6 Reasons You’re Struggling to Overcome Writer’s Block

6 Reasons You’re Struggling to Overcome Writer’s Block

Having writer’s block means something different to every writer. For some, writer’s block is just procrastination. For others, it’s a lack of ideas or inspiration.

What’s true for all writers is that writer’s block can be difficult to overcome.

Difficult, but not impossible.

By identifying the type of writer’s block you’re facing, you’ll be able to take the necessary steps to get unblocked once and for all.

1. You’re facing too much pressure

Maybe you’re turning a molehill into a mountain. If you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders when you sit down to write, it can be hard to get anything on paper.

Be it a deadline, a nagging agent, or a previous success, it’s possible that you feel like David fighting your Goliath of a project.

Solution: Cut yourself some slack.

When you’re facing too much pressure, cut yourself some slack. Although you can’t move a deadline or hide from your agent (well, you can, but you shouldn’t!), you can take breaks.

For the sake of your writing, sometimes you actually have to step away from the keyboard. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking care of yourself, both mentally and physically, is important for staying productive.

Without maintaining the vessel that is the writer, writing is impossible.

2. The stakes aren’t high enough

Alternately, it’s possible that you aren’t facing any pressure, internally or externally.

When you’re unmotivated, writing anything seems like an impossible task.

Solution: Establish motivating factors.

Whether it’s setting a deadline, making a promise to someone, or participating in a challenge like this one through Scribendi, setting up an external motivating factor is sure to cure your writer’s block.

If external motivation doesn’t work, get introspective: what is your goal, whether short or long-term? Big or small? Consider writing it down and posting it nearby as a reminder.

3. You’re being too hard on yourself

Most writers are critical of themselves.

There’s an editor in all of us. We’re afraid to fail, both ourselves and to our readers. In a cycle of self-doubt, it’s difficult to remain creative.

For many writers, writing becomes a chore when they’re too hard on themselves.

Solution: Make something for yourself.

To stop being so hard on yourself, you have to block out thoughts about how your readers might react to your work, and just focus on the writing.

While you’re writing for your readers, you’re also writing for yourself. Try switching projects, starting a new project, or freewriting.

4. You aren’t making writing a priority

When you live a busy life with a long list of things to do (and not a lot of time), it’s easy to lean on writer’s block as an excuse. You might think you’re unable to write because inspiration just hasn’t struck yet.

I have news for you: Inspiration is a myth.

Solution: Force writing into your schedule.

In this busy world, you have to fight for your right to write. Writing should be at the top of your to-do list. By making writing a priority, you lose the excuse of waiting for inspiration to strike.

Writer’s block simply isn’t allowed! You have to sit down and put something on the page.

5. You just don’t have any ideas

Often, writers explain writer’s block as a lack of ideas. Every writer is familiar with the scenario of staring down a blank page and waiting and waiting and . . . nothing. Now what?

Solution: Absorb new information.

If the well has run dry, then you have to drill deeper to uncover new sources of inspiration.

Make sure you’re reading at least as much as you’re writing. Consider attending writing groups, book clubs, or poetry readings. If those aren’t accessible, you can brainstorm in online forums or try a few writing prompts.

6. You’re making writing into a big deal

Writer’s block is such a scary feeling, right? At times, writers make common problems — such as fear of failure and a lack of ideas — into huge problems.

When a problem looks so gigantic, it feels impossible to solve, and it’s easy to give up.

Solution: Write anyway.

In the end, writing is just writing. It’s as simple as putting one word after another. While it is difficult to write well, writer’s block is often an excuse to not write anything at all. When it feels like you can’t write, there’s usually another problem at work. The only way to overcome writer’s block is simply to write anyway.

Break writing into the tiniest, most manageable chunks.

Write three words. Write for seven seconds. Then, work your way up.

You’ll be unblocked in no time.

Which one of these causes of writer’s block sounds most like you?

Filed Under: Craft
Free-Write Fling

Featured resource

Free-Write Fling

Free-writing is a simple method to unleash your words onto the page. This workshop, led by Cynthia Morris, kickstarts your writing habit with daily prompts.

14 comments

  • Great list!

    I’d like to add another that has hit me sometimes: Too MANY ideas vying for attention at once.

    There can often be a fine line between “creativity” and “mania,” but there is one huge difference between the two: “Creativity” focuses attention to bring something into being, while “mania” divides attention and thus prevents anything from reaching completion. It’s the old fable of the starving donkey, positioned equidistant between haystacks and unable to choose one to eat.

    When I start to feel flustered by a surge of ideas, I try to remind myself that I am under no obligation to complete every single one. I believe most creative people can generate more ideas in a month than they could realistically bring to completion in a lifetime. There comes a time to take a step toward one of those haystacks, and forget about the others until you’ve eaten the one you chose.

