How do you prevent writer's block?

by JaiJay
42 replies
I've been having real problems with this lately. Obviously, everybody needs a break once in a while but with tight deadlines I think I can be too hard on myself. How do you wind-down in order to get back to work with a clearer head?
#block #prevent #writer
  • Profile picture of the author jenness
    I'm not a paid writer but if I had a case of writer's block, I'd go to nearby places of interest that meant a lot to me. For me that'd be a nearby park/pond around the time the sun sets, or to a bridge to see the lights at night. Or just go really high up somewhere, like the top of a really tall building. Look around, take in the sights... Something must inspire you then.
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    • Profile picture of the author businessmatt
      I just have to drop whatever it is I'm trying to work on for awhile. I know it's hard to do with deadlines, but if I just try and forget about it for a few hours, or maybe even a day or two, and then pick it up again, I can usually pick it up again.

      Matt
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      • Profile picture of the author webwriter
        I take a little break and have a cup of tea for about a half hour or so. Then I'll go back to work.

        From my experience as a freelance journalist, I have learned not to keep working on something like a statement or paragraph in my article if I have to revise it over and over and over. That is just a waste of time. I remember wasting a whole afternoon and evening revising a paragraph, which was futile. I should have put the work away, watched some TV, or read a good novel and went to bed.

        I still made every deadline.

        My point is this: if your article or whatever isn't coming together as you expected it to, don't waste time revising it. Take a break or rest of the day and work on it tomorrow. I can almost guarantee that it will be smoother sailing when you work on it again.

        Good luck!
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  • Profile picture of the author JaiJay
    Those are some good tips, thank you.

    My problem is that I need to learn when to stop. I think I worry about missing a deadline, although I never do...but what if I did?! I know it's silly, it's just hard to walk away when I know it will still be there when I get back. Maybe I need a new hobby other than the gym.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    Here are a few ideas...

    Review and Renew

    When I'm stuck, one quick practice that gets me going is to start rereading my research material or what I've already written. This exercise stimulates a lot of thought avenues, including many new thoughts. I write those new thoughts down and before I realize it, I've written hundreds or even thousands of words long before I finish reading my material.

    When I do this, sometimes it's not new thoughts that get me going, but I see items to expand on that need more discussion, or I find a better way to express something I've already written. It's all good; it all serves to get the fingers tapping on the keyboard, and before long I'm being highly productive.

    Rock On

    Play some favorite music. The ebb and flow of the music can carry you from your analytical nature into your creative nature where you want to be when you're writing.

    Writing often has a rhythm to it, too, and the rhythm of the music can help you find a writing rhythm.

    Be careful about the music you choose though. Positive music that lifts up the human spirit is good for writing; but music filled with dark, depressing, or evil thoughts can do more damage than good. Instrumentals are the safest bet because there are no opinions to affect your frame of mind, only the music.

    Instant Karma

    This is my favorite block busting method because it's so deceptively simple it's almost laughable. Don't laugh though, because it works like a charm. Just complete this three-step exercise:

    1. Write one word about your subject.
    2. Use that word in a sentence.
    3. Use that sentence in a paragraph.

    If you've done that, you've started writing, and on topic, too. It may not be great, but don't fix it now. Repeat the process and keep writing. Your writer's block is broken.

    An Imaginary Friend

    Instead of writing to your computer screen or notebook, write as though you're telling a friend something in person. Just write down what you would say aloud if your friend was sitting there with you. Sometimes the personal approach can tear down the walls of blockage.

    You can even imagine the friend asking you questions and you answering them. Your friend can be someone you know and respect, someone you wish you knew, someone completely imaginary, or even your higher self.

    This can also be a great way to get new ideas to write about within your topic. You should pick a friend that will ask intelligent questions though. Having your goofy uncle Nevermind ask you what color blue is probably won't do a lot toward breaking writer's block.
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    • Profile picture of the author Scott Henderson
      Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post


      An Imaginary Friend

      Instead of writing to your computer screen or notebook, write as though you're telling a friend something in person. Just write down what you would say aloud if your friend was sitting there with you. Sometimes the personal approach can tear down the walls of blockage.

