Transform Writer’s Block into Awesomeness


Transform Writer's Block into AwesomenessPhillip Roth said, “The road to hell is paved with works in progress.” Roth was describing writer’s block – that terrible, awful place that is lined with good intentions and nothing more to say.

A block is not limited to the experiences of writers. The paralysis of a block usually results from too much thought, too much perfectionism, and too little action. It feels like it chokes the creative breath out of you. Fortunately, a block is not fatal.

Bruce Maxwell, a Kansas City artist, describes a block as a “restrictive idea that rattles around in my head.” He adds, “If I’m not careful, it will become an attitude.” A block becomes a crippling attitude when it prevents you from taking action.

All blocks, including writer’s block, do not have to paralyze you into inaction. Peg Fitzpatrick, co-author of The Art of Social Media, advises, “Fear less about how you will be able to do it and work towards doing it.”

Daphne Gray-Grant, writing coach and author of 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better, describes creative ways to move the writing block boulder out of your way and find the inspiration you need to become productive again. Gray-Grant’s pro-active suggestions include:

Write something else. When you’re weighed down by writer’s block, Gray-Grant encourages you to write about something – anything – but your present project. Write about something different . She calls this “productive procrastination.”

Write an email. She refers to this as an alternative to pretending to write a letter to a friend. Gray-Grant encourages you to “write your piece in the body of an email.”

Change your setting.  Move to another room. The kitchen. A picnic table. A coffee shop. Gray-Grant adds, “It worked for J.K. Rowling.” [This is also a great tip to remember if you’re giving a speech and lost your train of thought (I do this because I’m a brain injury survivor): Step forward, gesture, do something physical, and the movement will trigger the memory.]

Go for a walk or run. See above.

Write the headline or title.“A headline or title is a bit like a poem,” explains Gray-Grant. “It must distill your big idea into a very few words. It must also be catchy. When you write the headline first, the entire direction of your piece will become clearer. This will make writing substantially easier.” I found this suggestion extremely helpful when I experience writer’s block.

Tell yourself you have to write for only five minutes. Time limits often force you to make a commitment.

Stretch. Physical movement invigorates your body. Breathe deeply as you move. Oxygen stimulates the brain. (See Suggestions #3 and #4.)

Give yourself permission to write badly. This suggestion made me laugh (which should be Suggestion #13: Laugh). Gray-Grant states, “Many times we’re blocked as writers because we’ve raised the stakes too high.” Perfectionism slips in and we become our own worst enemy. She adds, “If you simply must beat yourself up, do it when you’re editing.” 

“Speak” your writing. Gray-Grant suggests, “Go with the flow and dictate your words into a tape or digital recorder or even your voice mail.” Or find a friend – or a mirror – and orally describe what you’d like to write.

Prevent interruptions. No email. No tweeting. No Facebook. No listening to phone messages. No internet surfing. Finish writing. Then surf. [My brain sometimes wants to tell me “Surfing and responding on the internet is writing.” No it’s not. It’s procrastinating.]

Limit your writing time. “I know this sounds counter-intuitive but we sometimes give ourselves too much time to write,” insists Gray-Grant. “Don’t set aside a day for that report. Tell yourself you have to do it in two hours. Remember how productive you can be just before going on holiday? Create the feeling artificially by limiting your writing time.”

Transform Writer's Block into AwesomenessReward yourself.

Olympic gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, maintains, “I believe that you should gravitate to people who are doing productive and positive things with their lives.” Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you, your talent, and your extraordinary writing gifts. Peg Fitzpatrick adds, “There is plenty of awesomeness to go around for everyone.”

Celebrate your victories – even the small ones.

Then pick up your pen. And write.

What do you do when you experience an artistic block?


Thinking about writing an ebook? These suggestions, Tips to Write a Spectacular Ebook, are written by seasoned authors (and they guided me as I wrote my book).

If you want to share your story, it must include more than your experience – it must have a call to action for your readers. Use these tips to Craft a Story People Want to Hear.

Life’s challenges often point the way to stories that inspire others. My experiences in Holding Fire led me to write my book, Dreams to Action Trailblazer’s Guide.

Struggling to get started? Why not write a SMART writing goal? Or assemble a visual collection of your writing thoughts together by creating an awesome vision board.


4 Responses to Transform Writer’s Block into Awesomeness
  1. Great suggestions, Julie! Have you ever tried a week-long reading deprivation recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way? Not filling your mind with other people’s words can work magic for your own expression.

    • A week-long reading deprivation. That is a very good idea. Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” is on my reading to-do list! I will obviously choose to read it at a time that is not part of a week-long reading deprivation. Thanks for the wonderful suggestions!

  2. Superb tips Julie. Most helpful for even occasional writers like myself – these days I mainly only prepare Toastmaster talks and an occasional church sermon.

    I just came across this quote … “One day work is hard, and another day it is easy; but if I had waited for inspiration I am afraid I should have done nothing. The miner does not sit at the top of the shaft waiting for the coal to come bubbling up to the surface. One must go deep down, and work out every vein carefully.” – Arthur Sullivan, composer (1842-1900)

    • Merv,
      I chuckled when I read that you “‘only’ prepare Toastmaster talks and an occasional church sermon.” That sounds like a lot of writing! I’d also like to add that you provide brilliant advice and suggestions about speaking with expertise, tremendous heart, and passion to fellow Toastmasters via LinkedIn throughout the world. Your impact to inspire has global impact.

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