Writer’s block

Writer’s block. What can you do?

You’re under a tight deadline. You need to write a post, a pitch, an email. But the words just won’t come together. Hell, you don’t even know what you want to write about.

Your head is aching, the Monday blues is sapping all your energy, and you’re completely uninspired. Sound familiar? Let me help you find a way out.


Unfortunately, the romantic image of the writer finding their best inspiration in the shower just isn’t true. It also doesn’t come to them while sipping a glass of whiskey and staring into the distance. Otherwise we’d be sparkling clean and permanently drunk at work. It’s a charming idea but not particularly sustainable (just think of how much water would be wasted). So what else can you do? Switch on your brain and think. Because writing is hard work. And you just have to accept that.

Tips and tricks

Are there tricks? Maybe not, but I do have some tips. I often find that a short walk gives me the chance to actively think about what I want to write about. Or if I’ve already written something, I’ll ponder individual phrases, and consider what kind of conclusion I want to come to. Physical movement helps me get my thoughts moving. Then: it’s time to make some handwritten notes. If your assignment is on a particular topic, then break that =down into individual sections. What needs to be included? What can you leave out? Put yourself in your reader’s position and try to distance yourself from the text.


Maybe a walk doesn’t do it for you. Or you don’t feel like getting out of your pajamas. In that case, there is another option: just write. String some letters together. Even if it’s complete nonsense, just get your fingers working. And if you’re lucky, your brain will move up the gears until you can produce something intelligible. Then start to sort through these scraps of ideas and bring the chaos in your head under control. And finally, work on getting it down on the paper. I often fall back on this option as it requires little preparation and can lead to unexpected breakthroughs, but unfortunately it’s not always reliable. Be prepared to click delete.

Keep things in order

No matter which option you choose (and obviously there are many more), there’s one thing always worth striving for: order. In your mind and then on paper – or the other way around, because paper can help you put the thoughts in your head in the right order. Sometimes you only notice that you’ve not thought a concept through once you’ve written your thoughts down. Because to work on writing is to work on thought – a sentiment shared by the greats, from George Orwell to Toni Morisson. And they’re right.

Image via Flickr: Brains! – Pete Birkinshaw (CC BY 2.0)


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