Writer and procrastination champion Henneke Duistermaat shares her 27 best tips on how to beat writer’s block. Plus: 3 bonus tips from Smart Blogger’s Editor-in-Chief, Kevin J. Duncan.
Let me guess…
You’re staring at a blank page. Your brain is fried. And you can feel a headache coming on.
You know you should be writing, but…
You can’t do this anymore. Your muse is gone. Your well of inspiration is empty. Finished. Stone-dry.
You’re not just bored or tired. No, no. This is far worse:
You try to stop your mind wandering off. You try to stop being distracted by your long to-do-list. And you try to write, but you feel like everything you do manage to jot down is… well… terrible.
You know you have to keep going, but how? How do you overcome writer’s block and get back into your writing groove?
You need to have some fun.
Not take a break, not go for walk, not get some sleep. All of that is fine and good for a simple case of boredom, but the real cause of writer’s block is you’re holding on too tight.
You need to loosen up and go a little crazy. You need to let the goofy side of you out for a little while and get your creative juices flowing again.
How to Overcome Writer’s Block
Here are 27 refreshingly original ways for overcoming writer’s block (plus 3 bonus tips provided by our editor).
Let’s dive in:
Technique #1. Talk to An Imaginary Friend
Whether you’ve just started a blog and have 10 readers or have been blogging a long while and have 10,000, thinking about them makes writing a post daunting.
So, forget about your readers. Instead, create an imaginary friend.
Your friend is a real fan. He (or she) loves everything you write. He supports everything you do.
Give your imaginary friend a name. Create a little drawing or find a picture of a lookalike. Pin this picture on the wall above your desk.
Instead of writing a blog post, start a conversation with your friend. Or write him a letter. Discuss his dreams and challenges. Help him with whatever he is struggling with.
Be a good friend.
Technique #2. Curse Like a Sailor
Feeling a little frustrated?
Well, let it out.
Before you start writing, curse like a sailor. Get angry. Be emotional.
Write something you’re passionate about. Have a good rant. Don’t worry about going too far.
Good writing isn’t about picking the right words. You need to make your audience feel something. Inspire them.
Writing is emotion.
Sure, you’ll have to edit your first draft. You might even decide to toss it.
It doesn’t matter, though, because the point is to overcome writer’s block, not write the perfect post.
Just remember: you can correct mistakes in a passionate piece of writing, but you can’t add emotions to a flat post. So, let it rip.
Technique #3. Use a Different Writing Tool
Stuck in a creative rut?
Try using a different writing tool.
Switch from Microsoft Word to Google Docs. Or type your post directly into WordPress.
Switch from a serif to a non-serif font. Or try a script font and change your font color to blue. Or my favorite option: Increase your font size.
It seems silly, but it’s amazing how those small changes can cure writer’s block and make writing interesting again.
Technique #4. Take a Short Trip to Overcome Writer’s Block
Missing your family? Got a friend you haven’t seen in a while?
Well, let’s go see them.
Instead, hop on a bus, a train, or a plane that takes you there. Then challenge yourself to write a short story before you arrive.
My advice: leave your iPad or laptop at home. Just bring your mobile phone or a pad of paper.
And don’t stop writing until you arrive.
Technique #5. Chug Some Caffeine
Okay. Okay. I know caffeine isn’t good for you. But sometimes you need something to keep going. Don’t waste your fantastic ideas just because you can’t keep awake.
Try this schedule: Set a kitchen timer for 25 minutes — or use the focus booster. After 25 minutes of concentrated writing, take a break. Stop even if you feel like finishing a paragraph.
Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee. Start your next 25 minutes and drink your cup of coffee.
Green tea fuels my blog posts. What fuels yours?
Technique #6. Stop Writing for Your Readers
To get over writer’s block, sometimes you just have to write something you want to write. It doesn’t matter whether it suits your blog or not.
Just get on with it. Get it off your chest. Why not?
Technique #7. Stop Planning Your Posts
Writing a post outline can speed up your writing project. It’s a proven technique.
