How to Overcome Writer’s Block

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a type writer and open a vein.”
– Red Smith

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Writer’s block. This can be a death sentence for some writers. You cannot imagine how easy it can be to become “blocked.” You can become blocked for several reasons, including stress, being uninspired, lacking ideas, and lack of time.

It can be hard to come out of writer’s block when you find yourself there. I found myself here when I first started college. I had no time to write and I was stressed out from my classes. When I did want to write in college, I didn’t have the time and this frustrated me, which sent me further into writer’s block. I didn’t write for two years. Not a single word.

Before college, you couldn’t stop me from writing. Every chance I got, I was at my computer typing away. It was hard to finally bring myself out of this slump I had gotten myself into.

There are many reasons for someone to get writer’s block. So, for today’s post, we will talk about the causes of writer’s block and their treatments.

“It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is having just written.”
– Robert Hass

Stress

This was the number one reason why I got writer’s block. I had a lot on my mind while in my first year of college. I had homework the size of Mount Everest, six quizzes every week, and intermittent exams. In my first two years as a student, I was learning how to be organized and understand time management, which took me a while to master. After those two years, I finally had it down, which brings me to the treatment for this type/cause of writer’s block. Organize your life as much as possible. This will significantly reduce stress and help you make time to write.

There are many other stress factors in a person’s life. For example, money, relationship problems, work-related issues, and, more recently, Covid-19.

These are the hardest and most stressful things to deal with that are, most of the time, out of our control. The best we can do with these problems is to manage them. We need to not let these become the center of our lives unless it is a critical situation.

Everyone needs a break every once and a while, whether from work, school, or home. To minimize stress, you need to do what you love to do and do what will take your mind off the problem that you are experiencing. For example, a nature walk, meditation, reading a book, or drawing. I would not recommend video games, television, or YouTube in this case. I found that when I try to relax and do these things, it stresses me out more, because afterwards, I feel like I have wasted my time. I didn’t get to relax. I was captivated by the glowing screen and I could watch it for several more days.

“If you shut your door against the children for an hour a day and say: ‘Mother is working on her five-act tragedy in blank verse!’ you would be surprised how they would respect you. They would probably all become playwrights.”
– Brenda Ueland

Uninspired

After my first year in college, I overcame my stress of homework and exams, but then I had another writer’s block symptom. I was uninspired.
I didn’t feel like writing anymore. I was so tired after completing my homework that I had nothing when I finally sat down to write. I didn’t want to write because I didn’t feel anything. I couldn’t remember the specific reason for my love of writing. For half of the semester, I sat back in my chair and stared at a blank screen.

Halfway through that semester, I became frustrated. I wanted to write, but I just didn’t feel like I had anything left in me, so I devised a plan. I worked ahead an extra week on my assignments and I gave myself two days to do what I wanted to do, even though I could not write. I went out and explored and took some pictures. By the second day, I found myself sitting on a sand bar near a creek in my hometown. After that, I walked downstream and kept taking pictures. That is when I came across the most beautiful Sycamore tree. It was one of the biggest I had ever seen. That was my inspiration. Suddenly I started thinking about a story that involved a large Sycamore tree like this one. I thought about the story behind it and its meaning. I had done it, I became inspired and I was able to write again.

“Write quickly and you will never write well; write well, and you will soon write quickly.”
– Marcus Fabius Quintilianus

No Ideas

When I first started writing again after college, I found it excessively hard to come up with things to write about. To solve this, I started searching for writing prompts. Most of them I did not like and they didn’t help, but certain ones gave me some ideas. Everyone is different; some can get ideas easier than others through writing prompts and some need to find their own inspiration so that they come up with their own story.

My advice is to try writing prompts and if they do not work, then you need to find what inspires you and stick around it for a while. Your inspiration will give you what you are looking for, even if it is not right away.

I would also recommend doing what Hemingway did. He used to carry around a small notebook and write down things that interested him or things that he thought he could use in a story one day.

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
– Douglas Adams

Lack of Time

I struggled with the problem of no time for writing, but I overcame this by working on my time management skills. If you find yourself pressed for time all the time, you need to create a schedule for yourself and stick to it.

Writers need to have time to write or there will be no writing.

