Overcoming Writer’s Block

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Writer's blockHi, I’m Jim and I’m a full-time freelance writer.

I’ve been writing since the mid ’90s, and writing professionally since 2000. I have written nine books, fiction and nonfiction, and all but one have been published by major publishing houses.

I have a confession to make.

I struggle with crippling writer’s block. In fact, I fight the battle against writer’s block every single day. Most days, when I think about getting started on my writing projects for the day, I get cold chills. We’ve all heard the cliche about the blocked writer staring at a blank page (or screen) for hours.

I don’t do that. As a rule, I don’t even get that far.

You see, if I stared at a blank screen, it would be obvious that I need to write. Instead, I dress up my writer’s block by trying to appear productive.

I check e-mail obsessively, because I never know when someone might write me, wanting me to help them write a book, or a proposal, or whatever.

I visit Facebook (just to check on important writing matters, you know).

I read blog posts on my Feedly reader so that I can stay up with all my writing friends and on current issues.

I check several news sites because it’s important to stay up on world events. There might be a book out there, just waiting to be written.

If I’m not careful, I soon find myself in an endless loop, circling from website to website to website, feeling incredibly busy, but not getting anything accomplished.

So why am I telling you this?

Struggling with writer’s block (or creative block for you musicians and artists), is an annoying and frustrating problem for anyone, no matter where you are in your professional development.

But for someone who is a full-time freelancer, it is far more than an annoyance.

For the full time freelancer, writer’s block can be a career killer. It can be devastating.

In my ongoing battle against writer’s block, I’m going to be writing down some observations, techniques, helpful hints, books, and whatever else I’m finding that helps.

Because I know one thing for sure. I’m not the only artist who suffers from creative block. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share some things that will help. If nothing else, at least I’ll be writing.

Join the discussion: What about you? Do you suffer from writer’s block? What do you do to defeat it?

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  1. Natalie Cone says:

    My habit is denial, denial, denial. It is so hard for me to admit when I get blocked, and I get blocked so often. The root of it is fear. I am a stay at home mom of two, so the “alone time” needed to write comes rarely. And then I get blocked, because I’m so afraid that when I FINALLY have an hour or two alone, I’ll waste it by writing crap. Writing a thousand words of junk is scarier than writing nothing at all to me, because I’m terrified that one day I’ll learn that I’m a terrible writer after all and never knew it all this time.
    Wow. I’m not sure that I have ever been able to put that into words before, but… there you go.

  2. Janet Ann Collins says:

    Thank you, James. I’ll definitely check that out.

  3. Janet,

    I’m sorry for your loss. As I mentioned above, my father’s decline and death last year really impacted my ability to write. In many respects, I think I’m still getting over it.

    Re: Taking your computer offline: There’s a great piece of software called “Freedom” that lets you specify a period of time (anywhere between 15 minutes and 8 hours) that you want to be offline. It shuts down Internet access for that period of time, but doesn’t take you off your network. I use it a lot, especially when I need to focus and eliminate all distractions. There are versions for both Windows and Mac, and it only costs $10. It’s worth ten times that. Here’s a link to it: https://macfreedom.com/

  4. Maryruth,

    Sometimes bouncing from one project to another helps me, but most of the time if I’m blocked, it’s across the board.

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss last December. My dad passed away last December after a long (3-4 year) decline. They put him on hospice care in Jan of 2013, and I lived most of last year under a cloud of depression. It definitely affected my writing.

    Free writing is one solution that has worked. In fact, I’m trying to incorporate it into my daily routine, as sort of a starter.

  5. maryruth says:

    I usually can write something. If one project is blocked, I do something else. Now one problem I’ve had lately is with my journaling. I have journaled over 30 years with very little skipped nights. However, had a death in the family last Dec. I probably have not written in my journal but maybe two dozen times in the past six months. Not good.

    Other ideas: do free writing; read a book for fun; take a nature hike and take pictures; write poems for the pictures or captions, etc; if this project doesn’t have a deadline, give yourself permission NOT to write it; if you must write, then ask yourself why you don’t want to write it; and lastly, take a vacation.

  6. Janet Ann Collins says:

    I didn’t believe in writer’s block until I had a family tragedy and couldn’t write for several months. I agree that social networking can be a tremendous time suck. Before WI-Fi and ethernet I’d just take my computer offline, but I can’t do that anymore. I do write more when my office is tidy.

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