    When I get into a funk in which there just seem to be more and more haystacks dividing my attention, I go back to doing five-minute daily writing sketches for a while. Besides all the other benefits of daily writing, I find that using a prompt to kick off a brief timed writing exercise breaks the paralysis of being torn between potential projects. For those five minutes, there is only ONE project, and at the end of those five minutes, that project is by definition finished, even if it’s in the middle of a sentence. It reaffirms to me that I can do this; I can turn mania into creativity.

    If I were earning my entire living as a writer, I think I would probably continue to do writing sketches every day, but now that I am an editor, I find that I need them only occasionally, say, for a month at a time a couple of times a year. However, they remain a part of my work because I sell collections of “sketch starters” or writing prompts in my Etsy shop.

    Well, time to head back toward one of the haystacks!

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Writer’s Resources and Freelance Editorial Services
    epiclesisconsulting.etsy.com
    epiclesisconsulting.com

    • Jes D.A. says:

      Hey there, Trish! What a great point about having too many ideas. I found the distinction that you made between creativity and mania fascinating. Writing prompts sound like a great way to solve the problem! Starting a new project is the perfect solution to overcome many kinds of writer’s block. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion!

    • Great point! I found myself juggling 4 projects without settling into one. At some point you just have to focus on one to get something moving towards fruition!

  • Karen Ingle says:

    I have to “fight for the right to write”! Part-time regular job plus family plus starting up my freelance business and meeting those first assignments’ deadlines. . . I am learning to “force writing into [my] schedule.” Thanks, Jes. Your article put words to my struggle.

    • Jes D.A. says:

      It’s definitely not easy to find the time to write these days. We’re all so busy! Of course, writing is what makes a writer a writer, so finding the time to write really is a right, even if it is certainly one we have to fight for! Haha. I’m glad you liked the article, and I wish you the best of luck with making time for writing in your busy life!

  • If you have nothing to say, don’t write.

    Lawyers never have a lawyer’s block.

    • Jes D.A. says:

      Hey Andreas! I think it’s interesting that you point this out because your viewpoint actually coincides with this article perfectly, as I discuss how writer’s block is generally used as a blanket term for different underlying causes of being unable to write.

      I totally agree that the only way that writers are set apart as writers is because they write. However, just as a surgeon might be unable to perform surgery because of exhaustion, a writer might be unable to write because he or she is also exhausted.

      However, a writer could be mentally, physically, or emotionally exhausted, and each of these symptoms requires different diagnoses and treatments. Thanks for your thought-provoking comment!

  • I am blocked for some of the identified reasons, but mostly through recognising that what I am currently writing lacks the vitality of previous work- self belief has evaporated, and each day of effort gives me fresh reasons to evaporate it further. I have taken a long break, broken off to write something else and different, but essentially I am terrified that if I stop, I will never return, and all I am is a writer!

    I have three ongoing works that I really believe should be good and interesting- yet I feel they are not up to the standards I expect of myself, and others expect too. I have never been successful in the numbers game but what I have written was as good as I could make it. That no longer seems the case. A kind of hell.

    • Jes D.A. says:

      Even if the pressure you’re facing is self-inflicted, it’s still very real, and it’s imperative that you give yourself a break. While it’s scary for a write to stop writing, a break doesn’t have to last forever. As aforementioned, it may seem counter-intuitive for a writer to stop writing to increase productivity, but any person in any profession needs a break every once in a while!

      Consider taking a mini-vacation. If you set limits beforehand, like stopping writing for one week only, you’ll feel safe in knowing that your break will come to an end while still taking the time to rejuvenate whatever you need rejuvenated, be it your mind, spirit, or body. I hope that you consider taking time for yourself, and if you do, I hope you come back from your break feeling refreshed and ready to write again!

  • I simply set an insane launch date and hired an editor who, like me, would work 24/7 to make it. We did and it has been a huge success. Such is one of the joys of indie publishing.

    • Jes D.A. says:

      Facing high stakes is definitely a great solution for writer’s block. External motivation, like a tight deadline, can help to meet any goal, including unblocking writer’s block. Congratulations on finding success this way!

  • Andressa Andrade says:

    Hi, Jes!

    First of all: what a GREAT list. I love this! I really do. I feel all of these have been true for me at least once in my career. And your solutions are very good. I think I was struggling with #6 a while ago, but I am just back to writing now, and it feels great. Had I read this post before, I would probably have gone back to work sooner.

    Anyways, I just wanted to say thanks! Thank you for sharing this. I will save this post here for future reference. =)

    • Jes D.A. says:

      Thanks so much for your kind comment! I’m glad you found these problems relatable; I’ve definitely struggled with these, myself. It’s nice to hear that you’re writing again! Happy writing, and take care!

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *