Banishing Writer's Block

Back when I started writing Evenfall, I had very little time for writer’s block.  I had one, then two, small children, a barn full of horses to keep fed and cleaned, and a very busy freelance job. Writing fiction was a break, a moment stolen from other responsibilities. It was fun.

Today, the horses are gone, and the children are bigger and require less care than I like to admit.  I’ve made a conscious decision to cut back on freelancing, and while I’m still busy, I have two days a week where I block out time just for writing fiction.  And every now and then, guess what?  The words, they don’t come.  In the hopes you might find it helpful, I’m sharing what I do when that happens.

Don’t panic.  Okay, maybe I panic a little — this is me we’re talking about, after all.  But YOU shouldn’t panic.  Remind yourself that this has happened before, it will happen again, and it’s a natural part of the writing process.  Really.

Work on something else. Put your manuscript away for a bit.  Work on your query letter, your synopsis, even a blog post for the rest of the day.  Sometimes, just the act of writing can help jumpstart your process.

Zone out.  And I don’t mean on Facebook.  Do something intense that engages your brain and your body fully, so that you can’t think about anything else but what you are doing.  I’m not talking about a nice walk in the woods, either.  You need something that shakes your brain synapses loose.

My activity of choice used to be riding, because if you stop concentrating while on horseback you are liable to find yourself on your back looking up at the sky.  Since I’ve ended my equine addiction, fencing is a handy substitute — my son fights like a crab, scuttling back and then charging in for an attack, and he’s very excited that he has permission to get stabby with me, so my full concentration is required.  If you don’t have someone willing to stab you, try a Zumba class, yoga — anything physical that fully engages you. You don’t have to be good at it, you just have to get moving.  I don’t know why, but this type of activity usually works to get me typing again.

Take a break.  If a deadline isn’t breathing down your neck, put the project away.  Box it up, stick it under your bed, put it in your office and shut the door.  Let it hang out somewhere where it won’t make you crazy.  Give it two weeks.  You’ll come back with fresh eyes and it will be easier to see whatever problem your subconscious is wrestling with.

Set limits.  If nothing else has worked, try this — get a kitchen timer, or use the app on your phone, and set it for fifteen minutes.  Open your document, turn the timer on, and get to work.  When that timer goes off, get up and walk away, even if you are in the middle of a sentence.  You’re done — that’s all the time you have to write today. Do the same thing for the next three days.

By the end of those three days, I’m usually dying to get to work, and my block has vanished.  If you try it, let me know what you think.

What are your tips for getting past writer’s block?

Liz Michalski


  1. Vaughn Roycroft on March 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Totally agree with zoning out. I think it’s one of the greatest benefits of having carpentry as a side-gig. Your attention is elsewhere, and you are up and out of your writing space, but you always end up doing some aspect of the job by rote (sanding, painting, etc.). At some point your subconscious just starts working on story (or at least mine does).

    Great tips, Liz! Good luck, and don’t forget to go riding once in a while.

    • liz on March 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm

      Thanks, Vaughn. And does burger-making fall into that category, too? Looks as if you had a very busy day…

  2. Vaughn Roycroft on March 14, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Ahem, excuse me, but those were bacon-burger-dogs. And they take far too much concentration to qualify for story-zone-out. 😉

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