“Life is what happens to a writer between drafts.”
– Damon Miller

Summary of Causes and Cures:

table, th, td { border: 1px solid black; } th, td { padding: 10px; }
Cause of Writer’s Block Treatment
Stress Organize your life as much as possible. Find out what relaxes you and do it. However, I would recommend staying away from screen time. This can sometimes cause stress because of social media and news. Also, for certain people screen time doesn’t allow them to relax.
Uninspired You need to take your mind off writing for a while. You have become burnt out. You need to rediscover what really inspires you. Take a walk and look around while doing your daily activities. Think about what you love doing. Relax and look around. If you can, take a trip (near or far) and rediscover yourself and what you love doing.
No Ideas When you don’t have ideas it means that you aren’t inspired. Find something or someone that inspires you. If nature inspires you, go there and explore. If people inspire you, talk to them. They’ll give you inspiration and ideas, whether it is an idea for an entire novel or an idea for a character. Also, carry around a small notebook, so that you can write things down that you might be able to use in a story.
Lack of Time A writer needs time to write. Time management skills are essential in keeping time. It is important to organize your time and use it wisely. Create a schedule and stick to it. At the very least, set aside a few hours a week or an hour a day. Learn to manage your time.

Overcoming writer’s block is one of the hardest things a writer can do, besides writing a great story. I hope you found this post useful and that it helps you overcome your writer’s block. Don’t forget to leave a comment down below!

Need some more help? Check these out!

20 Tips for Writer’s Block

Writing Prompts

How to Write a Story Plot

“Hi North, I have an idea for a fiction book that I think people will really like. I am not a writer per se, so I am not entirely sure what to do or how to start. I have the idea, but I don’t know what to do with it. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on how to go about this? Thanks, Cortney”

Thank you, Cortney, for your question. It is great to have a story idea already as this takes away some of the work that most struggle with, so you are off to a great start! The key you are looking for here is a plot, the events that will take place within your story, or, as I like to put it, the actual storyline. For example, how the book will end, the purpose of the book, and what your character will accomplish in the story.

Every story has a plot, and every plot needs a writer to create it. Without a writer, there is no plot. Unfortunately, planning out a plot is what some new writers struggle with. When I first started writing, I didn’t think I needed to plan out my story. I used to just sit down and write, but this was the short coming of my writing. I lacked a storyline and a purpose. I wrote a sequence of events that I thought made sense when, in reality, they were a jumble of events that didn’t lead up to the ending scene in the story. After my first completed story, I realized this and I felt terrible. I thought I, as a writer, failed, but that was not true! I still had the idea; I just needed to perfect it. If this has happened to you, don’t worry, it’s fixable.

For today’s post, we are going to start from scratch. There are six steps in all. If you are someone like Cortney and already have an idea for a story, you should skip to step 2.

1. Come Up with a Story Idea

Write a short sentence or paragraph explaining what you want your character to do or accomplish in your story.

The first thing you should do when creating your story is to have an idea of what you want this story to accomplish. For example, “I want my main character to realize that he or she is different from other people and that’s okay.” Or “I want my main character to solve a crime.” These examples are a great start. This means that you have an idea of what you want your character to do in your story and the purpose of the story.

Example:

2. Flesh Out Your Story Idea

Create the details of your storyline and its purpose.

After you come up with your initial idea, you need to start thinking about your story’s details. Ask yourself:

  • Who or what is your story’s antagonist?
  • Is the story trying to convey a meaning, such as the heartbreak of losing a loved one or the heartthrob of falling in love?
  • Is your story meant to entertain or explore?
  • Is there a hidden meaning behind your story?
  • How do you want your story to end? Happy, sad, or a cliff hanger?
  • What is the main event that will happen in your story? Such as a supporting character dying to help push your main character (protagonist) forward?
  • What is your character’s purpose in the story? Are they meant to find the killer, catch a ghost, or get the girl?
  • Do you want your character’s story to help your readers? Or do you just want to entertain your readers?
  • Are there going to be supporting characters that help out your main character, such as a best friend?

Example:

3. Create Your Character (Character Profile)

Write a description of your character.

