Right now, you probably shouldn’t be reading this post.
You should be crafting incredible stories, compelling plotlines, and unforgettable characters that will make the world stand up and take notice.
In other words, you probably should be writing right now, but you aren’t.
Instead, here you are, reading this post and trying to figure out what to do. Because you’ve written yourself into a corner. Your well has run dry. You’re stuck.
In other words, you have writer’s block.
Maybe you got stuck thirty seconds ago and immediately pulled up the Internet for answers. Or perhaps, you’ve been in writer’s block for a while now. Or maybe, you just keep getting blocked repeatedly.
But you made a choice. You chose to come and read this post because you are sick of getting stuck. You want to overcome writer’s block once and for all.
You’ve come to the right place! Read on for a comprehensive list of ten practical brainstorming strategies for when you get stuck in your writing that will help you defeat writer’s block, including one that prevents getting “blocked” in the first place!
But First, A Definition
Writer’s block. Those two words can be used in so many different ways in the realm of bloggers, writers, and authors. It can mean everything from “I have no ideas about how to resolve this scene” to “I’m just so tired of writing” to “My book is pointless, and I’m giving it up!”
With so many definitions flying around out there, you, the frustrated writer, may be confused about what writer’s block is. You may not even be suffering from writer’s block at all! Here’s why:
When writers say they are blocked, they can also mean they have no more creative energy left.
Look at it like this. Imagine a runner who has just run five miles for the first time. He or she is happy but also absolutely exhausted. They may feel like they can’t take another step.
But the runner does not decide to quit running because of how tired they are. Nor do they get upset with themselves for not being able to run anymore. They simply go home, rest, and then get up the following day and run again.
This analogy isn’t perfect, but it is closer than you may realize. You can run out of mental energy as well as physical energy. It is possible to be mentally as well as physically exhausted.
Maybe you just finished a big project, wrote an emotionally draining scene, or have been pouring out large quantities of word counts for days. And now, you are lacking inspiration. You feel like you have no more ideas left.
If this sounds like you, you can stop reading right now! Turn off the screen and take a break. Get a good night’s rest. Read a book. Refresh your creative wells and then dive back into your writing.
You may be surprised at your new inspiration.
If you are still reading this, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “I know my creative wells are still full. I haven’t worked on any big projects lately, I’m not mentally tired, I should be having gazillions of ideas right now, but I’m not”, you probably are really and truly blocked.
The good news is that knowing you have a problem is the first step to solving it.
I Have Writer’s Block… Now What?
So now that you know what writer’s block is and that you have it, what do you do now?
The answer is simple: write.
That may not be what you want to hear. You may be thinking that you’ve tried, but it just isn’t working. It’s too hard.
Remember: this isn’t the solution if you are struggling with your mental health, creative exhaustion, or burnout. Trying to drive yourself harder at this point will only make things worse. If this sounds like you, I highly encourage you to stop reading this post and get some needed and well-deserved rest.
For those who are still here, I want you to know that this solution is not easy, but it is simple.
A liar doesn’t stop being a liar until he tells the truth. A thief doesn’t stop being a thief until she starts working for a living. A blocked writer doesn’t stop being blocked until they start writing.
The only surefire way to cure writer’s block is to sit down at your computer, or your typewriter, or with your notebook in front of you and write. Just write.
But there are resources that you can use to help you know what and how to write. To inspire you to write. The remainder of this post will give you ten strategies to do just that.
Strategy #1 – The 5-Minute Timer
First off, grab a blank sheet of paper, a writing utensil, some kind of timer, and a prompt.
Look through your story or outline and find a scene that intrigues you. Find a piece of dialogue that you can dwell on. Pull out a motivation that you can expand on. This prompt can even be a single word that you found in the dictionary that you love. It just needs to be something you can write about for five minutes.
(If you really can’t find anything, look up “writing prompt” on Google or Pinterest and then choose one of the options. It’s ok if it’s utterly unrelated to your story. Just writing will help get you unblocked.)
Set the timer for five minutes and then write; scribble desperately as if your life depended on getting as many words on the page as possible. Once the five minutes are up, stop. Look over your work. Do you see any ideas that you can expand on in your story? Any angles that you hadn’t considered before?
Take that idea and get another blank sheet of paper. Set the timer for five minutes and write again, this time about the prompt that you found in your first piece of work.
Repeat as many times as you need/want to until you have whole reams full of delicious ideas to input into your story!