But it can also suck the joy out of writing.
When you find yourself bored with a particular piece, stop planning. Write whatever comes into your mind. It may all be gibberish, but somewhere you’ll find a precious idea. A thought you can use to create a full post.
Technique #8. Clear Your Head of Noise
Give your mind time to wander. Get distracted. Embrace serendipity.
Don’t read only blogs about your topic. Don’t just follow industry peers on Twitter. And don’t just read the latest books of thought leaders in your niche.
Go to a random movie. Watch a random channel on TV. Go to a museum. Surprise yourself. Find unexpected metaphor examples.
The creative process is unpredictable, mysterious, and serendipitous. Fuel your creativity by reading outside your niche.
Technique #9. Write at a Different Time
Routine habits can be good for creativity and reducing writer’s block. But what if your writing practice gets associated with lack of inspiration, procrastination, and despair?
Break your habit.
Try writing at a different time. Experiment.
Technique #10. Write at a Different Place
Leaving your desk is a proven cure for creative blocks. If you can, take a break and go traveling. If you can’t travel, just drag yourself away from your desk.
Go to the park. Try your local Starbucks or go to the library. Go somewhere that’s not associated with work.
Day after day, you sit down to write at your desk. Mix things up. Take your iPad and write wherever your feet take you.
Technique #11. Go to a Bookstore
If you’re lucky, your bookstore sells coffee and tea. So, make yourself comfortable, find the shelf with books about your niche, and open up your notepad. (Thank you to Sean d’Souza for this idea.)
Look through the table of contents of each book to find blog post ideas. Write them down in your notepad.
Don’t leave the bookstore until you’ve written down 10 story ideas for new blog posts. And if you’re enjoying yourself, outline one or two posts in your notepad while finishing your cup of coffee.
Don’t read any further than the table of contents. You should write the content of your blog post yourself (of course).
Technique #12. Wash the Dishes to Get over Writer’s Block
Do you get your best ideas in the shower?
Your brain needs to relax before coming up with an insight. Staring at your computer screen might work counterproductive. Trying to force an insight might actually prevent the insight from appearing.
If you don’t want to waste water by showering three times a day, try other routine tasks: Vacuum your room. Fold the laundry. Or wash the dishes. Above all: Relax.
Technique #13. Create Your Own Merry-Go-Round
Done all your household chores? Or just don’t feel like cleaning again?
Try this alternative routine: walk around in circles. Or just pace up and down your room.
Seems silly, I know, but sometimes just the simple act of movement can help you overcome writer’s block. Give it shot.
Technique #14. Shut Down Your Computer
In his book Steal Like an Artist (affiliate link), Austin Kleon describes his digital and his analogue desk. The analogue desk is where his work is born. The digital desk is for editing and publishing.
Come on. Shut down your computer. Get a pen and paper. Or pencils, markers, and index cards. Try free writing. When you free write, you get the feeling that you’re making something. It will inspire you.
Technique #15. Browse Your Photo Albums
Sharing tidbits about yourself is a good way to build up a relationship with your readers.
Browse your photo album to find anecdotes to share, and link these stories to your topic. That’s how I came up with the idea of comparing cycling trips with surviving a content marketing journey.
Remind yourself of who you are. Think about the lessons you’ve learned. Who has inspired your career? How have your travels influenced your thinking?
Technique #16. Stop Worrying About Grammar to Deal with Writer’s Block
Perfectionism can discourage you from writing.
Stop trying to be perfect.
Accept your first draft may be crappy. Just write as fast as you can. Editing can come later.
Technique #17. Goof Around on Facebook, Linkedin, or Instagram
Social media can be a huge time suck. We all know that.
But if you feel stuck and don’t know what to write about, then social media is a rich mine full of precious ideas.
Give yourself half an hour. Interact and ask some questions. Enjoy yourself. Above all, absorb what others are talking about. You’re bound to find a good idea.
Just be sure to set a timer. You don’t want to get lost out there while trying to get rid of writer’s block.
