Conquering the Blank Screen

Thirteen Tips to Overcome Writer's Block

The sun is shining, birds chirp and spring flowers sway in the breeze. You sit at your computer and stare out the window – willing nature’s bounty to bring inspiration.

Yet, another 20 minutes pass without a single sentence flowing from your brain and through your fingertips. You feel stuck, stalled and frustrated, believing every ounce of creativity has exited your body.

You, like many writers, suffer from writer’s block (or creative slowdown), a paralyzing pause that can strike anytime – whether you’re composing a letter, a proposal or white paper. No amount of sitting or staring will help you hurdle this obstacle. You need a mental – and perhaps physical — push to set the words in motion.

  • Run, bike or work out. When the body moves, the mind tends to follow. According to Karen Asp in Active, a single 30-minute cardio session pumps extra blood into the brain, producing oxygen and the nutrients the brain needs to perform at maximum efficiency.
  • Write early in the morning. Your brain is still in Theta mode when you awaken. Theta is the brain wave pattern your mind enters when you dream and is linked to creativity.
  • Write as soon as possible after research or an interview. Your mind organizes thoughts and records words while you conduct research and interviews. Begin writing while the thoughts and words are still fresh.
  • Develop an outline. This practice works better for some writers than for others. Creating an outline helps you organize your thoughts and provides direction.
  • Eliminate distractions. Ringing phones, voices in adjoining offices or surfing the Internet disrupts your thinking. Create a workspace where you can concentrate and focus your thoughts.
  • Change environments. A simple change of scenery may be enough to get you thinking and the words flowing. Go to the park or a coffee shop or work from home.
  • Begin in the middle — or at the end. No roadmap or rule exists requiring you to start a writing project at the beginning. You may feel more confident or inspired to write somewhere in the middle or toward the end.
  • Keep a writing pad with you – always. Words and inspiration may occur while you’re showering, waiting in line at the drive-thru or walking the dog. Be prepared to capture and record thoughts and words.
  • Read the works of writers you admire. Your mind absorbs transitions and word flow when you read quality written work. This often results in inspiration and the confidence to create your own words and ideas. Listening to audio books also helps.
  • Free write. You can begin to clear your blocked mind by writing everything you know about a topic. Don’t worry about the flow of words, word order or sentence structure. Just write!
  • Let copy sit overnight. If time allows, let copy simmer overnight — and tackle it in the morning. You’ll be surprised how naturally the words begin to flow as you rewrite, edit and revise.
  • Write something every day. You may tackle that novel you always wanted to write, compose poetry or create a journal. Writing is like riding horse, you never forget how to write (or ride) but you improve your skills when you practice every day.
  • Enjoy nature – for three days! Cognitive psychologist David Strayer says two or three days experiencing nature can impact qualitative thinking. He claims, “When we slow down, stop the busywork and seek out natural surroundings, we not only feel restored but also improve our mental performance.”

Writing is hard work and requires a tremendous amount of mental energy. Try some of the above methods the next time you experience a slowdown — or your writing comes to a screeching halt. Determining what works for you will help stimulate creativity and get your writing back on track.


“I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts…”

― Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life


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