Writer’s block is one of the most frustrating problems authors face, and it comes along in the worst possible moments. There are several theories on what causes writer’s block, and, luckily, there are several ways you can deal with this problem. In this article, I’ll share 12 proven techniques you can use to overcome writer’s block and get back to creating.
What Causes Writer’s Block?
There are many possible causes for writer’s block, but the most common has to do with stress. When we put too much pressure on ourselves, we can often push ourselves right out of the creativity mindset.
Your creative mind needs room and energy to thrive. It’s easy to get “tunnel vision” on an important task and deprive yourself of the nutrients and self-care your mind and body need. When you do this, you make writing and creating a much more challenging task.
Creativity doesn’t go away. It’s a state of mind that is always under the surface. We simply have to remember how to access it. To get back into your optimal state of creativity, take the pressure off and give yourself the opportunity to tune back into your creative flow.
If writer’s block is a common occurrence for you, I recommend checking out my post on Manifesting Creative Abundance. This article can help you build positive habits that will bring your creativity right to the surface each day.
However, if you are looking for some quick tips to help you get back to writing now, check out these 12 techniques on how to overcome writer’s block immediately.
12 Techniques for Overcoming Writer’s Block
1. Take a break
The first technique is the most obvious, but it’s often the most helpful. Sometimes, a block will show up when we’re just burned out and need a break.
If your body is suffering, your mind cannot create or focus at its best. Try going for a quick walk or doing a few yoga poses to get the blood flowing through your body. Go get a drink of water and even a healthy snack. Once you replenish what your body needs, focus will often become less of a problem.
For further reading on how to take care of your mind and body so you can maximize your creative output, take a look at this article: Self-Care for Creatives: Unlock Your Best Creative Work
2. Give yourself permission to suck.
The second technique for overcoming writer’s block is the one many writers find the most difficult.
Another big reason creative blocks show up in the middle of our work is because we allow ourselves to become stressed or anxious about the outcome. When you pile on the pressure to write the perfect draft, you create stress blocks that make your writing suffer.
If your writing block is stemming from your own drive towards perfection, take a deep breath and give yourself permission to suck. Giving yourself room to create bad writing removes the added pressure and frees you up to get more writing done.
No talented writer starts off with a perfect first draft (or second draft, or third draft). It’s unrealistic to expect perfection from yourself, especially at the beginning of a project. Save your critical mind for the editing phase where it will be the most effective.
3. Come at the problem from a different angle.
If you are having a hard time moving your writing forward, try asking yourself different questions about the subject. Change a few of the details and see what ideas come to you.
You may try writing the scene from a different character’s perspective. Or you could add an obstacle that wasn’t there before and see how it affects the scene. You may not choose to keep the additional writing, but it could spark some new ideas.
For more tips on great questions to ask while you are writing, check out this post:
4. Try mind mapping
Mind mapping is a technique used for brainstorming sessions, where you get all of your ideas out in a giant web of information. This mapping technique is great for getting past writer’s block because it lets you visualize how all the pieces should work together. Mapping can help you find gaps in your writing, and it’s also a brilliant method for working out character traits and dynamics.
To mind map your project, start with your main idea at the center. This can be your main character, your central conflict, your theme, or another important aspect of your writing. Just remember that the main starting idea must be a KNOWN factor.
Then, add related ideas, characteristics, or events as branches coming off of the main idea. These branches should also be known, or mostly known, subcategories or factors.
Finally, add in the deeper details in smaller branches around your subcategories. Take a few moments to analyze your information from a visual standpoint. You may find that you have more ideas or branches in one area than in another. Or you may find that your information web is unbalanced in another way.
Mind mapping will help you recognize where you need to focus your attention and hash out more details. Looking at a visual representation of your writing will also give you a new perspective and possibly bring you a few new ideas.
5. Use an AI tool to get you started.
Personally, I’m not a fan of using AI to do your creative writing for you. Writing has so many personal and professional benefits that you will miss out on if you completely give the task over to a computer. However, AI can be an excellent tool for getting your mental gears turning when you’re feeling stuck.
Use an app like ChatGPT or Jasper to help you brainstorm ideas about your topic or story. The AI tool will give you lots of possibilities that you can use as jumping off points for your creative work. You can even choose a piece of the provided information and ask a new, related question when you want to delve deeper.
The AI tool can help you get over your writing block by giving you several directions to take your writing and providing you with new ideas you may not have considered before.
Take the ideas that interest you most and do some free-writing on those ideas.
Many experts recommend free-writing as an effective way to clear out a writing block.
Instead of focusing so hard on the topic at hand, free-writing gives your mind permission to work on whatever it wants. This practice can also give your subconscious the opportunity to work on the underlying problem while your conscious mind takes a break.
