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Writing Wednesday: Getting Rid of Writer’s Block: Strategy #1

Writer’s block. It is, in a word, awful. There’s little that’s more frustrating that knowing that you’ve managed to get the time to write—which can be a huge trial in and of itself—and that, now that you have it, all you’re doing is staring at a computer screen. And, even more frustratingly, sometimes it seems like more that you try to push through writer’s block, the more entrenched it becomes.

So what to do with writer’s block hits? I’ve got a few go-to methods that I try if I’m stuck, and I thought I’d share the first one today. And that is . . . to do something else.

Wait, what? Did I really just tell you to abandon the writing you’re trying so desperately to get flowing? Yes, and no.

Here’s the thing. We know that different parts of our brains engage when we do different activities. And sometimes, sparking a different part of your brain can give you an idea that you wouldn’t have had while glaring at the computer. Sitting in the same place, feeling the full weight of anxiety that your writing isn’t going well, you can get caught in mental loops that don’t let anything else in. If you can break out of those loops, you open yourself up to new ideas.

So go do something that keeps you busy, but doesn't require all your attention. I’m not recommending that you work on homework here, or start an intensive project for work. Clean your house or your room. Garden. Do some easy knitting. Play with the dog. Or, my favorite, go for a walk. Just pick something that will let your mind cut loose for a while. You can ruminate on your story or novel a little, but also just let your mind stray. You’ll be surprised at how often that straying actually leads you to someplace that you want to go—to an idea that will move your writing forward.

What do you do to get rid of writer’s block?


You bonked it on the nose with the "breaking the loop" bit. You need to get away from what you're doing long enough for your brain to reset itself. Sometimes it takes a while, if I've been working really hard and my decision-making brain is all worn out.

I find this very strategy super-helpful. I will go paint ponies for a couple of hours, or I will draw, or something like that. Something that occupies the front part of my mind, but doesn't involve the deeper parts. I listen to music in the background that works for that project and I don't consciously TRY to think about the problem. I'll just nibble at it if it bubbles up in my brain, but I don't let it dominate the thinking space, and I don't deliberately summon it up. It's surprising how often this works. And even if it doesn't, I am at least more relaxed! Driving is good, too. It doesn't work if you do something that you hate, like I couldn't do gardening, even though that is a perfect sort of thing, because I don't enjoy it. (I wish I did, but it just kind of makes me itchy.)

I can't read or watch TV and have it work, and it needs to be something where I'm not doing a lot of problem-solving (video games).

It's like . . . like giving the part of your brain that wants to be entertained something very quiet to do so the problem-solving part can get something done in the meantime.