037 - How To Overcome Writer’s Block

52 Ways To Free Your Creative Juices

Writer’s Block effects most creative people at some point. The key to defeating it is having one of these simple fixes up your sleeve


Welcome to the Editor’s Journal; A daily thought on writing, the creative process, art, work, the world and how it all goes together. Every morning I rise early, I sit here in the quiet of my kitchen and I write whatever’s prominent. I have a bunch of article ideas saved, so I’ll either pull from them or write something new. I also write at larrygmaguire.com. I hope you enjoy the read.

If you promote your creative works online then you’re a writer. And at some point, you’re gonna get stuck trying to figure out what to write.

Therefore, figuring out how to overcome writer’s block is important. Otherwise, the work doesn’t get done.

If you have a website where you show your work and make that work available for sale, then you’ve got to write effective content for your pages and your regular posts. You’ve got to write product descriptions that entice your readers to buy, and so on.

Now some creatives, non-writers, craftspeople etc., might suggest that what they write is secondary, or even unimportant.

But I’d strongly argue against that because I don’t know what part of being a creative person doesn’t involve writing to some extent.

It’s especially relevant in the promotion of our work, and what effective promotion essentially boils down to is consistency.

Turning up every day, producing, promoting, making our shit and getting it under the noses of people who matter even on the days that we don’t feel like it.

However, we have days when it’s just not happening, there’s nothing there, no words, just a blank page. The temptation to just throw your shoe at it is strong.

But we’ve got to be stronger. We’ve got to have some kind of process for how to overcome writer’s block and get back in the creative flow.

Well, I’m no different to you. There’s many days I show up and don’t know what to write. So in an effort to help myself and help my fellow creatives I’ve put together this list of 52 Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block.

(Ok, so my 11 year old son helped me do it. But I think it’s a good list, not just a rehash of every other list that’s every been compiled. In fact I’m up to 115 ideas now that I might add to this list.).


>>>Reader Bonus<<<: I’ve put this list into a handy PDF for you. Download The 52 Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block & Access Creativity here.

The Cause Of Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a self-created anxiety. It resides within the psychological structures of the mind and has no physical reality independent of that.

Therefore, writer’s block is within our mental capacity to overcome, just as it was within our capacity to create.

The fundamental cause of writer’s block is that the problem seems so real. It is here and now, I am in the problem, it is a part of me.

The focus on the problem exacerbates the problem. Further and further down we go into the depths of the blockage.

I experienced this last week.

No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get out. For several days I struggled with a question, staring at the screen, writing and rewriting and all the while making no progress.

The problem was I was trying too hard. In the end, I had to close the laptop and just go to bed.

Over the course of the next few days, I realised I was trying to make something happen that wasn’t ready. So I began distancing myself from it.

I made it less important and reconnected to the core of my writing. I read my manifesto and some of my older articles. Doing so reminded me of why I’m writing and made it easier for me to create.

52 Ways To Defeat Writer’s Block & Access Creativity

Recent psychological research from The University at Bloomington suggests that creating psychological distance between ourselves and the problem can help us make our way out of writer’s block and access our creativity.

Construal-Level Theory describes the phenomena of psychological distance which we create in thinking about objects and events in our experience.

The general idea here is that the more distant and less defined an event or object is from our minds, the more abstract it will be in thought. The closer the event or object is, the more concretely it will be in thought.

To remove ourselves psychologically from the problem makes it less concrete and therefore, as the research suggests, allows creativity to flow.

Essentially, what you need to do if you are experiencing writer’s block is to remove yourself from the problem.

Here are 52 ways you can do that;

1. Meditate

Meditation is well documented scientifically to help relax the mind and body and help improve creativity. Writer’s block is a symptom of an overactive mind and meditating daily in the morning and evening can help loosen its grip.

2. Take A Break

A simple one here. Taking a short break from your work can again, loosen up our creative energies and get us beyond a short term block in creativity. Get up from your desk, make a cup of coffee and have a bite to eat.

3. Go for a walk

Recent research at Stanford University has shown that walking helps help clear blockages to creativity. They found that walking either indoors on a treadmill or outdoors in nature boosts creativity by 60%.

4. Leave the city

The city has the potential to be offer inspiration or suck it right out of you. If the city is getting you down and you feel stuck, jump on the bus or a train and get away to the country for a few days.

5. Go for a run

I run a lot and I can say that many of my ideas become clearer when I do. I run in the local park under the trees and on the trails. There’s something about that practice that clears my head.

6. Read a book

I’ve got dozens of unread books on my shelf. Now that could be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective, but when I’m not feeling the flow I have plenty of resources to take my mind off things.

7. Go for a sleep

Sleep is probably one of the best practices for disconnecting from the negative energy of writer’s block. Just be aware that diffusing that negativity before you sleep is important or you’ll pick up where you left off.

