How To Overcome Writer’s Block (20 Tricks That Really Work)

When it comes to writer’s block, you don’t want to play around. You want to deliver a knock-out punch.

Here’s how to overcome writer’s block:

You overcome writer’s block with the Writer’s Block Destroyer System. In this system, you identify the specific type of writer’s block, apply the customized solution for your specific type of writer’s block, and test the effect. If needed, you apply 20 alternative strategies and retest.

In this article, you’ll learn my foolproof system for overcoming writer’s block.

If you follow the steps, I can virtually guarantee that you will never have to worry about writer’s block again.

What Is Writer’s Block?

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Man struggling to write—How To Overcome Writer's Block
Image by the author via Canva—How To Overcome Writer’s Block

Anyone who has ever tried to be creative knows that it is not always easy.

For some, the blank page (or canvas, or whatever) can be so intimidating that it’s hard to even get started. This is often referred to as “creative block” or “resistance.”

To put it simply, writer’s block is the inability to write.

It can strike at any time, whether you’re a professional artist or just trying to doodle a bit in your spare time.

Writer’s Block Symptoms

The symptoms of writer’s block include:

  • Not writing
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Stress
  • Extreme expectations
  • Unreaslistic standards
  • Severe self-criticism
  • Lack of overall creativity
  • Decreased motivation
  • Tiredness
  • Apathy
  • Insecurity
  • Second-guessing yourself
  • Indecisiveness

What Causes Writer’s Block?

There are a number of different theories on the subject.

Common causes of writer’s block:

  • Fear
  • Paralysis
  • Procrastination
  • Unprocessed emotion
  • Confusion
  • Bad timing

Some say that it’s simply a matter of fear: we’re afraid of not being good enough, or of not living up to our own standards.

Others believe that it’s a form of self-sabotage, an unconscious way of protecting ourselves from failure. Your resistance might stem from a habit of procrastination, lack of motivation, or lack of clarity.

Whatever the cause, creative block can be a very real and very frustrating experience.

The good news is that there are ways to overcome it.

How To Overcome Writer’s Block: The Complete System

Right here at the beginning, I want to go over the complete Writer’s Block Destroyer System.

Here is the system:

  1. Identify the Type of Writer’s Block (Hint: There are at least 6 different types)
  2. Apply the Correct Solution
  3. Test the Effect
  4. Apply 20 Alternate Strategies
  5. Re-test

Each step in the process is incredibly important.

If you skip a step, you might end up unintentionally lumping new resistance on top of your existing writer’s block.

Nobody’s want’s that.

Step 1: Identify The Type of Writer’s Block

When you want to know how to overcome writer’s block, the first thing you need to know is the type of writer’s block.

For a long time, I thought there was only ONE type of writer’s block.

After all, we don’t say “writer’s blocks” (plural)—mostly because it sounds really weird. But what if I told you that there were more than one type of writer’s block?

What if not everyone experienced the exact same type of block? What if not every block you experienced was the same?

There are 6 main types of writer’s block:

  • No ideas
  • Too many ideas
  • Character Confusion
  • What Happens Next
  • Emotional Blockage
  • Pain Point

Let’s quickly deconstruct these 6 types of blocks.

Identifying the correct type of block is the first step in the system. If you don’t know what type of resistance you’re facing, then you might be trying to fix the wrong problem.

Usually, in vain.

As you read about each of the six types of writer’s block, see if you can remember times when you might have experienced them.

I know I have.

No Ideas 

One of the two most common types of writer’s block is not having any ideas.

It can be paralyzing, but it need not be for long. This usually happens when a writer is trying to come up with a story or article to write. It’s when you struggle to grasp even the first thread of creativity.

The writer stares into space, groping for something, anything that might produce a strong, workable idea.

Too Many Ideas

The other most common type, this block is the opposite of the first block. In this form of resistence, a writer is overwhelmed with story ideas.

They have too many options and succumb to selection paralysis.

They ask themselves, “What idea should I choose? I like all 200 of them!”

Character Confusion

Sometimes writers get blocked in the middle of a story.

This can happen for a variety of reasons, but one common reason is that the writer loses track of the essence of the character.

They don’t know how a character will react to specific story events. 

What Happens Next?

A related block is not knowing how the story itself will proceed. This is the “What happens next?” block.

A nonfiction or fiction writer can face this form of resistance.

