Friday, July 23, 2010

5 Secrets for Overcoming Writer's Block

If you’ve been a writer for more than five days, writer’s block has attacked you. That dreaded black hole of non-creativity sucks your brain into it at unpredictable intervals. Especially if you’re working under a deadline, you can’t afford time to sit and gaze at whiteness—you must get words on the page. But how do you pry your stubborn muse out of the black hole, and start producing again?

Here are my five tricks that work—nearly—every time:
1. I pray. Sounds too simple, I know. But it works. Instead of searching the dusty corners of my weary brain for words or ideas, I go to the One who created words, who is the Word made flesh, and ask for help. Mostly my prayers sound like this: “Help me, please. Give me words. Empower me to get my message across, Lord.” We don’t need to impress the King. He already wants to help us. He’s just waiting for us to ask.

2. I step away and do something mindless for a bit. Fold laundry. Bird watch. Pull weeds. Anything that requires little thought relaxes my tied-in-knots mind, freeing it to produce again. I must be careful I don’t step away too long, though. More than an hour of mindlessness can lead me to procrastinate. But a short break often motivates my brain into working mode again.

3. I free write. Remember this exercise from eighth-grade English class? I use it still, with excellent results. If I need an idea for an article, a hook for an opening, or the best ending for a story, I open a blank document and let my fingers dance. I type whatever thoughts breeze in, not stopping to edit. I’ve never made it to the end of the page before the perfect idea, hook or ending pops out and I’m stylin’ once again.

4. I read a book or article written by an author whose voice I admire. Something about reading superb writing causes the imaginative juices to bubble and boil, until they overflow into my heart and release my imprisoned muse. I may need to read only a paragraph, a page, or a chapter before I come out of my frozen brain state. Once it worked with a single phrase.

5. I exercise. I know a few of you don’t want to hear this, but the dreaded E word helps increase creativity by sending much needed blood to the brain and increasing serotonin levels. As much as I dislike exercise, I must admit I think and write better after a workout. And if I go too many days without a workout, I turn into the opposite of Miss Sweetie-Pea. So.

Did I miss any? What do you do to overcome writers block in your neighborhood?


  1. Prayer and exercise helps me. Sometimes I get inspired by reading the Bible, those meaty parts people have studied for years and years. It's as though characters and things they might do spring from the pages of an old softback Bible that's cluttered with notes and has pages falling out. My current read has a humorous spot, yearning for Jack Nicholson's character from the Shining to help her get through the great WB. It's not funny, though, when it's happening to me. ;-)

  2. Great list! Those are mine, too, except for the free-writing thing. I'll try it!

    Happy weekend, Jen!

  3. Sometimes I just need to force myself to sit and write. I like the prayer tip. We underestimate that big time.

  4. You seriously just explained everything I do! Great list!

  5. Oh, another thing that helps me is listening to great, inspiring music.

  6. One and four are a part of my daily routine! Love this list Jen:)

  7. Hey Jeanette! This is my first time here and I'm so blessed by your blog!

    Love this post - thank you for sharing your tips! I, like Katie, am inspired with beautiful praise music. I currently keep Pandora on in the background with soft inspirational melodies that lift my spirit and clear my mind. This really works for me!

    I'm following you now and hope you'll stop by my place for a visit sometime......I love meeting new bloggin' sisters in the Lord!

    Sweet Blessings!

  8. I think we are on the same page:) Especially the reading and excercize--they always work for me!

  9. Jen:
    I started doing a journal early this year. At the bottom of each page is a scripture. Everyday I wrote about the scripture. The scriptures repeat themselves about three times. Each time I tried to break the passage into key words or phrases and write about those.
    Now that I have exhausted the journal. I started my own (spiral bound)on using the scriptures from "Write His Answer". I apply what the verse says to me about patience and seeking God. It's just my way of preparing to write.

    Prayer also is a way to overcome the dreaded writer's block.

  10. This is great, Jeanette! I almost always start with that first one, fresh ideas or not. Haven't tried the free-form scratch-what-comes thing, though, but I'll have to file that one for the next "black hole." Thanks!!

  11. I whole-heartedly agree with numbers four and five. There's nothing like exercise and other well-written books to inspire and get those creative juices flowing. Sometimes I'll just force myself to write on a chapter in my story. I might end up deleting a couple pages worth of pointless dialogue or description, but it helps me get back into my character's heads and back into the story.

  12. This is good. Praying, taking a break, and just writing are my favorites and they nearly always work. I could exercise, but I might need to do that later in the day.

  13. Great list, exercise really does spark up the ol' brain matter - I also find drinking water instead of caffeinated drinks can help clear the mind.

  14. Hi Jen -

    Your list matches mine. (Maybe we're really sisters separated at birth.)

    I also find journaling helps me. A sure way to get Writers' Block: Neglect spending quiet time with the Lord.

    Susan :)

  15. What a great list! I also love to listen to Pandora radio. I absolutely LOVE to listen to Praise & Worship music!


  16. Did you have to use the E word?? I know it's true, just one of those D words (discipline). I like the doing something mindless...I do that a lot but not on purpose.
    Love you

  17. Love your write, Jeanette ... great words to live by, write by & enjoy by.

    Have a lovely PINK weekend ~
    TTFN ~Hugs, Marydon

  18. I think you covered the bases -- a great list -- loved the photos to match!

    Happy Writing.........

  19. thanks for the visit,... i love this newly post..


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