Ask yourself:
  • How old is your character? What do they look like? What is their name?
  • Do they have a strong opinion about something?
  • Are they shy, strong, or brave?
  • What do they like and dislike?
  • Do they like conflict or avoid it?
  • Are they experienced in anything?
  • Do they have a superpower?
  • Where do they live?
  • Are they rich, middle class, or poor?
  • Are they sociable?
  • Do they get along with people, or are they a loner?
  • Do they have an accent?
  • What is their background?
  • Do they have family problems?
  • Do their attributes or characteristics fight your storyline or help it?
  • Do they have a best friend?

There are hundreds of more questions you should ask yourself, but the above questions will help you start fleshing out your character and make them a real person. I find that the better and more real your character is, the better you will understand how your character will act and react to certain situations making for a better and more life-like story.

Example:

4. Create Your Scene (Scene Profile)

Write a description of the place that your story will take place in.

Ask yourself:
  • Where is the town/place where your story takes place?
  • Who are the supporting people in this place?
  • Is your character new to this place, or did they grow up here?
  • Are there familiar faces?
  • Where does your character live within this place?
  • What’s their house/apartment like?
  • Is a neighbor an important factor in the story?

Example:

5. Plan Out the Events Within Your Story (Timeline)

Create a series of events that will take place to achieve your story’s or character’s purpose and put them on a timeline.

Now you need to combine your character profile and your scene profile. You need to think about:

  • The situation that your character is going to be in.
  • How did they come to into the problem?
  • How does the story start?
  • What events are going to happen that lead to the ending of your story?
  • What do you want you character to express?
  • What do you want your character to go through?
  • Do you want your character to learn something?

Anything can happen, it’s your story. For example, think about the book series The Hunger Games.

  • What events lead to Katniss Everdeen becoming the Mocking Jay?
  • What events made Katniss the hero?
  • What events or side events, along the way, pulled at your heartstrings and made you feel something?
  • What were the main events that lead to the ending of each book?
  • How did the story progress?
  • How did Katniss, as a character, react to these events?
  • Did her feelings make these events happen or her actions or both?

Example:

6. Start Writing

Use your character profile, scene profile, and timeline to write a draft of your story.

When writing your first draft it is important to think about a few things:

  • Make sure that your character reacts appropriately to the events according to their profile. For example, a shy character will not suddenly become a voicetress or boisterous person unless events or reasons provoke that character to do so.
  • You can change anything you want. As a beginning writer, I thought that my first draft was how the story had to be, but that’s not true. If you are not happy with something in your story, change it. If you don’t like an event that takes place, change it. Nothing is set in stone.
  • Don’t become burnt out. If you don’t feel like writing today, then don’t. If you push yourself too hard, you will start to hate what you are doing. You will associate bad feelings with this story and you won’t want to finish it. It took me almost a year to finish my first story and it was only 50 pages. I always had to take breaks because I noticed that the content wasn’t as good when I pushed myself. It had less depiction and less emotion. Take your time when writing your drafts.

Overall, this is the most crucial step of all and the most fun. This draft can take a while and you may come back in a few days or weeks and realize that you are not happy with an event or something in your story and want to rewrite it. That is perfectly fine. This story isn’t just for the people who will read it; it is also for you as a writer. This story is an extension of your imagination and in some cases your main character becomes an extension of who you are or who you would like to be.

I wish everyone the best of luck in their writing endeavors! Don’t forget, if you have a question ask it! Leave a comment down below!

Need Some More Help? Check These Out!

I am a writer. What does that mean?

As a writer myself, I call myself a writer (obviously), but what does that mean? Why do we write? Why do we tell stories? Today we explore your questions.

Photo by Mark Neal on Pexels.com

“Would you not like to try all sorts of lives – one is so very small – but that is the satisfaction of writing – one can impersonate so many people.”
– Katherine Mansfield

Why do we write?

That is a good question. What is the point of writing? When I am often asked this question, I find that it is easier to answer the question with a question, “Why do we read?” In this question, we can see the answer. I read to learn and escape, but are these the only reasons? No, there are plenty of reasons why we read. We read to gain insight, be entertained, and indulge in fantasies, which brings us back to the original question. We write to escape, to entertain ourselves and others, and indulge in fantasies. Books are an extension of our imaginations and can be therapeutic in a way, for yourself and others. We write to solve problems and to work through issues in our lives. We all have feelings and desires, which is what humans are known for. Writing, either fiction, or personal, etc. can help a person think about those desires. Writing is a way of expression and communication. We write because we as humans have feelings and we need a way to express them. Know, though, that writing is not the only way of expression. 