Even a blogger might not know how to extend a 500-word article into a 1,500-word blog post.

Emotional Blockage

All too often, there is an emotional reason behind the block.

The reason, while possibly related to the story, usually involves non-story events, experiences, and people. The writer is blocked due to unresolved emotions in their personal life.

I actually think this is the most common form of writer’s block.

 Pain Point

Sometimes the subject matter or plot point in the story is so personal that he writer cannot go on.

This could be related to a broken relationship, death, violence, loss, or something altogether different. The main focus of this type of block is that the writer connects on a deep level with the pain of the story.

The pain prevents the writer from moving forward with the story or piece of content.

Step 2: Apply the Correct Solution

Now that you have identified the type of writer’s block, it’s time to apply the solution.

“I don’t have writer’s block. I have writer’s hurdles and I jump them every time I sit down at the keyboard.”—Christopher Kokoski

There are specific, effective responses to each different type.

No Ideas

The truth is, you probably do have an idea. Lots of them. You just don’t know it.

Here are a few things you can try. Read the back cover blurbs of 20 published novels or nonfiction books. You can go to the library, a bookstore, or just browse Amazon.com.

Brainstorm how you could combine any two or three of those ideas, or take a different slant on them:

  • Twilight and Bourne Identity
  • The Longest Ride and Harry Potter
  • A biography of Leonardo DaVinci and The Rock

Next, write down five of your strongest beliefs about life (i.e., people are good, love always prevails, etc) and five things that you hate (i.e. violence against animals, abuse of children, diseases, etc).

Now, consider a character or perspective who believed the very opposite of you.

What kind of character would that be? How did they come to hold those polar opposite views? Ask, “What if?” What if a kid wanted to kidnap his parents and was right? What if your boyfriend was a serial killer? What if zombies were super-intelligent?

Too Many Ideas

The problem here is with prioritizing your ideas.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which story or idea do I feel strongest about?
  • Which story or idea has the most commercial appeal?
  • Which story lends itself to the most conflict, drama, or character change?
  • Which story or idea can be easily summed up in a sentence or two?

Also, poll friends and family or your social media followers on which idea sounds best. Get feedback and then go with your gut.

Character Confusion

This type of writer’s block usually impacts fiction authors (novels, short stories, screenplays, or fanfiction).

The solution is to go back to the basics of character creation.

What is the character’s biggest goal? Biggest fear? How have they reacted to previous story events? What is their internal conflict that relates to the external story conflict?

What can they do to resolve both conflicts?

What would any other person do? Look at their experiences, backstory, and personality. What is the next logical step or action? Or, conversely, what would make things worse?

Have the character do that. It’s probably more interesting.

What Happens Next?

Go back to the basics of story or idea creation.

For nonfiction, ask yourself:

  • What is the question I’m wanting to answer?
  • What’s another context? (Different price, different season, different speed, different use case?)
  • What else does the reader want to know?
  • What else does the reason need to know?
  • When does XYZ happen?
  • Where does XYZ happen?
  • Why does XYZ happen?

For fiction, ask yourself:

  • What is the main conflict?
  • What is the main goal?
  • What options haven’t the characters tried to resolve the conflict or solve the goal?
  • What has the antagonist been up to?
  • Have they been passive or actively working against the protagonist(s).
  • What could they do next to stop, hinder, or destroy the protagonists?
  • What bad thing could happen?
  • What could go terribly wrong?
  • What could be even worse?

Ask and answer these types of questions and you will likely be on your way to happy writing.

Emotional Blockage

First, identify the emotion that is blocking you.

Do an emotional scan of your body, especially for anger, anxiety, and sadness (or depression). These three feelings often challenge people in general.

Once identified, embrace and express the feeling in healthy ways.

Talk to someone, meditate, pray. The key is awareness and compassionate expression. Once the emotion is naturally released, you will often be able to write.

Pain Point

Usually, this block begins to dissolves as soon as you acknowledge the pain. Then, it’s all about choosing to process and push through the discomfort so you write.

One note: most great stories and pieces of content feel uncomfortable to write.

The discomfort is a good sign that you are delving into the depths of the theme and character change. If you discover any unresolved pain from the past, try the emotional blockage solutions.

Step 3: Test the Effect

You know the solution worked when you can get back to writing.

