blank notepad with pen, scrunched up pages scattered and a cup of black coffee

How to combat writer’s block

You’re facing a blank page and a ticking cursor – and possibly a deadline – but the words –– just –– won’t –– come.

Writer’s block hits everyone at some point – even professional writers.

You’ve a great idea for a blog; or you’re entering a short story competition; or you need to write a bio for a workshop you’re hosting.

So why does your mind go blank as soon as you sit at the keyboard?

Here are a few reasons:

• Pressure – some people go blank when faced with a deadline or feeling under pressure. It’s part of the “fight, flight or freeze” response and is instinctive.
• Anxiety – imagining the readers’ response to what you’re writing can turn you into your own worst critic.
• Constraint – sometimes mere words can’t express the immensity of what you’re trying to say. How do you translate your emotions or the message you want to convey into the strict rules of the written word?

So – how do you overcome the problem? Well, it does depend on the reason for your mental block but here are a few tips:

• First, write the way that works best for you. Are you a morning person or a night-time thinker? Do you like peace and quiet or the bustle of a café? Set yourself up at the time and place you’re most comfortable with.
• Pretend you’re talking to a friend and explaining what you want to say. You can even record it first, if you find speaking easier, then transcribe onto paper.
• Take a break. I find going for a walk with the dog really opens up channels in my mind and allows new ways of thinking. Don’t listen to music or podcasts – just the world around you.
• Get a friend or colleague to hold you to account – but only if deadlines do actually work for you and don’t make you panic! If you find you work best to a deadline but don’t have one for this piece of work, create one.
• Don’t edit as you go along. Don’t even look at the screen. Just focus on the keyboard and the words in your mind and let yourself go. You can edit at the end.
• Think outside the box. If the blank screen overwhelms you, think of other ways to guide your writing. One friend uses hashtags as sort of signposts to help launch her down a route of thinking. Or you could use Post-it notes (other brands are available) with key thoughts stuck on the desk in front of you.

Above all – don’t panic! You’re not alone, and it will pass. Happy writing!

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