We Write To:

  • Express our Emotions
  • Solve Problems
  • Communicate
  • Indulge in Fantasies
  • Entertain

Do Some Write for Financial Gain?

I have met some people who write for financial gain. The most specific example was a person I read about when I was a teenager. This man said that he absolutely hated writing and he forced himself to write. He said that the only reason that he wrote was because his books sold very well. He was a great writer, but he hated writing. He was writing for the money, which is understandable, but personally, I can’t force myself to write at will. I have to be in a certain mind for writing. What are your guys’ thoughts? Would you write for money alone? Why do you write?

“Write without pay until somebody offers to pay.”
– Mark Twain

Why do we tell stories?

The short answer to this question is that we are human. As humans, we are naturally curious and we look for an explanation for everything. We try to explain how Earth was created and how we came to be on this Earth. Did God create us? Were we an accident? We even try to imagine how things might be different. We are creatures trying to answer the unknown and explain why things are. We try to describe love, friendship, death, among other things. We use stories to try and make sense of everything around us.

Not only do we write to explain, we also write to entertain. Imagine back a few hundred years and think about what people used for entertainment. They had music, conversation, their thoughts, and books. Today we have multiple ways to entertain ourselves. One primary way is through television. If you think about it, television is just another way of writing, only you are seeing instead of reading.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Why do you tell stories? If you are a creator (such as short films or videos), why do you create?

“Stories may as well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things.”
– Neil Gaiman

What does it mean to be a writer?

Every writer has a reason to write and each answer varies significantly. For me, writing is a way to escape, imagine a better place or a more adventurous one. I love the look on people’s faces when I tell them a story. I love providing people with an escape, something else to think about instead. I want to feed their fascination and imagination. To me, being a writer is being the buffer between you and life. When things are not going well you can always sit down and escape for a while. You can think about something else other than the relationship that you wish was going better, that co-worker that badgers you all day, or losing that person that you never thought you could live without. I write to provide enjoyment to those who need it.

Want to Learn More?

If you want to learn more about why we tell stories and why we write I recommend reading this book.

Your Turn. Leave a Comment!

  • What does being a writer mean to you?
  • Why do you write?
  • Would you write for money alone?
  • If you are a creator, why do you create?

“The main question to a novel is – did it amuse? Were you surprised at dinner coming so soon? Did you mistake eleven for ten? Were you too late to dress? And did you sit up beyond the usual hour? If a novel produces these effects, it is good; and if it does not – story, language, love, scandal itself cannot save it. It is only meant to please; and it must do that or it does nothing.”
– Sydney Smith

Meet North!

Hello out there and welcome to The Writer’s Quest! Are you an enthusiastic writer or reader? Do you love to learn about anything and everything you can about writing? Are you interested in exploring the concepts of writing, and what makes a writer a writer? Do you need help coming up with story ideas? Then you have come to the right place.

Hi, my name is North, and I am your writing fanatic that will be asking the questions and providing you content. I am a writer of ten years and I love exploring the ways of writing. I love thinking about ways to improve my writing and questioning writing itself among different aspects. I have had many experiences with writing and I am often puzzled by certain styles. I have completed over ten novels and have countless unfinished manuscripts. I have taken formal writing classes over the years, but that has come nowhere close to the knowledge that I have gained through reading for pleasure and experimenting with my own stories.

This blog is here to accomplish one thing: to help aspiring writers. I am here to ask and answer the questions that some think about and are afraid to ask. I am here to explore different aspects of writing with you. I want you to read every post on this blog and leave with more questions in mind, because those questions are what provides this blog with content. Your questions fuel this website. I want my blog to make you think about concepts and ask questions. On this site, we generally cover topics that some beginner writers may think about and ask, but graduated writers are more than welcome to enjoy as well.

I hope you are ready to start asking questions! Head over to our main blog space and skim around. Read what is interesting to you, and do not forget to ask questions!