Strategy #2 – Get Inside Your Character’s Head
Maybe you aren’t struggling because of a plot hole or stubborn scene, but because you are having trouble with a cantankerous character. Maybe their point of view doesn’t make sense, or you have no idea of their motivation or desires. If this sounds accurate, you have come to the right strategy.
For this one, take ten or fifteen minutes and a blank sheet of paper. Write a journal entry from the perspective of that character. You can describe a specific scene or just talk about how things are going in general at this point in your story. Consider these questions:
How do I, (insert character name), feel about these turns of events? Why do I feel this way?
Did I, (insert character name), have a different opinion before this event? Why or why not?
How do I feel about (insert other character’s name)’s actions so far?
Is there something in my past that causes this feeling?
What do I, (insert character name), want the future to look like considering what has happened?
After the time is over, look over your work. Hopefully, you have been given insight into your character and the story as a whole. If not, feel free to repeat the strategy, using different questions (look up “questions to get to know someone”) or writing about a different scene in the story.
Repeat as many times as you need to with as many different characters as you want!
Strategy #3 – Get Inspiration from the Greats
This strategy is for the avid reader lacking inspiration for their own project. All you need for this one is to pick up one of your favorite books and start reading. And as you work through it, really think about the story.
Ask yourself: why do I love this scene so much? Why does this character resonate with me? What is the author doing that makes this plot twist so gut-wrenching? What about this book (if it is in my genre) can I incorporate into my own story?
Think about what the author does right and what the author could do better. Think about your own story. Are there similarities, and are there differences?
Be sure to keep in mind that this published book you are holding in your hands has been through numerous drafts, revisions, editors, and critiques. It’s ok if you aren’t on that level yet. Allow yourself the opportunity to grow without feeling bad for not being there yet.
Strategy #4 – Inspire Yourself
You may have noticed how many of these strategies can involve using the Internet somehow. You could be the writer who has never considered using the Internet for inspiration, or perhaps you spend too much time scrolling and not enough time writing.
The truth is that the Internet can be either a distraction or a tool.
Maybe you no longer see the purpose of writing. Perhaps you are floundering because your work just doesn’t seem to matter or doesn’t seem good enough. If so, it’s time to use the Internet and other tools for a motivation session.
You can do this in many different ways. Maybe you’ll google motivational writing quotes. Perhaps you’ll write out a list of all the good things about your writing, or look at past good reviews and encouragements. Whatever it is, remember that when you’re blocked, it’s easier to get sucked into discouragement.
Choose to motivate and encourage yourself. Seek inspiration. And then use that inspiration and actually work on your story. Remember that you can’t defeat writer’s block unless you are actually writing!
Strategy #5 – Use Visual Aids
When I decided that I wanted to do National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November, I was nervous. I had spent a lot of time preparing for this story, but what if I got stuck? What if I never made it to my 50,000 word goal?
So towards the end of October, I made my backup plan. I covered my bulletin board with images expressing my story vibe and inspirational quotes. Whenever I felt like I was running low on inspiration, I went and stood in front of that board.
And I fell in love with my story all over again.
It may not be a bulletin board for you. Maybe you’re artistic, and you want to draw your main characters. Perhaps you’re going to make a Pinterest board. Maybe you’re going to design a vision board or mood board in Canva.
Whatever it is, make something. Do something creative besides writing that inspires you and reminds you why you love your story. This strategy can be the most time-consuming, but you should end up with something tangible that you can repeatedly use when you suffer from writer’s block!
Strategy #6 – Do the Unnatural Thing
When I get stuck, my first instinct is to keep writing. I want to keep pushing myself, google blog posts on writer’s block, try all the strategies, and keep working till I forcibly punch a hole through my block. Maybe you’re like me.
Sometimes people like us need to realize that resting is a strategy too.
Close your computer. Step away from your typewriter. Lay down your pen. Put away your writing both physically and mentally; don’t even think about your writer’s block, that stubborn character, or your plot holes.
Choose to do other things that make you happy besides writing. Bake, take a walk, have fun with your family, play with your pets, laugh, talk to friends. Rest and recharge.
And then go to bed and get a good night’s rest. In the morning, pull your writing out of the drawer and start working again. Start chipping away at that writer’s block word by word. And watch inspiration flow again.
Strategy #7 – Change Your Space
You may not realize this, but your surroundings significantly impact your mood and inspiration. Maybe your room is messy, and you’re having trouble concentrating. Perhaps the area in which you usually work has become very noisy. Maybe where you work just doesn’t inspire you.
