5 Types of Writer’s Block and How to Overcome Them
Try This - Jun 07, 2021
You’re cruising along, words flowing like high-octane on your latest work, when suddenly your keyboard
silent. It feels as if your creative fuel tank has run dry. Your cursor blinks, waiting. But you can’t
single word. What gives?
Writer’s block is a hot topic in our world. Some writers say it’s potent enough to stop them in their tracks
hours, days or even months. Others maintain that the term “writer’s block” is an excuse for actual
procrastination or lack of motivation.
In our recent poll, 17% of respondents said they felt writer’s block is an excuse, while 83% said
was a real threat to productivity, with many sharing their own wheel-spinning experiences.
I’ll stick my neck out here, and suggest that “writer’s block” is a myth. There’s no rain cloud
following you wherever you go, putting an imaginary damper on your words. The only one standing in
your way is you.
I think a lot of debate stems from different definitions of “writer’s block.” Many people conceive
of it as a total cessation of progress: a period in which we, in essence, stop being writers. And if you think of writing as only a verb, you might be right. (But that's a conversation for another time!) What I
think most of us mean to acknowledge is that obstacles, or blocks, in your writing process are
Yes, these challenges can seem insurmountable. But they’re not. The best way to overcome them is to
precisely diagnose the type of block you’re dealing with and identify a specific solution, so you
can get on with it already!
Embrace a world of possibility by being observant and mindful of your surroundings.
Block #1: I don’t know what to write about
Solution: For most of us, the question of how to start a short story or novel is a tough one.
Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Dan Poynter, author of over 130 books, once said, “If you wait
for inspiration to write you're not a writer, you're a waiter.” Instead of twiddling your thumbs, embrace a world of possibility by
being observant and mindful of the world around you.
If you’re more inclined to stay indoors (no judgement!), you can also spark your imagination with
Once you have a lightbulb moment, move forward with whichever story element intrigues
you most, whether that's your characters, plot, conflict, theme or world.
Block #2: I have so many ideas, it’s overwhelming.
Solution: Look at the bright side: having a hundred ideas is a heck of a lot better than
having none. Make a list of them all so you don’t lose anything (the notes section of your Hot Tray
is the perfect place to do this!).
Then explore a couple that call to you, brainstorming what else your story might include.
Sometimes you can combine multiple thoughts into an even better one. There’s no shame in switching
between ideas if you find yourself losing interest. Once you’ve got a more fleshed out concept, take
the plunge to see it through.
Look at the bright side; having a hundred ideas is a heck of a lot better than having
Block #3: I wrote myself into a corner.
Solution: Hey, it happens to the best of us. Even if you’re a planner, it’s difficult to
plan out every detail of your story in advance so all the stars align throughout. Try retracing your
steps, thinking about what led to this point.
Ever heard of the butterfly effect? Even a slight change can completely alter the path of your
characters and breathe new life into your narrative.
Don’t underestimate your creativity either. Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes,
another opens..." So be on the lookout for that open door, escape hatch, wormhole, or whatever else
you can think of to open your story back up again.
Block #4: I’m unsure where to take my story next.
Solution: Has flying by the seat of your pants left you in the middle of nowhere? Read
through and map out your existing ideas, identifying the inciting incident, rising action, climax
and falling action, depending on how far you’ve gotten.
If you haven't filled out a Plot Hill template, which you can find in our
Inspiration Engine, now is the time!
Then start thinking about the next plot element, until you get to the resolution. If you’re really
feeling stuck, throw in a surprise, such as a flash forward or a bombshell secret revealed, that
shakes up the entire story and gets things moving again.
I haven’t had writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly.”
— Jennifer Egan
Block #5: I can’t stop worrying about what others will think.
Solution: As writers, it’s important to keep our audience in mind. However, thinking too much about
your end result, your work being read, in the initial creative stages can be stifling, like clipping
your wings. When you’re working on a first draft, write like no one is watching—and as if no one is
going to read it.
Everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t judge your initial writing too harshly. A big part of
overcoming writer’s block is pushing past perfectionism and saving all that self-critique for the
Try this: Recall the last time you experienced a block, and identify which type it was. Next
time you get stuck, use this guide to diagnose your problem and figure out a solution. Those pesky
blocks won’t stand a chance!