      You can even imagine the friend asking you questions and you answering them. Your friend can be someone you know and respect, someone you wish you knew, someone completely imaginary, or even your higher self.

      This can also be a great way to get new ideas to write about within your topic. You should pick a friend that will ask intelligent questions though. Having your goofy uncle Nevermind ask you what color blue is probably won't do a lot toward breaking writer's block.
      I like this idea and will try it out when the need arises. Thanks for the post Dennis!!

      For me stepping away from the computer for 30 minutes to an hour works best.

      Engage in an activity that stimulates the whole body, my favorite is cycling but any activity will work. Through the process of cycling or taking a walk, blood flow is increased along with oxygen intake, both which are providing physical stimulation to the brain, in other words "clearing your head". As an added side benefit you may loose some weight!
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    • Profile picture of the author RDJLabs
      Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

      Here are a few ideas...

      Review and Renew

      When I'm stuck, one quick practice that gets me going is to start rereading my research material or what I've already written. This exercise stimulates a lot of thought avenues, including many new thoughts. I write those new thoughts down and before I realize it, I've written hundreds or even thousands of words long before I finish reading my material.

      When I do this, sometimes it's not new thoughts that get me going, but I see items to expand on that need more discussion, or I find a better way to express something I've already written. It's all good; it all serves to get the fingers tapping on the keyboard, and before long I'm being highly productive.

      Rock On

      Play some favorite music. The ebb and flow of the music can carry you from your analytical nature into your creative nature where you want to be when you're writing.

      Writing often has a rhythm to it, too, and the rhythm of the music can help you find a writing rhythm.

      Be careful about the music you choose though. Positive music that lifts up the human spirit is good for writing; but music filled with dark, depressing, or evil thoughts can do more damage than good. Instrumentals are the safest bet because there are no opinions to affect your frame of mind, only the music.

      Instant Karma

      This is my favorite block busting method because it's so deceptively simple it's almost laughable. Don't laugh though, because it works like a charm. Just complete this three-step exercise:

      1. Write one word about your subject.
      2. Use that word in a sentence.
      3. Use that sentence in a paragraph.

      If you've done that, you've started writing, and on topic, too. It may not be great, but don't fix it now. Repeat the process and keep writing. Your writer's block is broken.

      An Imaginary Friend

      Instead of writing to your computer screen or notebook, write as though you're telling a friend something in person. Just write down what you would say aloud if your friend was sitting there with you. Sometimes the personal approach can tear down the walls of blockage.

      You can even imagine the friend asking you questions and you answering them. Your friend can be someone you know and respect, someone you wish you knew, someone completely imaginary, or even your higher self.

      This can also be a great way to get new ideas to write about within your topic. You should pick a friend that will ask intelligent questions though. Having your goofy uncle Nevermind ask you what color blue is probably won't do a lot toward breaking writer's block.
      I like the ideas listed specially the imaginary friend. Really works.. I just tried it when I was writing and got blocked..
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve Baker
    When I need inspiration, I go down to the beach on an incoming tide and sit at a picnic table & stare out into the ocean for a while.

    I find the energy of the water coming in gives me a big energy boost and my creative juices start flowing and so does the copy.

    I've written numerous sales letters this way and come up with ideas I didn't even know I knew.

    Works for me.
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  • Profile picture of the author JaiJay
    The "Imaginary friend" thing is something I already do, and completely naturally. I was sat in Starbucks with a friend one day happy chatting away to myself under my breath and until it was pointed out, I had NO idea I was doing it!

    I so wish I had a beach near me. I'm going to have to take my laptop away on holiday with me, I bet I'll write the best work I have ever done while I am supposed to be relaxing, typical.
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    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by JaiJay View Post

      I so wish I had a beach near me. I'm going to have to take my laptop away on holiday with me, I bet I'll write the best work I have ever done while I am supposed to be relaxing, typical.
      Steve was right on, and I almost mentioned the same tactic in my original post. It doesn't have to be a beach though, since you don't have one near you. Just getting out into nature will perform the same magic. I live two blocks from a river, so I can go sit on the river bank. You could also take a walk in the woods, visit a garden center and marvel at the variety and beauty of the plant collection, etc.

