Writer’s Block: What To Do When the Words Won’t Flow

In Writing on July 21, 2011 at 11:45 am

A few months ago, I started writing an article for my newsletter. I knew what I wanted to write about, I understood my audience, I had completed the research and I had organized my ideas. But the words just wouldn’t flow. I had one false start after another and grew more and more frustrated as time slipped away. I knew that the article was going no where and that I really needed to do something different to unjam my thoughts, but I was too stubborn to give up. And so I continued writing and hitting the delete button, wasting way too much time. This was writer’s block at its finest. Finally, in total frustration, I went to find something to eat, anything to get away from my laptop. Within 10 minutes, the opening paragraph had formed in my head.  When I returned to my office, I was able to complete a draft of the article in about 20 minutes.

Everyone can fall prey to writer’s block at some point or another. Generally, writer’s block happens when a person tries to start writing before he or she is ready. Writing is a thought process consisting of six steps. It’s not until the fifth step that you should actually start writing. If you try to skip a step to save time, you often find yourself stuck.

If you have completed the first four steps in the writing process — understand your assignment, brainstorm, research and organize your thoughts —  and you are still stuck, try these tactics to deal with writer’s block.

  • Take a break. Get away from your writing, even if it is only for a few minutes. A quick break from the keyboard can go a long way.
  • Develop a summary sentence. Forget about all the details and cut to the chase. Answer the question, “What am I trying to say?” If you can’t summarize what you want to say, spend more time organizing your thoughts before you start writing.
  • Play with the words. If you have had a few false starts, type a list of key words then start stringing them together. Don’t worry if your sentences make sense. Just play with the words. Before long, you will have a good opening sentence if you are ready to write.
  •  Give yourself a deadline. Some of my best writing is done when I am facing a deadline, either real or self imposed. Not only will this help you break through writer’s block, it also will teach you to write more quickly.
  • Start in the middle. If you find that you can’t write the first paragraph, try writing a different section first. Successfully writing one section or paragraph will often help you get unstuck.

What do you do when your writing gets stuck? Share your thoughts…

Copyright 2011.  Joan B. Marcus

How It All Began

  1. Whenever I get stuck writing a paper for school, I usually just give up and come back the next day. Somehow I always have new ideas to bs my way through, even if their not the best. Better than writer’s block!

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