If you’re suffering from writer’s block, it’s a good time to switch things up.
Use this block as an opportunity to clean up your workspace. Maybe bring in some new colors to brighten things up. Make a new wallpaper for your desktop, hang up the vision board you made in strategy #5, make your space reflect and inspire you.
That could mean finding a new space altogether. Writer’s block can be a sign that it’s time to change. Realize that those changes can be for the better!
Set up your new space, and then sit down and write!
If you want more inspiration, read this post on seven tips for creating an inspiring writing space!
Strategy #8 – Combine Art Forms
Maybe you just aren’t a visual person, you can work in messy spaces just fine, and you hate journaling. The other strategies just aren’t your thing. If so, this next strategy is for you!
Pull up whatever music streaming service you use and make two playlists. Make one that expresses the vibe of your book and characters. This playlist is to listen to when you aren’t writing.
Then make one of classicals and instrumentals that won’t distract you when you are writing. You can even listen to specific music to inspire specific scenes of your book (ex. the soundtrack from Pride and Prejudice for writing scenes with romantic interest).
And then, don’t listen to the playlists unless you are working on your story. This will encourage you to write more and inspire you by using God’s gift of music! This may also give you many ideas for your story by thinking through the music.
Strategy #9 – Talk to the Author of All
For this strategy, all you need is to approach the throne of God. And pray.
And I don’t mean just telling God, “I’m struggling with writer’s block, please fix it.” I mean really sitting down and spending serious time with God talking about your story.
If you are struggling with a particular character, tell Him. Talk over your plot with Him. Expand on your ideas. God cares about every detail.
Ask Him if He is pleased with this story. And be willing to listen to the answers. Spend serious time in prayer about your writing.
If writing is a gift from God, we want to honor Him with our words. And we can’t do that unless He is involved in our process.
Maybe instead of spending precious time scouring the Internet for answers, you just need to spend some time with God.
Strategy #10 – The One That Will Keep You From Getting Writer’s Block
Well, here you are. You made it to the end of this post. And you now have a mental toolbox full of strategies for the next time you get stuck.
But here’s the thing: you don’t want to just overcome writer’s block today. You want to beat writer’s block once and for all and never get blocked again. That’s why you’re here.
You’ve come to the right place. I am about to tell you how you can overcome writer’s block. This strategy is not a secret. In fact, it is what bestselling authors recommend to every writer, and it is proven to defeat writer’s block. What is this magical strategy?
Write every day.
What, were you expecting a magic formula? The truth is what I have already stated in the beginning of this post: the only way to cure writer’s block is to write. And writing regularly is the only thing that repels writer’s block.
And yes, it does work! When I was working through NaNoWriMo, I never got stuck. Not once.
I could take credit for that and say that I’m an amazing writer. But the truth is that for the two months before NaNoWriMo (and even beyond) I had been cultivating the habit of writing consistently, writing every single day. So when I started to tackle a 50,000 word goal, I was able to make it in one month without suffering from writer’s block.
There are scientific reasons for this. Writing at a set time every day creates a habit in your brain, causing creativity to flow naturally during those hours.
Look up any of your favorite authors. You will find for all of them that they probably write at least some amount every single day. That is what they recommend to foster writing growth and keep the ideas flowing naturally.
Some of you may be shaking your heads right now, thinking that this is an impossible achievement. I realize that you may not have enough time for writing or think you don’t have enough time. But the truth is that there isn’t a word limit needed for this to work. It looks different for everyone.
For one person, it may be one sentence every day. For another, it may be writing for an hour every day. Whatever that looks like for you, I would encourage you to develop a consistent writing schedule and set goals for yourself that will grow you as a writer and overcome writer’s block once and for all!
Look how far you’ve come. You started out trying to find out how to get unstuck, and now you have ten strategies at your fingertips that will allow you to reach into hundreds of ideas! Not only that, but one of those strategies has prepared you to overcome writer’s block completely by setting up a consistent writing routine.
Now that you know all this, it is time to take action. It is time to start implementing strategies.
In other words, it is time to start writing.
And not just writing today because you were inspired by this amazing blog post that you read (although I hope that’s the case!), but today and tomorrow and the next day. It’s time to start writing consistently and overcoming writer’s block permanently.
If you want to learn more about developing your consistency, I encourage you to check out our free guide on How To Write More Consistently! This tool has all the information you need to begin writing consistently, from the personal story of a published author and her journey with consistency to practical tips so that you too can cultivate this discipline!