Technique #18. Start in the Middle
You know you need to draw a reader into your post with a fantastic introduction. That’s true. But trying to write the perfect opening can obstruct your writing process.
Leave your introduction for later. Just get going with your post.
Technique #19. Reread Your Glory Posts
You’ve lost your mojo and doubting your writing skills. It happens to all bloggers at some stage.
Remember that post you’ve written a while back? Your best ever post?
Go back and read the post. Word by word. You see how good you are?
That talent didn’t go anywhere. It’s still inside you.
Sometimes we just need a little reminder.
Technique #20. Take a Cigarette Break to Get past Writer’s Block
Whoa. A smoke?
Well, you don’t have to light up. But a cigarette break takes about five minutes. And that’s the perfect time to recharge yourself.
The secret to creative productivity is to take breaks while you’re still in a flow. It helps you to get started again after your break.
If you don’t crave a cigarette every so often, good for you! Just set a timer to take a break.
Don’t spend your break tweeting, liking, and plussing. That’s not truly relaxing.
Spend five minutes staring out of the window. Stand outside on your porch or balcony and listen to the traffic. Or watch the clouds float by. As if you’re a lonely smoker.
Technique #21. Listen to the Rain
What’s the most relaxing sound?
When you take your “cigarette” break to stare out of the window, switch on the sound of rain.
Technique #22. Be a Misfit to Overcome Writer’s Block
Being a blogger isn’t about conforming to the norms.
Don’t feel the pressure to be like your hero bloggers. You have to stand out on the web. You have to be YOU.
Accept you’re a misfit. Just like me. And just like Jon. Just like all other bloggers.
Be yourself. Enjoy yourself. Because your enthusiasm is contagious.
Technique #23. Steal Ideas
Is your wish to be original causing your writer’s block?
Learn how to steal ideas and make them your own. Snatch post ideas from different writers, but don’t copy outright.
Read widely. Mix ideas from scientists and artists. Plunder quote books.
As Austin Kleon says: “All creative work builds on what came before.”
Technique #24. Read Health Magazines to Cure Writer’s Block
I won’t lecture you about keeping fit. You know that.
But health magazines are one of the best sources for headline and blog post inspiration.
For instance, the idea to write 36 Quick Fixes to Jumpstart Lifeless Business Blogs came from the headline Food Fixes for Insomnia.
Technique #25. Reread Your First Ever Blog Post
If you’ve been blogging for six months or more, you’ve written a lot. And you’ve learned a lot.
Don’t wait for inspiration to strike — go back to your first few blog posts.
Find one you can rewrite. Add power words, glean new insights, develop new arguments, and new examples.
Voila. You got a new post.
Technique #26. Create Weird Challenges
Is writing becoming a chore? Fed up with writing how-to posts?
Create new challenges to have some fun. For instance:
- Introduce a new metaphor in your next post. Or set the bar higher by stipulating your metaphor has to some from sports, or movies, or cooking.
- Estimate your average post length and challenge yourself to write a blog post in 20% fewer words.
- Try alliteration. Or rhyming. Or onomatopoeias.
- Start with an unnusual writing prompt.
- Use the power of three. How often can you introduce three of something?
Tickle your brain to make writing fun.
Technique #27. Get Your Inner Critic on Your Side
The difference between good and great bloggers is your inner critic. As Mike Monday says:
“A good producer and a great producer have the same number of ideas — some good, some great. But a great producer will know the difference.”
Your inner critic can help you become a better blogger. So how do you get him on your side?
Start writing a few practice paragraphs. You’re just warming up. Listen to your inner critic to see how you can improve. Write and edit as you go.
Your inner critic doesn’t need to be your enemy. He could be your cure for writer’s block. Make him your friend.
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The Truth About Writer’s Block
Writing is hard work. There’s no doubt about that.
But you can make it even harder by accepting writer’s block.
Don’t become a tortured genius.
Choose to get on with writing.
Experiment. Find out what works for you. Write where and when you like. Be as crazy as you like to be.
Come on. Have fun. Let’s try something wacky.