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Home Blog Overcoming Writer’s Block: Strategies for Breaking Through Creative Barriers

Overcoming Writer’s Block: Strategies for Breaking Through Creative Barriers

May 31, 2024

Contributing Author: Alley Bardon

9 mins read

While writer's block may not be a medical condition, the symptoms can make both professional and amateur writers feel as if they are at a standstill. Defined as an inability to proceed forward with writing, writer's block is both debilitating and frustrating, leaving writers with the sensation that they are unable to complete their project or move on with their work. 

Fortunately, there are strategies that writers can use to overcome writing struggles, including writer's block. Knowing what you can and should do can help you halt writer's block in its path and continue crafting your next masterpiece. 

What Is Writer's Block?

This is considered to be one of the most common writing issues faced by writers of all ages and skill levels. Writer's block is defined by Merriam-Webster as a temporary condition in which a writer is unable to think creatively or move forward with their current writing project. 

Common Causes and Triggers of Writer's Block

Writer's block is one of the most common barriers to creativity, and it can occur seemingly out of nowhere. In one moment, you may be working on your next great novel, and in the next, you are left staring at the screen with little-to-no inspiration. 

Knowing the most common causes and triggers of writer's block can help you avoid falling into this creative void. These are some of the most common causes of writer's block: 

  • Lack of inspiration 
  • Overthinking 
  • Sense of failure 
  • Impostor syndrome 
  • Distractions 
  • Perfectionism 

Psychological and Emotional Aspects of Creative Resistance

Defined as a psychological condition rather than a medical condition, writer's block is deeply rooted in our emotional and mental well-being. Per an article posted on Medium, an individual's sense of fear or lack of self-confidence can play a significant role in creative resistance and other writing barriers. 

How to Overcome Writer's Block

One of the most common challenges of writer's block is that it is a problem that seems to grow the more you focus on it. To overcome writer's block, you may have to enact specific strategies designed to reduce the triggers leading to your ongoing writing issues. 

Creating a Conducive Physical Space Free from Distractions

Distractions are one of the most common causes of writer's block, which means that eliminating those distractions is one of the best ways to overcome the condition. Many writers find that they can be more productive when they have a dedicated space for writing, such as an office or bedroom area. Remove distractions such as smartphones and other devices so that you can be calmer and more focused as you write. 

Adopting a Growth Mindset and Reframing Negative Thoughts

By their very nature, writers are incredibly hard on themselves, with many writers describing themselves as their own worst critics. Self-doubt and negativity can have a lasting impact on writer's block, so developing a growth mindset and focusing on the ways that you can improve as a writer will help you move forward. Instead of trying to write something perfect, simply focus on writing anything. You can always edit, revise, and improve on your next draft. 

Practicing Self-Compassion and Embracing Imperfection

As one of the leading causes of writer's block, perfectionism can be incredibly detrimental to writers. Rather than trying to make your work perfect, instead focus on the growth that can come from mistakes. Sometimes the most unexpected mistakes lead to the best results in your writing! 

Freewriting and Brainstorming Techniques

When you feel like you can't write the next chapter of your story or figure out the perfect lead for your online article, you may find that freewriting and brainstorming techniques help you get over your creative struggle. Freewriting and brainstorming allow you to focus less on what you are writing, and simply accomplish the task of writing anything at all, which can help you overcome writer's block. 

Freewriting Exercises to Overcome Perfectionism

Freewriting is one of the best ways to focus less on what you are writing and instead prioritize the act of writing itself. These are some of the best freewriting exercises to overcome any barriers to creativity: 

  • Set a timer for five minutes and write about whatever you want during that time. 
  • Meditate for 15 or 20 minutes, then spend 15 or 20 minutes writing about what is on your mind. 
  • Pull out a piece of stationary paper and write about anything until you fill the page.

Brainstorming Sessions to Explore New Perspectives and Ideas

If you are stuck during the plot-building stage of your writing, then you may find that brainstorming sessions can help. The key to better brainstorming is: 

  • Begin by brainstorming questions. 
  • Free-write as you answer those questions. 
  • Identify one question that leads to the next best step in your plot. 

Mind Mapping and Visualization Techniques to Stimulate Creativity

Mind mapping can be one of the most effective visualization techniques to use when you are trying to address your lingering writing issues. You can use mind mapping to stimulate creativity by following these steps: 

  • Find a quiet space and begin breathing exercises
  • Write your central theme on a piece of paper. 
  • Draw a wiggly line extending from the theme to the edge of the paper. Write a subtopic on that line. 
  • Continue that step until you have outlined your plot. 

Setting Goals and Establishing a Writing Routine

Writing is more than a practice and a craft; it's a routine that you need to implement in your daily life. Establishing a consistent and realistic writing routine can help you achieve your short- and long-term writing goals. 

