◎ Overcoming Writer's Block

October 21, 2012

Is writer’s block a real thing? Well, it depends. Most writers who claim to suffer from writer’s block are actually suffering from writer’s avoidance. (I too fall into this category!)

Writers need to write. If we don’t, we grow stale at our craft, and the more stale we grow, the more we fear writing because our writing has become stale. See the downward spiral? Obviously, the answer isn't not to write. So what is it?

We experience writer’s block for a reason. There’s a fear of failure after a period of non-writing, and there’s also a drought in the well we call our creativity. If you’re not surging with ideas and energy, you’re not going feel as if you have anything to contribute. I absolutely have that fear, particularly with Flowers When You’re Dead. I feel that if I start working on it after such a long period of absence, my writing will be too shitty and I'll ruin the entire manuscript. 

Part of writing is being in the "write" mindset. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) helps induce this sort of concentration and pressure, but when the job’s on you and in a month other than November, you need to get to this state of mind all on your own volition. 

1. Back Away   We all need time away from our manuscripts. It’s 100% normal! What you should do, however, is actively think about your novel even if you’re not currently working on it. I spend a lot of time away from my manuscripts, but because I think about them and workshop scenes and characterization in my mind during long drives and showers, I can resume work with heightened enthusiasm and ideas to boot.

2. Read  Read novels in all genres. Note what you liked and didn't like about each one, and consider incorporating aspects you did like into your own writing. When a writer blows me away with their work, I feel more inspired and invigorated to write again! If you’re like me, you’re too busy with writing to read, and that’s a crappy excuse. A good writer is an active reader.

3. Inspiration  Use Pinterest, Google Image Search, or your trusty scissors and some magazines to create collages/collections of inspiring images. (My inspiration folder contains 1,649 images!) Sometimes, all it takes is a crazy cool image to get the ideas flowing. Customized playlists serve a similar function. It’s all about creating the right ambiance and mood.

4. Deadlines  People survive NaNoWriMo because there’s a deadline involved. In fact, most people get what they need to get done if there’s a deadline. Why not set one for yourself? Put the pressure on. If the threat of a deadline isn’t enough, try this option in tandem with #7.

5. Brainstorm  Grab a notebook and pen (or just your brain) and have a good think session. If you have an existing story, think deeply about what the core message should be, if you’re currently getting that core message across, and if there are any inconsistencies or loose ends needing closure. This is the step I’m currently using with Darkness Surrounding. After an hour long brainstorm session, I now know that a lot of the Daniel/Helena backstory I presented in the self-published version needs to be re-gutted (which means losing the “five years of pure hell?” discourse in chapter three…sigh). Knowing what needs to be fixed is definitely a great motivator. Suddenly, you know what you need to do and damn it, you’re going to get to it before you forget what it was that needed fixing!

6. Minimize Distractions  See this post. To write, you need to minimize your distractions, plain and simple. Flipping around through tabs and music players and the like is a largely ineffective way to write. (It’s also how I’ve written five novels, but imagine how many more I could have written had I not wasted so much time on the internet!)

7. Rewards  See this post. Although I discuss rewards in relation to National Novel Writing Month, you can easily apply the same principle to your own, non-November writing. Rewards are a great way to increase motivation because they’re a light at the end of the tunnel. (Writing a novel can be fun, but it has its downs…)

8. De-Stress  Take care of yourself. Get plenty of exercise, eat better, and sleep. It’s difficult to write and stay inspired when you’re not operating at your best!

9. Positive Association  This goes back to the idea of rewards. If writing has become a fear-inducing subject, you need to re-establish it as a positive aspect of your life. When you start to write after a period of writer’s block, do two things: smile and wiggle. And not just for a fleeting second. You need to hold that smile for at least a minute and shimmy in your chair for at least thirty seconds. (Bonus points if you raise your eyebrows.) Although the effectiveness of the desk dancing is debatable, it’s common knowledge that forcing yourself to smile can actually make you feel, well, happier.

10. Design a Cover and/or Cast Your Characters  I write better when my book has a cover. Additionally, I LOVE searching for actors and actresses who resemble my characters (Jennifer Morrison, Channing Tatum, Ben Barnes). Believe it or not, finding an actor who would be perfect for the hypothetical, probably-not-going-to-happen film adaptation of my now unpublished novel puts a little fight in me. If I get this book finished and published and it becomes a super successful hit, Channing Freaking Tatum could play DeathX. Realistic? Hell no. But effective? Yes. We’re dreamers, and as long as we have hope of our crazy-ass dreams coming true, we’ll keep on keeping on.

So smile, do some creative browsing, take a "brainstorm walk" around the block, mark your self-imposed deadlines on the calendar, and get back to work!


  1. I definitely suffer from "Writer's avoidance" too! Sometimes, even if it is something as simple as writing text for a blog post, I sit there with the blank screen, then manage to check facebook, email, etc and not actually write anything! These are super helpful tips though and well thought out, thank you!
    xo Hannah

  2. Kat you're making me wish that I was a writer! I think these posts are great, very insightful.

    Still waiting for a signed copy of one of your books... ;)


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