Writer’s block is not knowing what to write or being unable to write.
Some writers become frustrated when I say I’ve never had writer’s block. Seriously, I haven’t. Some think I’m lying and others wonder if something’s wrong with them.
Yes, there are times when writing is harder than others. There are times when the words don’t flow as I wished or the ones that do come forth aren’t as good as I’d like. But there has never been a time when I am blocked from writing due to a lack of ideas or the inability to string words together.
Interestingly, although people have been writing for millennia—ever since the written word was invented—writer’s block is a recent affliction. According to Google’s Ngram, writer’s block first came into existence in 1945. Apparently, before then there was no writer’s block. Since then the term’s use has increased, reaching its peak in the most recent year reported.
Here are my tips to avoid writer’s block:
- Don’t think you need to wait for inspiration. Just sit down and start typing.
- Maintain a list of ideas so you always have a place to start. Some days you will need the list; some days you won’t.
- Write every day; write when you want to and especially when you don’t.
- For long projects, never stop writing at the end of a chapter, a scene, or a thought. Stop in the middle of the action or idea, or move into the next one. I often stop midsentence. It’s so much easier to pick things up the next day.
- Discover when, where, and how you write best. Then make every effort to capitalize on writing at that time, at that place, and in that way.
- Set deadlines. Few things motivate more.
- Do mental writing when you wake up, in the shower, or as you perform mindless activities throughout the day. Forming ideas and aligning words in our head is great preparation to write for real. Sometimes this gets me so excited I can’t wait to start.
- Deny that writer’s block has a place in your work. Stop feeding it, and it will die.
The reality is that writer’s block is just a fancy name for an excuse to avoid doing the sometimes-hard work of writing. Succumbing to it is giving up. Overcoming it is the key to success.
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Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.