Setting Realistic and Achievable Writing Goals

Goal setting is a part of any writing project, whether you are focusing on a collection of poems or crafting your next novel. The key to effective goal setting is to establish realistic and achievable goals. Short-term goals can help you feel that sense of accomplishment that you need to move forward, and long-term goals can give you something to focus on throughout the duration of the project. 

Establishing a Consistent Writing Routine

A consistent routine allows you to easily make writing a habit and can reduce the risk of developing writer's block. You can create a consistent writing routine by: 

  • Allocating writing time based on your short-term and long-term writing goals. 
  • Dedicating writing time during your most alert and productive time of day. 
  • Writing in a dedicated space free from distraction. 
  • Giving yourself breaks to help you mentally and physically recover from writing. 

Using Productivity Tools and Techniques to Track Progress

Thanks in large part to the digital revolution, there are endless productivity tools and apps that can help you stay on track with your writing. Some of the best writing productivity tools include Google docs, Evernote, and web-based timers. 

Breaking Through Blocks: Creative Exercises and Prompts

When you are facing a serious bout of writer's block, you may have to utilize creative exercises and prompts to break through those barriers to creativity. 

Experimenting With Different Writing Styles, Genres, and Formats

One of the best ways to overcome writer's block is to try something completely different from what you are used to. For example, if you are a skilled short story writer who often writes romantic pieces, you may want to consider a long-form suspense piece to break free of your writer's block and expand your writing skills. Experimenting with different styles, genres, and formats can help you mentally overcome your writer's block while simultaneously introducing you to new techniques that you may want to explore further. 

Collaborating With Other Writers and Writing Communities

Writing is a solitary practice, which can make it feel quite isolating, especially when you are faced with writer's block that feels as if it has no end in sight. By joining writing communities, either online or in-person, you can collaborate with other writers, share your own struggles, and receive advice about how to become a better writer. These communities can help you feel more connected to other writers, which can minimize the mental burdens commonly associated with writing.

Embracing the Editing Process and Revision

The fact of the matter is, writing is a process, and sometimes you simply must write something —anything — to begin working toward that final, perfected piece. By embracing the editing process and accepting revisions with grace, you will feel less intimidated to write that first draft and quickly become more confident as a writer. 

Rough Drafts and Imperfect Writing

There's a reason that the first draft is called a rough draft as it's meant to be imperfect and a little rough around the edges. All writers begin with imperfect writing, and that first draft is a diamond in the rough that needs to be nurtured and shined along the way until it is a sparkling final draft. 

Strategies for Self-Editing and Seeking Constructive Feedback

After you have completed your rough draft, you can take time to review and revise yourself. This is also a critical time to solicit feedback from others. To ask for feedback, and receive thoughtful, constructive responses, you can do the following: 

  • Be specific about where you are in the writing process, and what type of feedback you are looking for. 
  • Remember that any feedback or criticism is about the writing itself, not necessarily about you as a writer. 
  • Be honest about your timeline and ask if the person reviewing your work can provide you with feedback by your deadline.

Managing Stress and Self-Care Practices

When you are dealing with writing issues, it can be incredibly stressful, and that stress can seep into other aspects of your personal and professional life. Prioritizing self-care and working to manage your stress levels can help significantly as you seek to improve your writing sessions. 

Addressing Underlying Stressors and Managing Stress

To truly reduce the stress level in your life, you will want to identify the root cause of your stress. For instance, if your cell phone notifications make you feel overwhelmed or frustrated while writing, you may want to eliminate the distraction and keep your phone in another room while you are writing. 

Incorporating Self-Care Practices

Adding self-care to your daily routine can help transform writing into a joyful experience rather than a stressful one. Some of the best self-care practices for writers include: 

  • Meditating each day, ideally in the morning. 
  • Reading for enjoyment. 
  • Exercising for at least 30 minutes each day. 
  • Enjoying a well-balanced diet with plenty of nutritional snacks and water throughout the day. 

Balancing Writing with Other Interests and Activities

Whether you write professionally or are an amateur writer, it's important to make time for other interests and activities so that you do not experience burnout. Try out a new craft, join a sports team, or begin volunteering in your community. This will give you a mental and physical break from writing and allow you to feel more fulfilled in all aspects of your life. 

Develop Productive Writing Habits at Lindenwood University

At Lindenwood University, we offer a Master of Fine Arts in Writing that allows you to expand upon your existing writing skills and develop an expert style uniquely yours. In addition to helping you perfect the art of writing, our MFA in Writing degree program addresses some of the most common writing barriers and strategies that can help you overcome any creative struggle. 

Request more information about our online graduate degree programs today.  

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