Writing Craft

Is writer’s block your menacing thorn?

Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.

H. Jackson Brown Jr., author

As writers we are festooned in an imaginative world in our heads. The words and phrases continue to flow like a river gurgling beyond a wooded area. We hear the bubbling, the language of the water, and as we inch closer to it, following its melody through the woods, its sound welcomes us into its quiet realm.

There we pause. We might close our eyes, inhale the scents around us, and just…listen. Creation has a calming effect on our nerves.

Our minds as writers are like that river. Our thoughts are constantly moving, creating scenes and characters and made-up words. When we finally write them down, we catch our breath and ease into a calm throughout our body.

And then one day the river seemingly dries up. There is no more gurgling, no more creative colors running through our minds. Days, weeks, months race along, and we have yet to pen one new, inspiring phrase.

Does writer’s block truly exist?

It depends on whom you ask.

Writer’s block and its psychological effects

The idea of writer’s block is, to me, psychological. Sometimes it is a nagging pain in my side, telling me I’m stumped on a particular scene. If I choose to dwell on it, convince myself my mind has been officially blocked from being creative, then yes, writer’s block could get the better of me.

But as a professional writer, I choose not to believe that writer’s block exists. And for me, it never has.

It is a mental and psychological exercise. We find ourselves hitting our heads against the proverbial wall of doubt or emptiness, completely devoid of inspiration, and suddenly we tell ourselves we have writer’s block and really what were we thinking that we could write this particular piece?


Writer’s block is really a front for perfectionism, something not one of us will ever achieve because we are all imperfect humans.

Ways to combat the illusive writer’s block

To combat the writer’s block you’ve somehow convinced yourself you have in your arsenal, here are a few things to get you over that mountain and back in front of that river.

(1) Go for a walk. Get some fresh air. Breathe in the scents of the woods, the flowers, the dirt. Allow creation around you to inspire you.

(2) Dig in the dirt. With your bare hands. Get into the garden and plant something. It has been noted that dirt on your bare hands offers vitamins and other nutrients your body needs. And gardening has an amazing effect on our emotional health.

(3) Read something. Or watch a movie. Don’t study it, just read or watch. Keep a notebook and pen nearby because something you read or see might spark an idea.

(4) Write anything. The cursor on your screen (or blank page in your notebook) begs you to write. Don’t think, don’t translate or edit your thoughts before writing, just write, even if it’s a sentence that doesn’t even make sense. Writing is about the art, editing is about making it sound coherent.

Writer’s block is really a front for perfectionism, something not one of us will ever achieve because we are all imperfect humans.

(5) Skip ahead (or move backward) in your writing. Stumped on a scene? Write a different one. Cut and paste was invented for this reason.

(6) Write a poem. If you’re writing a novel and you “aren’t feeling it,” write a poem instead. Again, the idea is to keep being creative.

(7) Study a photograph (such as the swan below) and write whatever comes to mind. Or read through a book of writing prompts that might give you some inspiration.

Why we get stuck

Sometimes we get stuck because we are too hard on ourselves. We raise the bar on our own expectations and then we can’t reach them. Or we’ve been immersed in the same story or poem for far too many weeks and the words are running together.

This is why we need to think differently. Write something different. Do something different. Get out in nature, away from your desk to get to know yourself again.

Writer’s block will never exist if you don’t invite it to sit next to you.

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