      If you can't visit nature in person for some reason, I've also found browsing NASA images online of galaxies, nebula, and other space phenomena to be inspirational, especially those from the Hubble Space Telescope.

      You can also view mountains, coastlines, microscopic photography, and just about any place on earth right from your computer. It's all good.
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      • Profile picture of the author JaiJay
        Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

        You could also take a walk in the woods, visit a garden center and marvel at the variety and beauty of the plant collection, etc.
        Great idea! I do have a garden centre just around the corner, now that I have a garden I have more of an interest in outdoor plants. It also has an aquatics store next door so I might pop in there and check out their latest stock sometime.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mega B
    Always take a break this could be by going out for a walk doing something else you like doing and you should find it will start flowing again that what i tend to do anyway.Good luck
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  • Profile picture of the author JaiJay
    Thank you, I think I will need to physically leave the house as having my laptop sat right there will be all too tempting to go back to.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mega B
    Roughly how much writing do you do a day i take it you do it fulltime ???
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  • Profile picture of the author JaiJay
    I write alongside my regular job but I can do up to 5 hours in one go usually, take a small break for a drink and then begin again. My issue is just "allowing" myself to walk away and not feel guilty. I know it's silly but I'm going to try some of the advice above.
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  • Profile picture of the author antiquenh
    I prevent writer's block by taking a break and having coffee and wait for new ideas to roll in.
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  • Profile picture of the author MarketingGuru123
    All I need is a good working environment which is not very relaxing because when you relax your mind goes on strike
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  • Profile picture of the author JaiJay
    I know what you mean, I usually find myself getting too comfortable and spending half my time readjusting my seat and shifting around.
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  • Profile picture of the author Sam Mlambo
    There are many good strategies in this thread. I suggest getting your mind off your project and allowing your subconcious to come up with ideas. Those are the ideas that suddenly come into your mind randomly.

    Get your mind off your project by doing something else you enjoy. For example I like to play basketball. So when I'm having trouble coming up with ideas. I just pick up my basketball and start dribbling around. After a few minutes of doing that I get all sorts of ideas to take action with!

    Hope that helps

    - Sam
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  • Profile picture of the author RDJLabs
    When I get writer's block, I just go away from keyboard, take a fresh water and smoke.. I don't rush things.. << That's the key
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  • Profile picture of the author Trey Walter
    I usually just decide to finish the article as soon as I start writing. Works for me most of the time.

    If you stay concentrated and believe in your abilities, the chance of having a writer's block drops significantly.
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  • Profile picture of the author JaiJay
    Thank you everyone, some of these tips have really helped! Normally beforehand, if I were to take a break it would be for 10 minutes watching TV on the sofa. Now, I pop out to the gym for an hour, have a nice shower and then can begin work again feeling refreshed. It seems to be working for me an awful lot better
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  • Profile picture of the author Marketstriker
    Hold on may be these tips will be useful for you too. I write articles from time to time for m site. That's what helps me to overcome writer's block.
    1) I get my materials ready.
    2) I write down all details for my story before sitting down to write the actual story.
    3) I write down words that can help me remember ideas about my story, such as clever Harry, life mission, the way to success. When keep writing these words down, I can come up with so many more than I thought possible.
    4) I recommend not to stop writing when you've finished a section. It is much easier to pick up again if there is some raw material there for the next bit.
    5) I write my first draft in a notebook. When I want to edit and I'm not sure what to do next, I look back in my notebook for the first idea. If I like it, I keep it.
    6) When I'm really stuck, I try free writing.
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    • Profile picture of the author JaiJay
      Originally Posted by Marketstriker View Post

