Breaking Writer's Block

Here's a hand-out I wrote earlier this year on breaking dreaded writer's block. It was started in attempts to overcome my own writer's block - therefore many of these suggestions have been attempted by me and have proved successful in various circumstances. My suggestion is, if it sounds crazy, give it a try. My thanks to the many who have contributed material on this subject elsewhere on the net and in writing handbooks. - Matthew 7/18/97
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(But you might want to keep a pen and paper handy, just in case)

EXERCISE - Go to the gym and work out, shoot some hoops, ride your bike, Take a hike

MUSIC - be the food of love, soothes the savage beast, Mozart is supposed to increase those brain waves, Arena rock works for me, familiar music, strange music, call a radio station and request a song

ART - fingerpaint, doodle, get some playdough

CONVERSATION - talk to somebody who makes you feel good, go down to a coffeehouse and meet somebody new, call somebody up you haven't heard from in a while

PEOPLE WATCH - restaurants, airports, malls, sporting events, county fairs, anywhere outside in good weather, listen to talk radio

PLAY - pool, chess, bridge, poker, bingo, charades, catch!

HELP SOMEONE ELSE -Every city has volunteer opportunities - visit people at a hospital/retirement home, help out at a soup kitchen, teach someone to read, help a friend brainstorm, contribute to this page

WRITE OTHER THINGS - letters, e-mail, limericks, jokes, poems

DO NOTHING - just lie on the floor, take a 5 minute break, meditate - take 10 deep breaths and feel yourself relax a bit more each time, or visualize a special place with each breath, take a nap for 15-30min, sleep on it

GO AWAY - Go somewhere you don't usually go - an Art museum, a park, a new bookstore in town, a different restaraunt

READ or LISTEN -Read a good book , Go to a reading or open mic, go to a speech or a meeting, Get an audio book and listen to it - especially those read by the authors, Read writers about writing.. e.e. cummings' non-lectures or Bradbury's Zen and the Art of Writing are good starts - anything about the creative process


Nobody has to see this writing, you don't even need to keep it or reread it

-Turn off all the lights(the computer monitor included) and write in the dark
-Write about anything you see or think
-Write as badly as you can
-Write about the most boring thing you can think of
-Vent frustration-- write about how much you hate having to write, wish you were asleep
-Ask questions - Who?What?Where?Why?
-Don't take the pen off the paper for 10 minutes.
-Don't edit or censor yourself
-Make diagrams
-Doodle, scribble, draw pictures of the topic
-Brainstorm - make a list of everything words phrases that comes to mind in connection with the topic

Writing does involve work.

-Instead of making excuses not to write, use writing as an excuse not to do other things
-Plunge in at the deep end -deliberately exaggerate whatever bothers you -use excruciatingly awkward transitions.. terrible punctuation!
-Keep another piece of paper handy to doodle or scribble or put down extraneous thoughts on while writing.
-Start writing when you know you only have a short amount of time before another commitment
-Give yourself plenty of time to write
-Set concrete goals in terms of time period spent or number of words
-Reward yourself with study breaks
-Try writing with pen and paper(or crayon or marker) if you usually use the computer
-Write on anything - Kurt Vonnegut's character wrote all of Hocus Pocus on backs of envelopes, receipts and other such scratch paper
-You don't have to write sitting down at a computer.. try lying down, standing up, walking
-Try talking your writing to somebody or recording it with a tape recorder
-Skip ahead to another part if you get stuck for too long, momentum is important


-Personalize your topic - connect it with your experience write what you know, reach the fire inside
-Write it as it were a different piece, an essay as an expose, a piece of fiction as an expository essay, a poem as a memo
-Write it as someone else - as the leading advocate of the opposing side, as someone from history, someone from a different culture
-Write it to someone else - to a small child, as a letter to a good friend

-Try early morning, late at night, afternoon, the middle of the sleep cycle
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This page last updated:7/30/97