by Alvin Ramirez January 18, 2024
Writer’s block can feel like slamming into an impenetrable wall when your creative juices stop flowing. Whether you’re paralyzed by the blank page or hit roadblocks mid-manuscript, writer’s block threatens the momentum and motivation essential for finishing your book. But with the right mindset and strategies, you can work around and conquer this seemingly indelible situation.
Publishing expert and writing coach Dr. Angela Lauria has guided thousands of authors through defeating writer’s block to become published bestsellers. Here are Angela’s top tips for circumventing writer’s block and get back into the flow of writing.
1. Outline First
Trying to edit as you write is a major cause of writer’s block. Instead, thoroughly outline your book idea so you know what to write next. Break it down chapter by chapter. Use tools like spreadsheets to create “slugs” (lists of events, scenes, facts, quotes, or other cues that will inspire you to write between 150 to 500 words) to include per chapter. This organizing activates the logical left brain, while the actual writing taps the creative right brain. This method provides a clear path forward so you can write without constantly second-guessing yourself. Treat it like assigned topics in school; the teacher tells you what to write about, freeing you to focus on the writing itself.
2. Look Inward
Writer’s block often surfaces from deeper issues like unprocessed trauma or fears about being vulnerable. Rather than forcing your way through, listen to what your inner author is trying to tell you. Dr. Angela has two techniques to uncover the message: First, free-write questions to your block with your non-dominant hand (such as: “Why am I so stuck on writing this chapter?”). Then, using your dominant hand, answer the question. You might be shocked by what you write down. The second technique is to journal a letter compassionately addressing the parts of yourself creating resistance. Are you avoiding painful memories? Fearing criticism? Doing this will help you process separately from writing and dissolve the block. Honor your emotions without judgment.
3. Don’t Force It
If you’re not ready to revisit trauma, don’t force it. Writing should feel therapeutic, not re-traumatizing. If pain arises while writing about real events, take a break and process the memories separately before continuing. Surround difficult chapters with extra self-care like meditation, soothing baths, or comfort foods. Know your limits and don’t judge yourself.
4. Overcome Perfectionism
Perfectionism kills creativity. You know that, we know that, and Dr. Angela knows that. Remember, no first draft is perfect or the book would never get written. Commit fully to creating an intentionally shitty first draft. Give yourself permission to write something bad knowing quality comes later during editing. Turn off the inner critic saying this isn’t good enough by making progress your only goal. Silence your inner judge by pretending you’re back in school aiming for a D minus paper to just complete the assignment. The magic happens in plowing through the first shitty draft, not endlessly polishing the first sentence. Use deadlines to force you to move onto the next chapter, no matter the quality of the current. Prioritize getting words on paper over perfection. You can’t edit what isn’t written.
5. Let Your Idea Marinate
Balance writing through the first draft with letting an idea rest. Sometimes your inner author needs to marinate more before birthing a book. But other times, you must push through the fog by writing even when inspiration lags. If your deadline is looming, just write clunky, real-time stream of consciousness admitting you’re stuck. Get meta by writing about how much you hate forced writing. Something will shift. Other times, give yourself permission to take a break from a stagnant project and return when the passion is reignited. There are seasons to write and seasons to just live. Particularly with traumatic memories, honor them if you aren’t ready to revisit them. Trust your intuition. If a book is wildly calling to you but you can’t make progress, that misalignment reveals the root issue to address first before continuing.
6. Forget the Critics
Fear of criticism or exposure causes resistance. Uncover whose judgment you’re really afraid of. Often these vague worries of “people won’t like it” are exaggerated projections not grounded in reality. Get specific by naming exactly whose reactions concern you. You’ll usually find the critics are long dead, would never actually read your book, or that you don’t need their validation. We often subconsciously seek the impossible approval of early authority figures. Remember, you’re writing to help readers who need your book, not to prove yourself to childhood bullies. Release the need for universal admiration. It’s impossible. Focus on serving your aligned audience and the right readers will appreciate your work.
7. Identify Your Unique Author Productivity Rhythms
Experiment to find your optimal writing conditions and schedule. Try writing at different times of day to discover when you feel most inspired. Use timers to work in short, focused bursts. Take advantage of days when you feel highly motivated. Some write best in marathon sessions when they can hyperfocus over a few days. Others need small regular habits. If you have a neurodivergence, such as ADHD or Autism, adapt techniques that harness your cognitive style. There’s no single right way; find what works for you.
How to Overcome Writer’s Block
With consistent practice, you can learn to move through writer’s block more smoothly to complete your book. Remember, you aren’t alone in facing resistance. Every great book ever written started as an imperfect first draft. Whether you write your way through stubborn blocks or let ideas incubate until ready, with patience and compassion you can master the frustrations of writer’s block. Trust you have something valuable to share with readers waiting to learn from your book.
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