Suggested Reading for Anyone Dealing With Writer's Block

Updated on March 27, 2018
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Sadie Holloway is a workshop facilitator who teaches interpersonal communication skills to help people strengthen their relationships.

Writing blocks happen to everyone, even the most experienced writers. Here's what to do the next time you feel stuck and don't know what to write about.

Read 'The Artist's Way' and Find Your Writing Voice Again

If persistent and bothersome writing blocks are keeping you from moving ahead, I highly recommend reading The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. A colleague once lent me her copy and I've been singing its praises ever since. Reading the book helped me recover from a writing block that had dragged on for over a year. The Artist's Way is not just a great tool for helping you move past writer's block, it's also a fabulous resource for stoking your creative fires even when you aren't in the middle of a writing rut.

The Artist's Way has been used by artists, writers. entrepreneurs and anyone looking to bring more creativity into their lives. The book offers tips, techniques and hands-on exercises to help in the process of artistic creative recovery. It's an enjoyable, inspiring read especially when you need to take your mind off your feelings of anxiety and self-doubt about your artistic skills and abilities.

When writer's block has you feeling trapped, focus your attention on other confidence building activties. The creative ideas will soon start flowing again.
When writer's block has you feeling trapped, focus your attention on other confidence building activties. The creative ideas will soon start flowing again.

One of the side benefits of reading The Artist's Way is the ease with which you can connect with other artist's who are trying to find their creative voice again. You can go online and find many MeetUp groups where you can find mutual support and encouragement while learning the Artist's Way principles. Some groups offer a 12-week creativity course focused on developing supportive relationships to overcome artistic blocks and foster confidence in the creative process.

Writing is a spiritual practice in that people that have no spiritual path can undertake it and, as they write, they begin to wake up to a larger connection. After a while, people tend to find that there is some muse that they are connecting to.

— Julia Cameron

In addition to working through the activities and exercises in The Artist's Way while you recover from your creative downturn, try some of these writing-related tasks to take your mind off your writing block. They'll not only keep your mind occupied, at the end of each task, you'll feel like you have at least made a little bit of forward progress once you are ready to dive head first into your writing again.

Put your Inner Critic to work. If your Inner Critic is going to be so mean and nasty today, why not give him a job to do? That's right: make him feel useful. Give him exactly what he wants: a chance to rip your writing to shreds. If your Inner Critic is holding you back from creating new material, give him something to play with.

  • Go back and edit a speech you gave last year.
  • Rewrite a magazine article that got rejected..
  • Update an old blog post you wrote with new statistics or scientific insights.

Look for spelling errors and typos. Find ways to cut back on excess wordiness. Edit for plain language. Clear out the clutter. Let your Inner Critic focus on writing tasks that will actually move you further along towards your goal. Because in spite of what your Inner Critic tells you, it is possible to have a productive writing day without actually doing any "real" writing.

Making change is a creative act. Editing and revising your own work is actually a creative process. (Just don't tell your Inner Critic that.) Revisiting writings from your past or reviewing a work in progress is a useful way to channel your Inner Critic's energy. He's going to critique everything you do anyway, so why not make him editor-in-chief for the day?

Make notes. Write in point form: no complete sentences, no fully developed paragraphs, no logically formed arguments; at least not yet. Those things will come in time. For now, write by hand. Turn your steno pad sideways. Use every inch of the page. Write words in big block type, pushing outside the ruled lines of your paper. Use arrows, stars, circles, check marks, smiley faces – whatever you like – to highlight new ideas or make connections between apparently random thoughts.

Jotting down notes is a lean form of writing that cuts out the wordy mumbo-jumbo standing between you and your creative ideas. Let go of the myth that everything you write has to be a fully formed thought in order for it to count as “real writing.” Sometimes twenty pages of handwritten notes can be far more valuable than those 200 words you painstakingly squeezed out just to spite your Inner Critic. Not everything about writing has to be a struggle.

Read for 20 minutes. You can cover a surprising amount of material in 20 minutes (especially if you let go of your expectation that in order to start reading something you have to have time to finish it in one sitting.) What’s wrong with just reading one chapter of a novel, a few pages of a non-fiction book, a magazine article, a blog post or the latest newsletter from your favorite charity?

Do some topical research on the internet. Remember the good old days when we actually had to get dressed to go out and research a topic? You don’t need vast amounts of creative energy to start gathering source material for your next article or blog post. In 30 minutes or less you can do some Google research. (Don’t forget Bing and some of the other search engines.)

You can also check for books relevant to your research topic on Amazon. (Reader reviews often contain rich clues about the quality of the book's content and whether or not it's worth adding to your body of research material.) You can also check your local library's online database (Place a hold on any books that you want to borrow.). Make sure you have a good organizational system for labeling your online bookmarks so that when you're ready to start sifting through them, you’ll be able to find what you need quickly.

The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.

— Julia Cameron

© 2016 Sadie Holloway

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