8. Close your computer

Sometimes it’s simply best to shut down your computer altogether. Staring at the white screen tends to form part of the problem so shut it down and try something else.

9. Write with a pen & paper

That something else could be plain old writing with a pen or pencil in your journal. If you’ve not got a journal then it might be a good thing to start. Do it every day first thing in the morning an the last thing at night.

10. Swim in the sea

The sea can be a great refresher, in summer or winter. Don’t worry if you can’t swim, just wade out to waist height and dip your body under. The cold has the tendency to blast away your troubles.

I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come. — Maya Angelou

11. Just start writing

Many times I come to the keyboard and I’ve nothing to write about. So I just start writing. As I do, a personal story or an experience comes and helps me frame an article. I do this often.

12. Browse your older articles

Although this might sound scary (I dare not read some of my older stuff!) it can often give you an opportunity to write something new, or improve on the older article.

13. Try positive self talk

Speaking positively to oneself is one of the keys to creativity. It’s a conditioning thing and takes time and effort to develop, but once you get into the habit momentum will build and creativity will follow.

14. Listen to music

Music really inspires me, I’m moved by music all the time. I get deep into the music and the lyrics, form a story and make a connection to myself. Listen to music more often and get inspired.

15. Extend your deadline

I hate deadlines but I understand that they can be beneficial too. If you’ve set yourself a deadline and you are missing it regularly then maybe it’s time you backed off and extended that deadline.

16. Read The Artist’s Manifesto

If you have not read The Artist’s Manifesto yet then get your self a copy right away. It’s a call to artists and creatives to return to making things for the sake of it, without the need for applause. It’s my reminder of why I write.

17. Write your own manifesto

If you haven’t done it yet, write your own manifesto. I was inspired to write mine by an article Jeff Goins. You can also take some solid advice from Henneke Duistermaat on how to write your own.

18. Watch a movie

I don’t mean junk movies here, I mean movies with substance and credibility. Get on Netflix or Apple TV and watch great movies like The Godfather, Cinema Paradiso or The Shawshank Redemption.

19. Go to a gig

If you’re feeling stuck, get your ass out to a gig on in town. Go see a band or artist you’ve not heard of or seen before. Often watching other artists can provide us with inspiration.

20. Get a simple process and stick to it

Having a simple daily process and sticking to it can often yield dramatic results (eventually). It the basis for my commitment to write every day, the intention being that I develop my skill and creativity.


>>>Reader Bonus<<<: I’ve put this list into a handy PDF for you. Download The 52 Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block & Access Creativity here.

21. Stop reading productivity articles

Too much information can drown out creativity. Data from the world is required to provide inspiration, but often we take too much of it in. To be truly creative we need to close ourselves off and let the inside out.

22. Simplify your workspace

Your environment is a reflection of your mind. Remove everything that you don’t need from your desk and your surrounding office space — all distractions should go. This will help clear your mind.

23. Clean out your garage

Extending this principle to the rest of your living space can truly help create mind space where you can be more creative. Focus on the rooms in your house that are cluttered with useless junk and get rid!

24. Imagine the perfect outcome

Use the power of your mind to develop your perfect outcome. Imagine your goal completed and realised in full. Allow yourself to dream and believe the dream. Dreams are where it all begins.

25. List what makes you happy

Taking time early in your day to identify and list the things that make you happy help contribute to a more open and creative mind. This can be difficult if you are stuck, but just start with one thing and go from there.

I think one must trust the writing process. Understand that creativity requires nonlinearity and unique associative combinations. Creative people do a lot of trial and error and rarely know where they are going exactly until they get there. — Barry Kaufman, Scientific director The Imagination Institute, University of Pennsylvania

26. List what you’re grateful for

Similar to above, take the time early in your day to list the things that you are grateful for. These things are everywhere around you. If you consciously choose to identify them, this process can help open up your mind.

27. Draw

I love to draw, it’s perhaps where I’m at my most creative and free. Draw anything, doodle, draw matchstick people, it doesn’t matter. Just let yourself be free in the process, you don’t need to be good at it.

28. Cut out stimulants

If you are partial to a few drinks too many or something a bit stronger then consider getting on the wagon for a while. Any over dependence on stimulants can hamper creativity in a big way.

29. Get drunk

On the flip side, alcohol can help loosen you up when you’re stuck. Resistance to the flow of creative mental energy is self created and often getting a bit tipsy lets your creative self out.

30. Brainstorm with other creatives

Get in with your creative community and brainstorm ideas. Working with others that are on your wavelength is a major way to get the creative juices flowing.


>>>Reader Bonus<<<: I’ve put this list into a handy PDF for you. Download The 52 Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block & Access Creativity here.

31. Break from your plan

Plans are great but when they are not working they should be dropped or changed. If you have a plan for your book or business consider shelving it and going in a new direction for a while.

32. Visit the library

Almost everyone has a library close to them. If you are feeling your creativity narrowing then get your ass down to the library and have a browse in your favourite aisles.