You typically feel better, lighter, and more relaxed. Other times, you might feel excited to get back to the story, essay, or blog post. You might have intense motivation.

The litmus test is, Can you write?

If you find that you still feel blocked, it’s time to throw one of the next 20 strategies at your creative resistence.

Step 4: Try 20 Alternate Strategies To Overcome Writer’s Block

How to overcome writer’s block?

Here are a collection of other solutions you can use to dissolve writer’s block forever. Experiment with them. See which ones work best for you or for the particular block you are currently facing.

Check out these 20 alternate writer’s block cures:

  1. Move your body—Science is clear that changing our body changes our mood. Go for a walk, do yoga, lift weights, dand ance.
  2. Get creative—Try sketching the next scene for your story, article, or essay.
  3. Skip the scene—Write a later scene or section and come back to the current one later.
  4. Write about the block—Write anything. Just get your pen, pencil, or keyboard fingers moving.
  5. Roleplay—Act out the scene. Be all the characters. 
  6. Get silly—Be goofy. Get into a kid’s frame of mind. They are creative geniuses. 
  7. Get bored—Boredom is another scientifically-based method of triggering genius-level creativity.
  8. Get happy—Research shows that happiness is the breeding group of insight and innovation.
  9. Write in a blue room—The color blue is associated with a playful, creative mind.
  10. Make a mess—Studies have concluded that people who work in a messy environment come up with more creative ideas.
  11. Relax and don’t rush yourself—Trying to will yourself into creativity often backfires brilliantly.
  12. Surround yourself with inspiration—Put up pictures. Talk to fascinating people.
  13. Use the copy and paste method—Manually re-write your favorite poem, long quote, or page from a novel (just don’t publish it).
  14. Read about something random—Fill your mind with lots of possible connection points. Your creative brain can merge dissperate ideas into something fresh and exciting.
  15. Challenge your brain—Work on a puzzle. Write something hard. Give yourself a challenge that wakes up your muse.
  16. Buy a plant—Research shows that people who live and work in natural environments become more creative.
  17. Take a cat nap—Sometimes sleep revitalizes a sluggish brain.
  18. Do something new—Novel experiences are more likely to get you into the flow state of creativity.
  19. Turn on ambient noise—Soft background noise invites creative thinking.
  20. Use automatic creativity tools—Take advantage of technology to break free of writer’s block. You can consider these your writer’s block help generators.

Right now, my two favorite writer’s block help generators are:

Step 5: Retest the Results 

Repeat the earlier step.

Odds are, if you have made it this far through the system, you are well on your way to writing your story, essay, report, or article.

That’s how you overcome writer’s block.

Remember: the only success that counts is, Are you writing? If so, that’s winning.

If you’re looking for an instant cure to writer’s block, check out this video:

How to Overcome Writer’s Block – YouTube video by Fast Screenplay

How Long Does Writer’s Block Last?

Writer’s block can last a few minutes or a few years.

The length of writer’s block is often determined by the depth and severity of the cause, whether or not you face the cause, and how you attempt to resolve the cause.

Writer’s block will last longer if you ignore the cause.

Your resistance will also go on and on if you do not correctly identity the right type of blockage and apply the correct solution.

On the flip side, your creative speedbump can be over in a matter of minutes or days if you go through the Destroyer System.

This Is How Not To Overcome Writer’s Block

Here are five things NOT to do when you’re struggling to write:

  • Watch TV—It may seem like a good way to take a break, but watching TV will only make it harder to focus when you sit down to write again.
  • Play video games—Like TV, video games can be a major distraction. If you’re trying to overcome writer’s block, it’s best to avoid them altogether.
  • Scroll through social media—Social media can be a huge time suck. If you find yourself scrolling through Twitter or Instagram when you should be writing, close the app and focus on your work.
  • Wait for inspiration—Inspiration is great, but it’s not always reliable. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just sit down and write.
  • Make excuses for yourself—When we give ourselves permission to remain blocked, we turn our creative energies against our own goals and dreams. It’s basically creative self-sabotage.

Final Thoughts: How To Overcome Writer’s Block

The bottom line is that you overcome writer’s block by facing and freeing the underlying cause of your creative resistance.

Once you let go of what’s holding you back, you’ll be unstoppable.

Related posts:

Sources

American Psychological Association (Journal of Creative Behavior)
Academia.edu

Best Writing Book
Best Writing Book

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