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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Peaslee

5 Tips For Overcoming Writer's Block

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

- Ernest Hemingway


I am intimately familiar with writer's block—or what poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge called his “indefinite indescribable terror." That universal fear of the blank page is why I named this blog after Hemingway's famous quote. It's also why I'm writing this post nearly two years after creating this website. How's that for writer's block?


Here's the thing about writer's block: it doesn't magically go away. You will not get past the block by giving up. It's okay to walk away for a while, but progress can't be made unless you're actively trying. And that's hard to do, because you probably won't like what comes out at first.


And that's okay.


Welcoming that vulnerability might mean opening up old wounds, then bleeding words all over your typewriter (or PC, or notebook, or maybe one of those futuristic whiteboards they had on The Good Place). That's scary as hell. Is it any wonder that so many of us struggle?


But you cannot defeat writer's block without accepting the inherent vulnerability of writing something that isn't very good.


Here are some tips that help keep me grounded:


1. Embrace a Bad Draft


“I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.” - Nora Roberts


Rember this mantra: writing something bad is better than not writing at all.


Say it with me now: writing something bad is better than not writing at all.


You can refine and polish a poorly written piece, but an empty (or incomplete) page can ever reach its potential. It's not bad writing—it's not good writing. It's nothing.


You might be a perfectionist. You might be an overthinker. Chances are, you are your harshest critic.


Put all of that aside—it's time to practice self-acceptance through writing. Whatever you write, whether it's 50 words of beautiful poetry or 1,000 words of trash prose, I want you to appreciate it. Because now that you've written it, you can start doing the real work.


2. Don't Be Afraid to Take Risks


Think about it for a minute. Be honest. What are you afraid of?


Embrace that honesty and take a risk. Expound upon your fears, spill your ideas, let the words flow—even if they appear less than perfect at first. The magic happens during the editing process.


Are you afraid that your worldbuilding isn't good enough? Keep writing. The world will develop as you get to know it better.


Are you afraid that what you're writing isn't relatable? Keep writing. If you can relate to it, others will also relate.


Are you afraid that what you're writing is too personal? For god's sake, keep writing! That is likely where you will find your best ideas.



3. Push Through The Wall


Writer's block can feel like an insurmountable obstacle, but it's not. Keep your creativity limber with regularly scheduled writing times.


Writing daily, even if it's no more than 100 words, will exercise your mind. You'll find that you are far more easily able to write when you're already used to it!


It sounds simple, but it's true: the act of writing itself can often be the remedy for writer's block.



4. Don't Let "Editing" Keep You From Finishing


Editing and refining your work are crucial steps in the writing process, but there's a difference between editing and "editing."


Real editing comes at the end of your finished draft.


If you are stopping after every page (or every paragraph) and trying to perfect your writing as you go along—stop. Don't let the pursuit of perfection stop you from completing your first draft.


Allow yourself to write freely without the constant urge to edit as you go. There's plenty of time for revisions later.


5. Finishing A Story Feels Amazing!


Even if your draft is rougher than expected, the sheer act of finishing a story or project is immensely rewarding. Cherish that feeling of accomplishment. It's a testament to your creativity.

I. Finished. My. Story!
Yes!
So today I am a writer, and a damn good one; today I am grateful and happy and just a little scared about what to write next.

The above except is something I journaled after finishing a draft of a novella that will probably never be published.


Although I loved writing the story, nobody loved reading it (except for my mom—thanks, Mom!). I submitted it to a literary magazine that offered feedback upon request, and I received a score of "average" on every category aside from narrative prose (above average) and worldbuilding (below average). My beta readers told me they had trouble connecting with the story, with the characters. The third-person voice I wrote in wasn't doing me any favors, either.


But! All was not lost. I did receive positive feedback on some of the flash fiction stories contained within the novella. I took those stories and fleshed them out, at the suggestion of several people, and loved the end result of each one.


Finishing the novella was absolutely worth it, even if the end result wasn't what I pictured. Writing anything is an achievement in itself: don't be afraid to acknowledge that.


Conclusion


This is what happens when you write: some things work. Some things don't. You will never find out what things do and do not work if you don't try.



While we disagree on the concept of "try," Yoda is a pretty smart guy.



So, in conclusion, don't be disheartened when vivid descriptions and realistic dialogues don't instantly materialize on the page. Embrace the journey of imperfection, because it's through the act of writing and revision that your ideas will blossom.

A sharpened pencil sitting atop a blank page of unlined paper within a spiral notebook

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