Monday, April 10, 2017

Blasting Through Writer's Block ~ by Christy Mihaly

When faced with the dreaded Writer’s Block . . . what should a working writer do?


(a) sit and stew
(b) scream and shout
(c) swear: "I'll never write again!"

(d): Read this post, and get yourself out of that funk. 

GROG readers, take heart! Yes, sometimes it seems as if the Muse has flown, never to be seen again. We've all been there. But if you're looking for a way out of the mire, select option (d), and consider these tried-and-true secrets for blasting through that block.

1. Move! Get up from your dreary desk, and try one (or more) of these potentially productive options for movement:

Christian Gonzalez, flickr:
a. Take a walk. Some writers call this “walking the story.” It’s smart to carry a notebook and pencil, or some other way to record your thoughts, because inspiration often shows up on long walks.

b. Move to a different writing space. Maybe it’s just to a comfy chair in the den. Maybe you can sit with your laptop under the spreading oak. You’ll benefit from  looking at the world from a new perspective.

c.  Run some errands. If it’s stuff you have to do anyway, don’t think of it as wasting time . . . just be sure to keep your mind open to creative thinking while driving or walking or riding. And if you have to pull over and write something down – do it.

d. Take a shower. Sometimes, ahem, we at-home writers might “forget.” Look down. Are you still wearing your pajamas at 2:00 p.m.? Perhaps a nice shower and a change of clothes would get the blood flowing to the brain.

2.     Find Fresh Inspiration. There are many ways to recharge your writing batteries and collect new writing ideas.

a.  Read.  Read mentor texts. Read poetry. Read anything. Notice what works and doesn’t work, yes. But read, read, read, for the pleasure of it.

b.  Watch kids. Don't be creepy, but if you’re a writer for children, you must understand how kids operate to write authentically about and for them. Sit by a playground or park, if you can, or spend time observing your own children or grandchildren.

c.  Fill the well. If your creativity is running dry, consider visiting an art show or a museum, or drawing or painting or playing some music or singing or doing whatever it is that feeds your artist’s spirit.
Leonid Pasternak, “The Passion of Creation”  [wikimedia]

d.  Call a writing buddy. Commiserate with someone who understands. Ask your friend to hold you accountable for your writing. Talk over some ideas that might work.

e.  Work on your craft. Are you thinking about signing up for a course or a workshop? Perhaps it’s a good time to buy a book about the craft of writing, and start working through it.

f.   Stretch your writing muscles. Switch it up with some writing exercises. If your picture book isn’t working, try making a picture book dummy. Compose a poem in your main character’s voice. Or change your story from the past tense to the present. Find the fun!    

Productive procrastination. You must, of course, avoid regular procrastination -- the time-wasting kind. But in a pinch, a bit of writing-related procrastination may prove profitable. So if creative energy eludes you, try some tasks that use other parts of your writing brain.

a. Pursue the business of writing. Update (or write) your lists, your spreadsheet of manuscripts, your chart of submissions. Send a reminder to someone who has been holding your manuscript or query for six months; submit a piece if it’s ready.

b. Organize your files. Be on the lookout for a prior draft or an old manuscript that calls to you. Is it time for a fresh revision? Is this just what an editor wants now? Can you breathe new life into this piece?
 Sharon Drummond,    

c.  Check your deadlines. Maybe you have another project that’s due soon, or the contest you've meaning to enter is about to close. Deadlines can be highly motivating.

d.  Research. Maybe you need to do library or field research or photo research, for fiction or nonfiction work. Maybe you can work investigate possible publishers, agents, markets, or theme lists, doing research can inspire new writing ideas. Completing a bibliography can feel very productive, too, and remind you just how much you know about your topic.

e.   Plan a presentation. Have you been meaning to schedule a school visit or bookstore presentation? Think about working on this.

f.  Consider your writing plan. Identify your writing priorities. Do you want to sign up for a writing course? Read a book on craft? Do you want to try a different genre? Join a writing group? Volunteer for SCBWI? All these actions can move your writing forward . . . and get you out of the block.

And, finally, one of my personal favorites. . . write a blog post! 

If you have your own writer's block remedies to share, let us know in the comments.  And happy writing!


  1. Wow, Christy, I think you've covered all the block breakers I can think of. All of these can be helpful and believe me, I've tired quite a few of them. TY.

    1. Hey Kathy -- I've got a little experience with these techniques myself . . . just keep on keeping on, right?

  2. WOW, Christy! What a way to begin a Monday. =] You've offered lots of great ways to overcome those dreaded times that tend to creep up on writers. Thank you for all your suggestions on how NOT to be a (writer) block-head!

    1. Thank YOU, Anne, for the cheery comment. I'm happy to share some of these tricks -- and I'm always on the lookout for new ones!

  3. great post! "Filling the well" is important - I need to get back to my weekly "artist dates" (go to a gallery, walk, museum, play with paint....). And as many of us can attest - writing a blog post is a great block-breaker because once you get writing you keep on going.

    1. Exactly! And yes on the well-filling, Sue! I'm thinking of a poetry slam next.

  4. Fun blog on writer's block. I am a huge proponent to get outside for awhile and then also on typing up a pb I like and then outlining it and matching it up to my story. I always get ideas on what isn't working or what could even be stronger doing this.

  5. These are mine, too.
    Plus visit your posse. Your local writers, your online writers or readers of books in your book club or wherever. Being with live people who are as into reading & writing as much as you can be a big boost.

    Another thing to do is lighten up & read some of those Larson/Garfield/ Trudeau/Cathy/ other cartoon paperbacks around the house or at your favorite used bookstore. Amazing what laughter can do for a blocked keyboardist.

    Finally, know that this too, shall pass. Truly, it does.

    1. Great words of wisdom, Jan, thank you! (The only issue about visiting my Facebook posses is that I have to watch the clock!) Cartoons are a fun idea, I'll try that too.

  6. I think I usually use the first three :) I have never heard of --walking the story! It's one I will definitely give a go! I have a LifeBook. It's a collection of little bits and pieces of my life. Lots of times, I will sit and look through my LifeBook. It's fun to reminisce, but, many times ideas pop into my head :)

    1. The LifeBook is a wonderful suggestion -- thank you Kathy!

  7. Luckily, I don't usually have writer's block, Chris. but for me, it is good to take a break from the writing and I LOVE your productive procrastination tips...these will definitely help me so much!

  8. Great suggestions, Chris. I find dog walking most helpful, although it's a little difficult to jot down ideas when my pup decides it's time to tug on the leash.

  9. Lots of great block-busters here, Chris. I am reading a middle grade right now, and it is terrific. Great use of dialogue. Decided to mix things up a bit.

  10. Thank you, Chris, for a thorough list of tips and reminders for writers who want to get out of the funk and persevere. There are times when I find myself low on writer's energy and realize I worked right through lunch. Time to take a lunch break and pour myself a tall glass of iced tea. I find listening to musical lyrics or watching a documentary can encourage my writerly thoughts and ideas.

  11. This is a wonderful post. Thanks for all these good ideas.

  12. Love your comment to "write a blog post"! Maybe that will shake things loose for me, too. Thanks, Chris!

  13. Hi Chris,
    These are great suggestions. I just looked down - I'm still in my pajamas! Time to head for the shower.