      6) When I'm really stuck, I try free writing.
      Hello MarketStriker, what is it that you mean by free writing? Do you just mean without any pre-written prompts?
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  • Profile picture of the author karlhadwen
    I'm the same, I find it hard to do a blog post on time just because I have writer's block.
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  • Profile picture of the author JaiJay
    It seems that some of these really do work. Although walking away from my laptop for an hour is not only relaxing, I find I actually get lots of other things done instead, like my housework and boring things like ironing. But I still come back to writing with a clearer head.
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  • Profile picture of the author MarkAse
    One thing which generally energizes me is to be part of my niche in a more real way. Last week I spent a couple of days in Napa meeting with winemakers. It has energized me to truly get back to work and spend the time and effort to get my site to the top of the SERPS.
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  • Profile picture of the author JaiJay
    Mark, that's a very logical but great tip. In writing years I guess I am fairly new and have a few small niches that I work within mainly, but perhaps I need to fine tune this a little more?
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  • Profile picture of the author Pat Blank
    Good tips, here's another. I learned this back in college from a total stranger at the same table who was pissed off that I was fussing so much. Works for me:

    deliberately try to write something bad.
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  • Profile picture of the author GaryJBloomer
    Dear JaiJay,

    The best way to prevent or cure writer's block is to read. As you read, keep a note pad handy and scribble down thoughts as they come to you while you're reading. I hope this helps.

    --GaryB.
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    • Profile picture of the author JaiJay
      Originally Posted by GaryJBloomer View Post

      Dear JaiJay,

      The best way to prevent or cure writer's block is to read. As you read, keep a note pad handy and scribble down thoughts as they come to you while you're reading. I hope this helps.

      --GaryB.
      Thank you. I do something similar to this where I use Notepad on my laptop and jot down very short notes and sometimes even singular words. Then I try to make a full sentence out of them and off I go. These tips have really been helping me guys, thank you all.
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  • Profile picture of the author istok
    Watch "Californication". At least three episodes in a row.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jazzy Nan
    Many great ideas here. Try several to see what works -- we are all unique individuals.

    One thing that definitely helps me is to get moving. Often I go for a long walk in my favorite park, and as I move the ideas flow.

    I also work on several projects at once, so if I go stale on one, I jump to another.

    Music sometimes helps to change my energy, although for me I need mostly silence or very mellow background music (new age-ish stuff) so that I'm not distracted.

    I also like to carry a little notebook with me to capture ideas that may come at random times when I'm not at the computer. They key to that is makeing time to transcribe or otherwise re-format them to be easily accessed.

    Another thing that really energizes me is to get out an be with people -- very stimulating, especially as we who do what we do here are often alone with our computers most of the time. I get more great ideas talking with and listening to others.

    N.
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    • Profile picture of the author LightworkerCoach
      There really are laods of great ideas here,a nd I've tried most of them at different times, and they work.

      Originally Posted by Jazzy Nan View Post

      Many great ideas here. Try several to see what works -- we are all unique individuals.

      One thing that definitely helps me is to get moving. Often I go for a long walk in my favorite park, and as I move the ideas flow.
      One thing I'd like to add. Walking not only gives you a change of perspective, a different set of stimuli and time to mentally wind down and re-group, but energetically, it also allows any build up of negative or unhelpful energy to be released through the feet chakras. For this reason alone, I find if I get "stuck" with anything, what really helps is a three step process;
      1 - Revisit my initial task or project objectives
      2 - Get my feet walking, preferably in nature somewhere
      3 - Come back to the task without the build up of self defeating self talk.

      Good luck with it
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  • Profile picture of the author duncanb
    I believe there is no set way,

    Everyone must overcome writers block in their own time and in their own ways.

    Writers block can come due to various reasons, therfor, there is no set way to fix it as such!
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  • Profile picture of the author affilorama-portal
    Originally Posted by DesmondTan

    seriously the best way is to just take a break ... there is only so much a human brain can take
    I agree . . . really, totally, unequivocably agree!!!

    Go to the movies, go to the beach, go to your favorite restaurant, go to wherever and get as far away as possible from your pen and paper, computer, typewriter, or whatever it is that you use to write. Or better yet, go to sleep.
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  • Profile picture of the author wizozz
    Originally Posted by JaiJay View Post

    I've been having real problems with this lately. Obviously, everybody needs a break once in a while but with tight deadlines I think I can be too hard on myself. How do you wind-down in order to get back to work with a clearer head?
    Just write whatever comes to your mind without judging, editing, correcting spelling or grammar mistakes, or planning anything. Just write, as fast as you can, to put everything on your mind on paper.

