Battle Strategies for Writer’s Block

November 5, 2019

As an English major, an editorial intern at Dressember Foundation, and the editorial director of CLAgency, writing is an essential piece of my everyday life. Yet, more often than I would like to admit, I am struck with the crippling ailment that all wordsmiths fear: writer’s block. It creeps up—or rather, smacks me in the face—seemingly at the worst possible times. I have sat with a blank screen staring back at me on numerous occasions. 

Despite writer’s block, deadlines never stop coming, and words don’t write themselves. Along my journey as a writer, I have developed strategies to cope with writer’s block, meet deadlines, and crash through creative obstacles.

Allow Yourself to Write Badly

Too often, I find myself unable to put a single word on a page out of the fear that I will write the wrong thing, or that what I write will not be good enough; my first draft has to be perfect. It sounds a little silly; the basic writing process we were taught in school includes multiple revisions before a piece is done. It is important to remember that there is room for mistakes. 

When I find myself afraid to write the wrong thing, I like to use a strategy called, “What I Really Mean Is…” (WIRMI). Instead of attempting to eloquently state a concept, just say it how it really is. Explaining, “What I really mean is,” helps a writer parse out big ideas and highlight what’s truly important. Putting an idea on paper—no matter how ugly—gives you words to work with and refine into something more effective. 

Make An Outline

Going back to the basics is sometimes the best way to solve a problem. In another lesson from high school composition, making an outline is an easy way to get your writing off the ground. 

Outlines force a writer to consider the goal of the piece they are writing before they even start. They clearly communicate the direction a piece will take to accomplish that goal and help the writer see connections between ideas. Don’t know what to write about next? Reference your outline!

Get Dressed

People often say, “Dress for success.” This phrase has proven true for me as a writer. I find that words fly onto the page when I dress for the occasion—perhaps a nice sweater and jeans versus sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Sometimes I like to throw on some makeup, even if I am just writing in my living room. “Getting ready” to write puts my mind in a different state; when I look the part of someone who is productive, I am able to play the part more effectively. 

Plus, when I am dressed and ready I can head to one of my favorite Minneapolis coffee shops for a change of scenery at any time. 

Next time you find yourself in a writing rut, try any of these strategies to get yourself out (they are some of my personal favorites). Get dressed, make an outline, write a few horrible sentences, and churn out your next masterpiece! 

If these strategies aren’t your speed, check out these other methods for battling writer’s block.