We’ve all been there — the dreaded writer’s block.
One minute you’ve got ideas flowing out of your fingertips and the next minute… nothing, nada, zilch. Your words have dried up and you’re staring at a blank page.
It’s a freelance blogger’s worst nightmare.
So… what do you do next?
If your first inclination is to ignore the problem, you’re not alone. But procrastination — whether it’s with a Netflix show or a social media account — will not fix the issue at hand.
Being a freelance blogger means working for clients on a deadline. When you’re unable to write, your career and income are at stake.
The good news is there are plenty of solutions to help you beat writer’s block, especially if you’re willing to put in the work.
Some of these solutions are writing tools, some are science-based, and others are just plain common sense. But they’re all dedicated to making self-care a priority in your personal and professional life. So if you’re feeling stuck or just can’t write, try these tips to banish writer’s block for good!
Are you thinking too hard to think?
When I feel uninspired or unable to write, meditation often fixes the problem. For whatever reason, finding stillness and paying attention to my breath clears the cobwebs in my brain, allowing me to find motivation and direction when I return to my desk.
Out of curiosity, I spoke with Dr. Kathryn Devaney, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School and the Chief Operating Officer of the San Francisco Dharma Collective, to see if her findings correlated with my own experiences.
Dr. Devaney, who has practiced meditation since 2002, earned her Ph.D. studying how meditation affects the ways in which the brain pays attention. Her findings suggest that long-term meditators have an advantage when it comes to completing goal-oriented projects, like writing a blog, for example.
This means meditation may be helpful if you’re having difficulty staying focused during a writing project.
According Dr. Devaney’s research, a consistent meditation practice will train the brain to sustain activity in its goal-oriented network (which is activated during projects like writing), without lapsing into the default mode network (which focuses on self-related thoughts).
She also suggests the practice of meditation helps to dispel stories we craft about ourselves, that may be doing us a disservice.
One of the most dangerous things about writer’s block is at some point, you decide you have writer’s block… every morning you wake up saying ‘I hope I’m not blocked today’ and then you become this sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.–Dr. Kathryn Devaney
Finding stillness and focusing on breathing lets us disconnect from these egocentric stories, and that will eventually translate into how we live our everyday lives.
If you’re new to meditation, Dr. Devaney recommends the book The Mind Illuminated [affiliate] by John Yates.
If you can’t write, write
It may sound counterintuitive, but one cure for writer’s block is to write more. Specifically, to write more in the morning.
When I first learned about morning pages, a concept created by writer Julia Cameron and used as a tool for writers and other creatives, I was immediately intrigued.
The rules of morning pages are simple:
- Write every day, first thing in the morning.
- Write freehand only, no typing allowed.
- Write three notebook-sized pages.
- What you choose to write about — be it your worries and thoughts, your plans for the future, or the minutiae of everyday life — is up to you.
In her book, The Miracle of Morning Pages: Everything You Wanted to Know About the Most Important Artist’s Way Tool [affiliate], Ms. Cameron writes:
Pages… they keep an eye on our goals. They… prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. If we are drifting, the pages will point that out.— Julia Cameron
I couldn’t agree more. My morning pages have resulted in personal clarity, professional creativity, and a renewed dedication to my craft.
The key to morning pages is the stream of consciousness writing they require. When you write like this first thing in the morning, you get rid of unnecessary thoughts and free up important space in your brain.
As a result, your anxieties, worries, and problems are unloaded before you start your day. And when those pesky friends aren’t occupying your mind, a whole new world of blogging creativity will unfold.
Break out of jail
One of the best parts of being a freelance blogger is making your own
schedule. No strain and stress of the nine to five, no crowded subway train during rush hour, no boss that makes you stay late.
Now, we’re the bosses. And as bosses, we have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders. It’s up to us to find clients, meet deadlines, and pay the bills.
But it’s also up to us to know when we’re running on empty. So you need to listen to yourself and know when it’s time for a break — especially when you’re suffering from writer’s block.
When you’re feeling stymied on an idea or project, it won’t help to sit and stew. As Hilary Mantel recommends, “If you get stuck, get away from your desk.”
Even better, get away from your desk and go outside.
A 2012 study found that backpackers performed more creatively on tests after spending days at a time out in the wilderness. But don’t assume you need to hike the Appalachian Trail for inspiration. A simple walk around the block will do.
Being outdoors does your body (and brain) good. And when you let yourself forget the problem, you might find that inspiration strikes when you least expect it.
Create without writing a word
As freelance bloggers, we’re writers by trade. We’re wordsmiths and thinkers, and we create by writing things down.
So when you have nothing to write down, it can be very frustrating!
That’s when it’s time to try a new creative outlet. When you focus solely on writing, you’re putting all of your creative eggs into one basket. Life is all about balance and work should be no different.
Next time you find yourself wrestling with writer’s block, try experimenting with a different form of art. Take a painting class or learn how to knit. Buy a sketchbook and try your hand at drawing. Pick some flowers and arrange them in a vase.
Whatever you do, let this new creativity give you a sense of fulfillment or achievement. You may be surprised what happens when you push yourself to learn something new, and you might have some fun along the way.
Call bullshit on yourself
Writer’s block stirs up all sorts of insecurities. When faced with a blank page, negative thoughts can take over and impostor syndrome can set in.
Thoughts like, “I can’t write,” or “I’m a fraud,” or “I’ll never succeed” are par for the course.
But here’s a very important tip — if you listen to these negative thoughts, you’re doomed.
Instead, choose to fill your life with positive affirmations. Yes, I know they’re cheesy, but they work for me! I’m talking game-changing, life-changing results.
When we say or think negative things, we’re training ourselves to believe these thoughts are true. So instead, train yourself to believe the opposite by holding positive thoughts in your mind and saying them out loud.
Affirmations to help you overcome writer’s block could include:
- “I’m a good writer.”
- “Words and ideas effortlessly flow out of me.”
- “I get more creative every day.”
Whatever affirmation you choose, speak in the present tense and be specific. Then repeat it often, until your freelance blogging ideas start flowing again.
Unblock to beat the clock
Sure, all of these tips are good to integrate into your everyday life, but what if you have a deadline looming?
When you’re running out of time, let go of your perfectionism and just write.
No matter how poorly, start typing words and don’t stop until you have something to show for it. When you silence your inner critic and let yourself write without judgment, it’s much easier to get the words out. And once you have something written down, you can improve it by using whatever time you have left for editing.
On a hard deadline, it’s better to deliver something imperfect than nothing at all. And chances are, your writing is a lot better than you give yourself credit for.
Just remember — writer’s block isn’t forever. There are plenty of ways to get out of the doldrums.
Learning to beat writer’s block means you can enjoy more creativity, productivity, and a fulfilling work life.
So if you find yourself stuck, don’t quit. Try one of these tips to get your flow back, and let me know how it goes!