    It might as well look something like this:

    I'm just staring at the blank page without knowing what to write... I know I should complete this writing assignment, but all I can think of right now is this huge fight I had with my friend yesterday, and the bad economy news on the tv...

    once you start writing, even gibberish or silly things, two things will happen:

    Because you have put what's in your head down to paper, your head will clear. Now you have something to work on, you do not need to think the same things over and over again. You can always come back later to read what you have written, analyze it, make decisions and act on them accordingly.

    Second, because you have just started writing, you'll build a momentum for writing, and you'll get started about writing what you need to write (that book, that frrelance writing assignment, that article) soon enough and it will not take as much effort as the blank page...
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  • Profile picture of the author kellyryan028
    Put it down and walk away from it. Relax. Take a walk, run, sit outside for a bit, yoga or meditation.

    Also, take in some nature; focus on the living things outdoors. This can be peaceful and bring you some inner peace.
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  • Profile picture of the author f4ll3rs
    For me, I usually take a walk. I'll only take my iPod with me and then walk. Walk until my head is clear. Leave your phones at home. Just listen to some music and have a good nice walk. Usually I'll be home with a clearer head.
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  • Profile picture of the author YourProfessional
    Due to the fact that I write a lot of tedious, repetive articles for people, I sometimes find myself blank.

    I try to create exciting, captivating articles for readers, even if it is a mundane topic. I can almost notice the change in my attitude when I start getting the block. When this happens, I get off the computer and go do something.

    I will either go swim with my family, or watch a quick episode of Stargate (it's my new obsession, lol!) or read a book for a chapter or two. I then come back focused and revitalized. Works like a charm.
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  • Profile picture of the author AndrewCavanagh
    I've been writing professionally since I was 15. I'm now 45.

    That's a LOT of writing. Including books (fiction and non-fiction), articles (I was a syndicated health columnist and I wrote articles in various styles for many different magazines), sales letters online and offline, ads, reports, information products etc etc etc.

    And at the risk of being immodest the quality of my writing is quite high.

    These 2 secrets may surprise or even shock you but I guarantee 100% that they work and they work for everyone - even the lousiest writer in the world with the worst case of writer's block in history.



    Secret 1 to writing:

    This will sound bad I know but stick with me here...

    Take the attitude you're going to write ANY OLD CRAP on the subject that you can come up with.

    Whatever you think of - just write it down.

    Any old nonsense - GREAT. Just put it on paper (or onto your screen).

    A pile of steaming crap no one would ever read?

    Not your problem - just write it anyway.

    Just fill up pages and pages with any old crap and keep writing straight off the top of your head for as long as you can.

    Stop thinking about it and just do it.


    Now if you follow secret no 1 you're going to be surprised.

    The biggest mistake most writers make is that they confuse the creative process with the critical process.

    When you're setting out to write something you're in the creative process.

    I've written full books in 7 days.

    But that can't happen if you're constantly worrying about how good, bad or accurate what you're writing is.

    You're in the creative process.

    Let your creative side come out by disengaging your critical process.

    If I'm writing any old crap then my critical side has no work to do. I know it's crap already.

    After years of writing I began to notice "any old crap" is often pretty good.

    I was using sections and pages of non-fiction writing I'd done off the top of my head over and over in other products, articles etc.

    That's the first bonus.

    A lot of that "any old crap" writing is good! Really good!!

    But you might say "What if it's not good? What if any old crap really is crap?!"

    And that leads us to secret no 2 - the biggest secret of great writing.



    Secret # 2 - Great writing is all about REWRITING.

    Once you have something to work with it's really easy to work it over and polish it so it shines.

    It is far easier to add to a piece of writing you've already done.

    It's far easier to edit writing you've already done so it flows better.

    You can even hire an editor to rewrite it for you.

    But it's very hard to look at a blank screen and write something brilliant from scratch.

    So write any old crap then rewrite it till it sparkles.

    Easy.

    Kindest regards,
    Andrew Cavanagh
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  • Profile picture of the author Heart Cardio
    I carry a notebook with me at all times and write down ideas that I have. This way I never forget about what came to me and I always have a list of thoughts and ideas to go off of. It does work for me, and I never have writer's block.
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