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Friday, April 8, 2011

Combating Writer's Block

Hello and welcome to Self-publishing Central. Today's post is on the subject of combating the dreaded "Writer's Block." Many writers experience Writer's Block at one time or another. Whether you are a self-pubber, or you prefer the traditional route to publication, there should be something in this post for you.

Exactly what is Writer's Block?

According to most definitions, Writer's Block is a "psychological condition" in which a writer finds it difficult or impossible to continue writing on a given work. Writer's Block is usually temporary. (Well . . . that's good news, at least.)

How does one combat Writer's Block?

David Taylor, long time editor of national magazines such as Prevention, Men's Health and Runner's World, doesn't believe there is such a thing as Writer's Block. Nevertheless, he has written a wonderful article identifying four causes of the condition and seven ways to fight Writer's Block. I recommend that you review his insightful suggestions before reading further here.

Waiting for you to read David's article . . .

Okay. To summarize, David says you can try:

1) Free-writing. Write anything you please, as fast as you can, for a set period of time. Don't stop for anything.
2) Copy and Write. Read a sentence or paragraph from a favorite writer's work and try to recreate it on the page.
3) Re-Read and Notate. Review your research materials and make notes.
4) Write to Someone. Write a letter to a friend.
5) Write Dialogue. Set up a conversation between yourself and someone who wants to learn about your topic. Write out that dialogue.
6) Write Invisibly. Turn off your monitor and write without seeing your writing. (Or write with an empty pen and carbon paper.)
7) Write About Writing. How do you feel about writing? Who influenced you and how?

Please read David's Post completely. It's really creative.

What do I do to Combat Writer's Block?

Like David, I don't believe in Writer's Block (at least I don't believe I will experience it). It's one of those psychological phenomena that is very real if you believe in it, and doesn't exist at all if you don't. It's like an irrational fear that becomes very real. Or like an irrational belief that one will fail, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For these reasons, I'm not saying Writer's Block isn't real for YOU. Psychological conditions are every bit as real to those experiencing them as are objective real world conditions. So please don't think I don't understand. That's why I'm writing this post, after all. :)

My strategy for combating Writer's Block is pretty straight-forward . . . maybe too straightforward for it to work for everybody. When I struggle to write well, I write poorly. I just keep on writing my story, whether I think it's any good or not. I don't wait for a good idea to write about. I write about whatever good, bad or mediocre idea I can come up with.

If I'm not feeling my muse that day, I won't wait to create clever dialogue. I'll write the dialogue that comes to mind. Some days I fully recognize that a LOT of what I have written will be changed or excised in the re-writing or editing process. But here's the benefit. I CAN'T edit a blank page. I CAN edit whatever garbage I may have written at some previous date.

By keeping the story moving, I eventually come to a place in the plot, or a day of the week, where I feel like I'm writing good stuff again. As a consequence, I eventually reach the end of Draft No. 1.


If you experience Writer's Block (or any obstacle to having a "good writing" day), try one of the suggestions above. I am optimistic that you will find success.

Thanks for stopping to visit.

Have a great day!




  1. Hi John,

    Another great post. I don't believe in writer's block either. However, as a self pubber I write because I love it not because a contract tells me I have to.

    My biggest problem is finding time to capture all the ideas spinning in my head.


  2. Hi William,

    You are a writer in your heart and your mind. That's why you are fortunate enough to have stories bursting out all over.

    I struggle to come up with new and interesting stories. But once I do, I can commit to them wholeheartedly.

    Time is a constraint for all writers. I have confidence that you manage it appropriately, allowing due time to writing, editing and promotion.

    It's a tough balance -- and I know of no one who does it better than you.

    Thanks for stopping in.



  3. I would think that there are good writing days and bad writing days for virtually everyone, whether or not we call the bad writing days "writer's block." But I think your strategies are terrific. I've also taken a walk, a shower and a break to jumpstart my writing sessions. :)

  4. Dinasant,

    Thanks much for your comment, and for your suggestions.

    Stop back again soon.



  5. This is very informative and well put together. Thanks for this.


  6. May,

    Thank you for your comment. Please stop by again soon.

    As-Salāmu `Alaykum, May.


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