How to Embrace Writer’s Block

Embrace writer’s block: How to make it part of your writing

by Peri Cimen

We’ve all been there. Whether you’ve been staring at a blank Word document for days or hit a wall during a long-term project, writer’s block can be frustrating and disruptive, and leave you feeling less than confident in your abilities. You may have scoured the internet for a solution and found that going for a walk isn’t necessarily what you need to start feeling creative again. But writer’s block isn’t an obstruction—it’s an advantage.

Here are five ways to accept and embrace writer’s block as part of the creative process:

#1. Waste time

The sooner you start letting yourself waste time, the better you’ll feel about not writing. We can get so caught up with trying to be productive that we end up feeling down when we can’t produce the output we expect. Take a break and use writer’s block as a respite. Look at what you want to achieve and how you’re working towards this goal. Try not to feel guilty about being unproductive; every second you spend staring at a blank document or thinking about your project is a valuable one.

#2. Write badly

Throw perfectionism out of the window (for now). When it comes to writing a first draft, the most important thing is to get as many words as possible down on the page. You can’t improve on something that doesn’t exist. So, write badly. Write as much bad writing as you can and then think about the bigger picture: What is it you want to say? What structure would best communicate this message? What can be cut? You can always fine-tune later.

#3. Clear the pipes

Writing badly also helps you clear the pipes, so to speak. If you’re preoccupied by everyday life, it can be hard to focus on writing.If you haven’t heard of Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages”, they’re an infamous tool for inspiring creativity. By writing whatever comes to mind—whether this is by detailing the tasks or chores you need to complete throughout the day, philosophising about the current state of the world, or reflecting on your own feelings—you relieve these burdens onto the page and free up creative mental space.

#4. Talk to people

You can’t write, but you can speak and listen. Use writer’s block as an opportunity to have conversations with others about what you’re trying to do with your work (or about anything at all). A lot of the time, we feel confronted by writing when we’re not sure where something is going, but new experiences and ideas reveal themselves to us when we talk them through. It’s easy to forget that before we wrote things down, we shared knowledge verbally.

#5. If you can’t write, read

You don’t lose anything when you pick up a good (or bad) book. You either read something that enraptures your very soul and leaves you in awe of being alive, or you gain some insight into how not to write a book. When we read, we gain new perspectives. We learn something. Writers write to share stories and knowledge, after all. If you’re lucky, a single line or idea will spark some creativity. But even if it doesn’t, if you don’t like the idea of “wasting time”, then filling your time with something educational will help you feel more productive about writing. You can even call it research.

In summary

Writer’s block is not a reflection of your abilities as a writer. It’s a part of the process. You are not less creative, productive, or intelligent than other writers. It’s just your brain’s way of communicating something to you. So, listen. Be patient with yourself. Embrace writer’s block and repurpose the time you spend agonising over not being able to write, and the outcome might surprise you.

Bonus point!

If you still feel stuck after trying to embrace writer’s block, we have a little secret that might help you—hiring a writing or book coach. These professionals help you get clarity on everything from your target reader to your topic or plot, your structure and narrative, and your key messages or themes. They can help you get unstuck by asking the right questions and giving you insights or pointers. At The Book Shelf, we provide coaching for nonfiction authors to make your writing easier, so get in touch if you want that extra bit of help to get going again.