coffee shop, a library, bookstore, a park, or just a different room.
Cultivate multiple spaces around you that foster your creativity and productivity .
Every element of the Freewrite is designed to help you find your flow state and stay there. It works perfectly indoors or out, online or offline. Double your hourly word count, meet deadlines on time, and write better content.
The Freewrite allows writers like you to create drafts without being distracted by notifications or the infinite possibilities on the internet. When it’s time to write, you can just write. If you're interested, you can head over to the Freewrite store to learn more.
Ok, so you’ve burned through the previous eleven suggestions. You found one that worked, but it didn’t work the second time. What now?
You have to create a routine.
As I mentioned in tip #6, I follow a strict morning schedule to get myself aligned with the tasks of the day. After journaling and planning my day, I spend 30 minutes on personal development. Today, I learned about copywriting from the legend Gary Bencivenga. I improved my craft and found some inspiration to apply to my writing.
Lastly, that brings us to the granddaddy of them all...
You’ve exhausted every option on this list and have nothing left. Here’s the foolproof way to cure your writer’s block.
It’s this simple.
Just start writing.
You already know this, but evidently, the things that are easy to do are also easy not to do. It starts with one word, then another.
Personally, how did I cure my writer’s block? The root cause of my writer’s block was perfectionism. I expected myself to churn at a Pulitzer worthy 2,000 word article in less than an hour.
Only once I embraced my full inner creativity was I able to write to free myself from the never-ending stuckness of writer’s block.
My only hope is that after reading this tips, you are able to address your underlying cause of why you’re stuck so you can ditch writer’s block forever!