Overcoming Writer’s Block

April 24, 2024
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The assignment was given, and the deadline is looming, but the words won’t come. Sound familiar? If so, you’re well acquainted with the dreaded ailment, Writer’s Block. Who among us hasn’t experienced this problem at some point? What causes writer’s block? The sources are as varied at the reasons to write. Based on my research, which I did one day when suffering from said issue, experts cite these as general causes: Timing, Fear and Perfection.

  • Timing. It may not be the right time or situation for you to tap into what you want to say. You may have other things distracting you. Distractions can be internal (unresolved issues) or external (noise, interruptions, scheduling conflicts).
  • Fear. Putting your work out there is inviting criticism (and praise). For many of us, the pressure of being judged is stronger than the desire to express ourselves.
  • Perfection. Perfection can be resources needed to get started or the commitment for our efforts to be so polished they can be chiseled in stone before calling it “done.” GETTING STARTED. The perfect chair, pen, music, climate; all these things contribute to our ability to think clearly, but sometimes, not having even one thing out of order becomes the rationale for why we can’t begin the process. FINISHING. Those who are never sure they’ve covered everything with the utmost closure/clarity/brevity, etc., continue traveling an endless path; revising and rewriting into oblivion. Both of these situations can lead to paralysis.

So how do you overcome writer’s block. Everyone seems to have a different strategy for overcoming it. Here are some of the ideas I collected from the famous, nearly famous and infamous during one of my writer’s blocks!


There is never a perfect time to start writing. Life is imperfect. To steal a phrase from that famous sports apparel company, “Just Do It!” Write every day, even if it’s just a shopping list. Continuous motion of your hands helps keep brain freeze to a minimum. Write about writing.

Charles Bukowski said, “Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” One strategy I use with my students is Freewriting. Freewriting is all about selecting a prompt; a statement, a question or even an event. Once the prompt is selected, eliminate distractions, set a timer and begin putting down the thoughts you have about the prompt.

Another strategy that can help is to Establish A Routine. There are many writers who schedule their writing time. Stephen King described his routine for writing as “no different than a bedtime routine.” John Grisham said the rituals he used when he first started writing were “silly and brutal but important.” Grisham says the rituals built discipline and helped him achieve his goal of writing one page a day, no matter whether it took 10 minutes or 10 hours.


Identify the Source of Apprehension. Are we afraid to put our work out in the universe because it will reveal something about us? Or, are we concerned it’s not as good as it should/could be? It’s important to understand the source of the fear so that you can break it down and address it. Acknowledge the Fear without giving in to it. You can acknowledge your fear without allowing it to overrise your actions. Focus on the process of writing by breaking it down into manageable pieces.

Writing a book, article, play, dissertation or speech all begins with an idea, expansion on the idea and then identification of sub ideas and supporting information for those ideas. Try Mind Mapping; a process that allows you to visually organize the idea into major components, minor components and off-shoots or outliers (checkout mindmapping.com.)


When it comes to writing, there is no such thing as perfection. Any writer, asked in retrospect, will admit that if they were to revisit their work, there are things that could be done differently. Our work is as unique as we are. However, if you have perfectionist tendencies, almost to the point of OCD, then here are some ideas for addressing/breaking that cycle. STARTING. Don’t procrastinate because things aren’t “perfect” for starting. Start file of notes when ideas come to you and go back to them. Jump on one of those ideas and just go! Keep going! You only get better at writing by writing. Starting gets you going. Go for done! You can always revise. FINISHING. Get those thoughts down there and then set things aside. Get feedback. Send your work to another person- don’t just run it through Grammarly or another automated platform. Wait to revise. Even if you don’t send your work to a peer for review, set it aside and wait to revise it. Give yourself some perspective and distance before you go back into your work.

If you are doing anything to keep yourself from writing, try to eliminate those barriers and get started. Conversely, if you keep revising your work over and over and never finalizing it, stop! Nothing will ever be perfect, but it will be yours.

Remember, no one does you like you!

This article first appeared in Ruff Drafts, Fall 2019.