33. Do some gardening

I’m not a big green finger type but this summer I got into planting tomatoes. Gardening helps connect us with nature and purer things, giving our stressed minds important timeout.

34. Turn off Grammarly

I use Grammarly plugin to check my writing. It’s a great tool but very annoying and distracting when I’m working. If you use it, then try turning it off until you’re finished.

35. Unsubscribe from useless email lists

Too much information swamps and drowns our creativity, that why I regularly recommend clearing out your inbox of all subscriptions on a regular basis (except mine of course 😉 )

36. Join a writer’s Meetup Group

Meetup is worldwide and nearly every major city in the world have a couple of Meetup groups for writers and artists. Get your ass along to their events and meet like minded people who can inspire you.

37. Cook a new meal

I love to cook and I do most of the cooking at home. It’s like therapy for the soul to me. Why not try to make something new for yourself or your family for dinner this week.

38. Make bread

Baking bread is an ancient art, one that takes time to perfect, but I’ve seen recently how very ordinary people in the kitchen can become award winning when they practice. It’s a simple task, one that you can use to tune out from your stuckness.

39. Listen to an audiobook

I love audiobooks and listen to psychology and philosophy regularly. When I’m on a long journey or even just on the bus to college I’ll stick on my earphones and immerse myself in a book. I get new ideas when I listen too, so creatively it helps me.

40. Become aware of your mood

Mood influences everything. If we are in bad form then nothing we do will work out to our immediate benefit. Bottom line here is we can’t reach a good place from having a bad journey. Become aware of how you feel and if you’re not in a good place with your work, stop what you’re doing.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. — Mark Twain

41. Visit the bookstore

Just like the library, the bookstore aisles can help offer us new inspiration. Many bookstores have coffee shops now so why not get away from your work space and buy a new book. Get inspired.

42. Drive in the mountains

Nature can provide us with endless inspiration, the mountains particularly so. Now I know the mountains are not on everyone’s doorstep but if you are particularly stuck then time in the mountains can help you find a way out.

43. Wash some clothes

A little while ago I was hanging out clothes with my son and a story came to me instantly. I got to my keyboard and put down a short story that reached some people and made a small but significant impact. Again, simple tasks have a way of providing creative inspiration.

44. Clean the dishes by hand

Like I said, simple practices like hanging out clothes and washing dishes hold hidden inspiration. Here’s another story that I got, during a bout of frustration actually.

45. Get up early

There’s something about the early hours that is special. Nobody else is awake yet and everything seems at peace. I find the early hours full of inspiration for writing and the more I do it, the more I stay in the flow.


>>>Reader Bonus<<<: I’ve put this list into a handy PDF for you. Download The 52 Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block & Access Creativity here.

46. Write late at night

On the flip side there is the night. Equally at night when the world goes to sleep there is inspiration too. Franz Kafka is one of many successful writers that did his best work at night.

47. Play with kids toys

Be like a child. That’s what psychologist Stuart Brown says we should do. Check out his Ted Talk where he explains his ongoing research into the importance of play in creativity.

48. Refuse to accept writer’s block

Wallowing in the misery of writer’s block is a sure fire way to make sure you stay there. Get your ass in gear, get out into the world and refuse to accept this temporary limitation.

49. Turn off the TV

TV is in my opinion the peddler of all things tabloid and tabloid content doesn’t serve you. If you have developed the habit of spending your time consuming rubbish on TV then it’s time to stop.

50. Don’t make excuses

Don’t make excuses and blame the world for your pain. Just like #48, get your ass in gear, take responsibility for your results and commit to making a change.

51. Don’t wait

Act now, not next week or next month. Creativity loves action and when we make the choice to move then providence moves to support us in our endeavour.

52. Vent your frustration

If you are frustrated, don’t bury it. Let it out! I remember one time I was stuck and really saw no light at the end of the tunnel. I stood in front of the mirror late one night and screamed my frustrations. It helped.

So In Conclusion

Every writer and creative person will experience a blockage to their creativity at some point. The trick to beating writer’s block is to have some tricks up your sleeves ready to go when you do.

It really doesn’t matter what you do to get out of the rut, you can even do nothing and it will be effective. The primary thing to do is to reduce the resistance in your psychic energy.

All the negativity of writer’s block is self created and it can all be turned around by you too.

Anyway, I hope this list has been helpful.


>>>Reader Bonus<<<: I’ve put this list into a handy PDF for you. Download The 52 Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block & Access Creativity here.


Originally published at larrygmaguire.com on July 19, 2017.

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Howdy, I’m Larry, Writer & Artist. Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. I write about art, creativity, business & marketing. When I’m not doing that I write short stories about the ordinary lives of people and the challenges they face. My stuff can be edgy, hard hitting, and sometimes controversial, but never contrived. If that’s your bag you can Sign-up To Sunday Letters Here.