You can choose to use this technique openly by writing whatever comes to your mind at the moment. However, you can also take a more focused approach and give yourself a few parameters to work through a specific topic. Just keep your guidelines loose and don’t set rigid limits on what you produce.
Set a timer, about 10 to 30 minutes, and just let yourself write anything and everything that comes to your mind. Don’t police your work. Just let it flow freely.
The goal is to allow your mind the freedom to get back into a creative flow. You may find that many new ideas jump out at you after this exercise.
7. Give yourself a time limit.
This technique works best when paired with the permission to produce bad writing. Give yourself a time limit to complete a specific section of writing and don’t allow yourself any excuses. Even if you feel your writing is bad, write it anyway. Bad writing will give you more to work with than no writing at all.
Once your time limit is up, take a short break, and then reset the timer and do it again. You can rewrite the same section if you really hated it, or you can move on to the next, but don’t use this time to edit. Editing should be a completely separate block of your writing time.
Some of the most productive people use the Pomodoro technique to get things done that they have been avoiding. This technique works because giving yourself a time limit puts your brain in a new mental state. Time restrictions help you push past the things that were blocking you in favor of just doing something for a short period of time.
This is an effective way to push yourself to get more writing done.
8. Journal through your creative block.
Journaling through your creative block is not quite the same as free-writing. If you find your writing block is coming from stress and the inability to focus on your task, try journaling about the thing that is bothering you.
Journaling has many mental health benefits and can help you free up the mental space you need to be creative again. It can also help you work through the internal problem you are facing and get your thoughts and feelings out in the open.
Even if you don’t have a solution to your problem right away, journaling can give your mind the release it needs to regain focus and clarity on other tasks.
9. Brainstorm with other creative friends.
Some Of my best writing ideas have come to me during wine-nights with my friends. Bringing new people into the mix can introduce some interesting perspectives and spark new ideas. I prefer to do this in person, but a group chat can sometimes have the same effect.
Ask a few creative, non-judgemental friends if they would mind helping you work through your creative block and brainstorm new ideas. Be clear that this is a brainstorming session and that you may or may not use their ideas. Then, ask open-ended questions relating to the topic you are struggling with.
Pay attention to how your group responds and what ideas they get excited about. Be mindful of the ideas that spark your own creativity. Also, pay attention to the ideas you do not get excited about. Sometimes the ideas you dislike can be just as telling as those you are interested in and they can lead you down the right path.
10. Put on some inspiring music.
The best writers understand the importance of putting themselves in the right state of mind to write productively. Many of these writers make themselves musical playlists that help set the mood for whatever they plan to write.
You can also use music to train your brain to focus when it’s “writing time” by listening to the same types of music every time you sit down to create.
Stephen King admits to putting on rock music whenever he writes his books. I prefer smooth, coffee-shop jazz to get my mind in a creative writing state. Check out Ambient Mixer for some inspirational music and sounds, and to create your own writing playlists.
Reading a book or article in a similar genre can help reorient your thoughts towards the project you are working on. I suggest reading a book with similar themes to your writing. I have also found that this works best for me if I have already read the book previously.
When I read, I often mark sections I find inspirational or interesting with a sticky tab so I can return to them when I need a creative spark. However, if annotating isn’t your thing, you can simply return to a book that made you feel creative in the past.
To get the most out of this exercise, read through those stories or articles strategically. Pay attention to what works in the writing and what doesn’t. Ask yourself critical questions about the excerpt and look for ways you can use what you learn to improve your own work.
12. Change your location.
Writing in the same spot day after day helps some people get into a good writing flow. But for others, this lack of variety can feel stifling. If you find yourself uninspired by your surroundings, change your location.
Go outside and write on the porch in the fresh air. Check out a local coffee shop and try a new drink. Take a walk through the woods and sit among the trees.
This technique is especially helpful when you visit a location that exists in your writing. Your surroundings may give your brain fuel for setting up the scene.
Give yourself a few minutes to just observe and appreciate your new surroundings. Focus on the sights, smells, and overall feel of the place. Then get back to work writing and see what new thoughts emerge.
Writing blocks can sneak up on us and can cause intense frustration for creatives. We often facilitate our own creative blocks by bringing stress and pressure into our writing habits.
You don’t have to let writing blocks stop you from producing your best creative work. Take control of your writing process today. Try these twelve techniques to clear up your writing block and get back to creating.
Some of these techniques may feel uncomfortable at first, but I encourage you to give them your best effort, anyway. With practice, you will learn which techniques are most effective in resetting your creative mind. Then, you never have to let creative block stop you again!