Get Out of Your Own Way: 6 Creative Tips to Crush Writer’s Block

Get Out of Your Own Way: 6 Creative Tips to Crush Writer’s Block

Let’s be honest — being a writer can be torture, right?

You know what you want to write and the goals you have are real, but sometimes life, excuses and your own fear can get in the way of success.

There is no magical unicorn that will make the process any easier, but if you make writing a daily habit where you allow room for mistakes and curiosity, you’re on your way to winning the battle.

How can you make writing be something you don’t dread when you stare at your computer?

1. Let your words be vomit on the computer

You have brilliant sparkling ideas dancing around in your head that you envision in such a glowing, perfect spotlight. You sit down to put human, imperfect words to those fantastical ideas and…barf.

You put barf on the screen.

You know what? That is the BEST place to start.

I enjoy writing the most when I give myself permission to let my words be projectile vomit on the computer screen.

You have an idea in your head right now of what you want to write about, don’t you? It’s so easy to ignore those ideas and convince ourselves they’re just ideas that wouldn’t lead to enough material to write about.

But you don’t know where the ideas will lead if you don’t try to find out. And finding out means a very messy drawing board and permission to majorly junk it up.

Instead of pressuring yourself to find perfection,I take a backseat and see where my writing goes. I write very incomplete, incoherent lists, ideas and images. Sometimes I’m able to go back and polish it up relatively quickly. Other times, I’m not, so I walk away and let it simmer, trying not to stress at the huge pile of incomplete garbage I just created.

The cool thing about ideas is that they evolve from day to day. I’ll be in the shower or driving to work, and the vomit I laid down on my computer soon starts to turn into something more cohesive. Sometimes it matches what was in my head, and sometimes it’s even better if I stay with it.

2. Quit playing the “writer’s block” card

Writer’s block is code for “I’m too intimidated I won’t crank out perfection, so I’ve decided to watch Netflix and eat ice cream instead because I know I won’t fail at that.”

No more. I won’t have it. You can do better.

If you follow step one of not caring that you have vomit on your computer screen, you will not be blocked.

The pressure is gone, and you’re left with you and your ideas, working together happily instead of scowling at the screen, wondering why you just couldn’t be something normal like an accountant.

Writer’s block is saying you’ve put the bar too high, and you’re afraid of not measuring up. Take the bar and put it much lower for the first writing session, so you have permission to simply play with your ideas and words instead of trying to whip them into submission.

What’s CAUSING your writer’s block? Click here to take this 2-minute assessment to discover the underlying cause of your writer’s block, so you can treat the issue and not just the symptom.

3. Put some fire in your belly

Although writing should be an activity you look forward to, it’s not a bad idea to put some pressure on yourself to complete projects.

You have to put deadlines in place or else everything else will always come first like family, friends, work, binge-watching Top Chef — the list goes on.

I don’t have the luxury to be able to write all day, so I give myself an hour.

It cuts out the wiggle room to check Facebook or pet the dogs. The hour is my precious time to get to it without second-guessing myself. I almost never get done what I wanted to, but it leaves me hungry for more the next day, and hungry for writing is what I need to be when the alarm goes off at 5 a.m.

4. Stay organized before your ideas drift away

Part of holding yourself accountable is making sense of and organizing all the ideas bouncing around in your head.

Try using Trello to track your ideas and keep you on a solid, tangible path to completion rather than being overwhelmed by all you want to do. If you’re a visual person who likes to see how much you’re completing, this might really work for you.

And don’t let whispers of ideas get away from you. I jot down everything that zips through my head and go back to it. The other day I wrote “Facebook friends–not really even friends” in my Google docs document. I went back to it later in the week and started fleshing it out and quickly had a very successful blog post on my hands called,  “If I Die Tomorrow, Would My Facebook “Friends” Come to the Funeral?”

I didn’t know exactly where the piece was going, so I just jotted down the messy, imperfect ideas as they came to me, and eventually the ideas turned into solid sentences and new ideas I didn’t have when I started.

It was a thread I kept tugging at that started with an idea I had at my day job, but had I not started with the simple act of jotting down my ideas, the piece wouldn’t have been born because it would have remained trapped in my brain that is easily distracted and pulled.

5. Stop devoting all your time to reading books about being a better writer

It’s so great to learn from people who have more experience that they want to share with you, but constantly reading books on how to be a better writer is yet another excuse to not write.

Writing conferences and networking are important to keep your head in the game, but in order to be a part of that game, you first have to write.

There is no way around simply putting your butt in a chair to write.

