Don’t let writer’s block get comfortable

Published 10:37 am Thursday, June 1, 2017

I’ve spent many an hour staring at a blank computer screen or a blank sheet of paper, desperately trying to come up with something to write. Writer’s block is like an old friend: it shows up without calling in advance and then settles in to stay for a while without asking permission first.

So how do you get writer’s block to stop sleeping on your couch so you can get back to work?

There are a variety of different strategies to try when you run out of ideas.

First, you might try simply taking a break from what you’re trying to write. Not like a three month break, of course, but perhaps an hour or two to clear your mind. You can come back to write with a fresh perspective if you give your mind the chance to rest too.

Similar to taking a break, you can also try brainstorming while doing a different activity, especially something that doesn’t require much thought.

Take a shower. Go for a drive. Do some knitting. Pace around the living room. Scrub the toilet.

Ideas always seem to flock to me when my mind has time to just wander aimlessly.

A popular suggestion to combat writer’s block is to try free writing. That’s when, as the name suggests, you just freely write whatever comes to mind in the hopes that something good will stick. You can always edit later, cutting out terrible ideas and cleaning up the great ones.

Free writing is kind of fun because you never know where you’ll end up by the end of it. You could start out with a character wanting to cook dinner and end up sending that character on an epic quest to accidentally save the world while he’s looking for groceries.

For a more technical approach, especially in fiction writing, I try to focus on writing things that will flesh out my characters. Usually if I have writer’s block because I can’t figure out what my character will do next, it’s because I just don’t know the character well enough yet.

So occasionally I do a writing exercise where I write my day as if my character is the one experiencing it. How does he (or she) react to where I live, what I do, what I like to eat? Once I have a better understanding of how my character functions, I can usually overcome writer’s block too.

While these are all just things I do myself, searching the internet will also give you a wealth of suggestions for dealing with the problem.

Here are just a few bits of advice I’ve seen but never actually tried myself: try doing yoga, drink lots of coffee, look at inspirational quotes, read what you’ve written so far out loud.

Whatever method you try out, don’t just “wait” for inspiration to come. You’ll be waiting and waiting forever that way. And the longer you wait, the more comfortable writer’s block gets on the couch.

You have to make the effort to push writer’s block out the front door, maybe even sacrifice your couch in the process. But in the end, it’ll be worth it.

Just keep writing.


Holly Taylor is a staff writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.