How To Write - Lesson 3

Overcoming Writer's Block

In order to figure out how to overcome writer's block, we first have to address the causes of this most frustrating event.  Fortunately, it's fairly easy to identify.  See if you recognize which of these five potential causes you the most problems.

  1. Self doubt
  2. Perfectionism
  3. Ill-suited subject
  4. Fatalistic career outlook
  5. Poor time management

Recognize any?  If you do, that's good news!  It means there's hope for you yet!  There are twelve proven cures that can help you fight your way back to creativity....

  1. Fight negative with positive - Ignore the inner voice that fills you with criticism, self-doubt, and negativity.  Remember the story of The Little Engine That Could?
  2. Relax - Clear your mind by taking six calming breaths consisting of five slow seconds in through your nose, and five slow seconds out from your mouth.  Stay focused on your breathing.
  3. Get gratified - Instead of trying to write the next great novel on your first attempt, seek gratification from a market that publishes short, swift pieces to write such as filler, jokes, postcards, short stories, etc.  Many times, a small local newspaper will allow you to submit a short article about a community event.  There is no pay involved but it's great to see your name in print under the by-line!
  4. Freewrite - Whether it's a grocery list or your favorite writing prompt, anything that gets you writing is a good thing.  If you need help with a prompt, visit
  5. Start in the middle - Many times, we get stuck right at the beginningof our project.  Try starting in the middle and as you write, generally a really great beginning will form when you least expect it!
  6. Write badly - Yes, you read it right!  Write a really bad first draft.  It will give you a foundation with which to work, and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you completed something.  If you are, or know someone, who is a gourmet cook, you know that creating a feast for 30 people was not accomplished the first time in the kitchen.  Instead, it was built on a foundation that started with boiling water and grew from there.
  7. Allow more time - I know, I know, easier said than done.  Time allowed for pressure free writing often saves the frustration of having to stare at a blank screen.
  8. Read - Read a favorite book or something about the topic you are writing about.  Self-help books also help writers push through their writers block.  Heather Sellers' book Page After Page explains "Ninety percent of beginning writers stop practicing their craft before they have a chance to discover their talent."
  9. Change subjects and/or genres - Trying to write about a subject or in a genre that you are unfamiliar with will often create writers block.  Change gears and write about something you are passionate about or have a lot of experience with.  You'll undoubtedly find that the words and ideas will flow much easier.
  10. Exercise - OK so this is not my favorite either, but hey, it works.  A 10-minute walk can get your blood flowing and, often, your ideas.
  11. Break from forcing it - If it's not working, walk away.  Do something you enjoy doing, have fun and start again when you are feeling more relaxed.
  12. Set a deadline - Set a deadline.  Stick to it.  Finish.  Put a period somewhere and call it the ending.

Hopefully, some of these ideas will help you with this next exercise.  Using this as a prompt, write a story using as many of the five senses as possible: sight, touch, smell,hearing and taste.

As you write, remember that every story, poem, letter or song has a beginning, middle and end.  Don't let the reader hang at the end.  Make the reader feel an emotion at the end; ie: fear, happiness, sadness, relief etc.

When you finish, feel free to share your story with me!  I'd love to hear from you.  Until next time........


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You're right Mary. One of the biggest comments I get from my students is that they think they can't write. Fortunately, by the time we get through all ten week, they wonder why they ever thought that!

By Diane Timberlake

You are right. Self doubt often cramps us from doing many things we are capable of.

By Mary Norton