6. Don’t wait for the perfect time to start writing

I used to be the master at doing everything under the sun before I would park my procrastinating butt down to write.

I would make excuses like, “I can’t focus on writing if the house isn’t clean.”

The truth is, there will always be something to pull us away from writing if we let it, but at the end of the day, if we do let it, it means we’re not making writing be an important part of our lives. And that means we won’t succeed.

The perfect time to write is right now because you are the only you in this world who will put your spin on ideas. We’re not looking for perfection — just you and your ideas you’ve given permission to dance imperfectly onto the screen.

These steps won’t magically lead you to a land of daily effortless writing. Writing is hard because you care about what you want to say and how you want to reach people. If you didn’t care, it wouldn’t be hard, and you wouldn’t be a writer.

Now, sit that butt down, write some garbage and keep coming back to it with patience and an open mind. Do the same tomorrow and the next day.

Filed Under: Craft


  • I have plenty of “3” and I’m pretty good at number “4” (I use Evernote and a small black book).

    However, getting stuck on “5” makes your fire go out and think that your ideas aren’t good enough.

    Don’t get me started on illness no “6”, that’s why I haven’t posted anything for nearly 6 weeks.

    As you can see, this post resonated with me.

    I need to “get my butt down and write some garbage.”

    Thanks for a much need read!

  • Wendy says:

    Y’know, this stuff is good about general writer’s block, but I often get “fork in the road” writer’s block. Does my character go this way, or that way. Even in NF, it rears up. Right now, I’m working on a book about the Edmund Fitzgerald. One would think that describing the sinking itself would be the easy part, since there are so many accounts of it, but I can’t decide if I should write the actual timeline of the sinking in past tense (like the rest of the book), or present tense (I’m bouncing around among the perspectives of the different boats on the lake that night in order to get a “whole lake” picture). I’m also including accounts of other sinkings to put the Fitz in context, do I clump them all together in their own section of the book, or do I place each sinking closest to its point of relevance to the Fitz?

    • That’s such a good point. Sounds like your writer’s block today deals with getting stuck on not knowing which way to go, so I say go both ways, and allow your brain to even kick out more ways you hadn’t even considered. Fleshing out ideas means giving yourself permission to write really crappy drafts that make no sense. It’s hard as a writer to not know where writing might be going at first, but I say sit down and write with risky commitment to see what comes of it. Even if it gives you one idea, that idea can lead to the next. You don’t have to know all the answers yet, and that sucks because knowing and being in control is what we all prefer. Now go sink that ship!

  • …on that note, I’m back to writing. The dishes will just have to wait.

  • JOHN T SHEA says:

    But I keep adding things to my ‘to do’ list faster than I cross them off! Help!

    • Rebecca says:

      Yep, it means you’re a motivated person who’s not dead. Embrace that loveliness. Having a creative brain means you’re constantly cranking out new ideas and goals. My goal lately is to focus steadily on one thing at a time, so I create quality work over quantity of work.

      • JOHN T SHEA says:

        Thanks, Rebecca! I have a habit of misreading my gifts as curses at times. Quality over quantity indeed. Particularly when I’m tempted to compare with and envy writers who seem to write faster than I can READ, much less write!

  • Writer’s block is such an evil little thing, but sadly we tend to fuel it by repeatedly running away from our work.

    Though this isn’t limited to just writing, I find that a simple to-do list often helps me a lot. It gives me tunnel vision and I get anxious to cross something off the list. It’s a great feeling, overall.

    Simple pleasures often work like a charm 😉

    Take care, Rebecca,

    • Rebecca says:

      It’s so true. Writer’s block is not just limited to writing–it applies to the intimidation of reaching any goal in any category. It’s scary stuff to say we want to do something because there’s a chance we won’t reach it.
      I say embrace the fear, and welcome failure to the table because work and effort always lead to something greater.
      You’ve got this, Elvis!

  • JOHN T SHEA says:

    “5. Stop devoting all your time to reading books about being a better writer”

    Amen! Not to mention articles and websites like…like THE WRITE LIFE…Oh, wait!

    • Rebecca says:

      Ha! Now, now, I didn’t mean to stop reading I catch myself all to often getting sucked into the “learn how to make money blogging!” classes so much that I wasn’t writing. It was like putting the cart before the horse sort of thing if that makes sense.

    • Wendy says:

      Actually, I find that reading about the act of writing is a pretty good antidote to “I can’t seem to find my writer’s get-up-an-go”itis.

      • It’s good to read advice to get us that kick in the pants we all need, but I’ve found myself getting so absorbed by reading it that I devote more time to that than writing, probably because it’s way easier to read advice than to actually take it.

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