“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
~Madeleine L’Engle

A Weird Way to Beat Writer’s Block

I recently visited with a new writer over coffee. She confessed, almost embarrassed, “I’ve written on and off for years. Well, sort of…but, now I’m really trying to get serious about my novel, except I keep quitting. It’s really frustrating. How do you ummm,” she looked away, then back at me again, “How do you fight writer’s block?”

That’s a great question, and the answer is…

Writer's Block

You can’t fight it.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is you can still achieve success on the page. You can still write great stories.

Name and Claim Your Writer’s Block

When writer’s block is there, it’s there. It’s like an invisible force field of negativity surrounding your body. Novelist Steven Pressfield calls this internal self-sabotage Resistance.

You want to write, but Fear stops you. It lies and says you’re not good enough, so you hedge, unsure of your talents. Sometimes you can’t break through the anxiety. Other times, you can’t.

When writer’s bocks stops you in your tracks, don’t try to battle it or pretend it isn’t there.

That’s useless. It’s a waste of time and energy, not to mention make matters worse.

Instead, claim the Fear, lean into the discomfort, and learn to use it to regain your creative mojo.

Gripe On

The next time Fear sticks to you like Super Glue, try this:

1. Take a deep breath, then start writing. Scribble away or pound at the keyboard about anything, except the piece causing you such worry (that story, article, memoir) you keep fighting inside.

2. Drain Your Brain. Gripe, groan, whine, moan on paper about everything bugging you with this piece: how ridiculous you feel by acting so scared… how much this sucks… why you hate it when you can’t write. Blah, blah, blah. Keep going, no matter how lousy, crappy or whiny you sound. Do this as quick as you can. Write faster than your fear.

The strange, but brilliant aspect of this method is your mind will eventually tire of your negativity. You can feel the emotionally shift inside you—a lightness. You’re now ready to move onto to that piece which spooked you so much in the first place. Goodbye writer’s block.

It’s Not You—It’s Fear

Don’t think there’s something wrong with you when this happens. Don’t worry you’re not talented enough, smart enough, disciplined enough to write. Fear is part of the creative process and that’s its job. To stop you from writing, querying, blogging, publishing, however you’re trying to stretch yourself creatively. Fear will try to shut you down, again and again. Expect these blocks.

Learn to gripe it out of your system, then write anyway. It’s weird, but it works, which makes it not so weird after all.

What special tricks do you use to overcome writer’s block and fear? Let us know in the comments section.


Break writer’s block today! Free write for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section, or just share your thoughts about this post.

Happy writing!

About Marcy McKay

Marcy McKay is the “Energizer Bunny of Writers.” She believes writing is delicious and messy and hard and important. If you’ve ever struggled with your writing, you can download her totally FREE book, Writing Naked: One Writer Dares to Bare All. Find her on Facebook!

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Ooh – I like the ‘write anything’ idea! I have noticed that dwelling upon my negativities intensifies them, while ignoring them or just laughing and ‘watching them play in my head’ tires them out quickly 😉

    Indeed, befriending ones fear is CRUCIAL to remain connected to your passion!

    Love you, Marcy #HUGS

    • Yes, Kitto, whatever we focus on grows — positive or negative. Sometimes, it helps to just write out all the thoughts spinning through our brains, so we can get back to writing.
      Whatever works – I use it! Thanks!

  • Gary G Little

    I wrote this earlier today. I love Facebook. I can spend an hour writing a post, and this is one of them. Call it Oobleck …

    You know what is marvelous about the human brain? It can make sense of some of the most silly things. You’ve seen the post on Facebook filled with misspelled words followed by the “If you can read this Share!!” I grumble “Bah humbug”, and hit hide.

    However, the marvelous thing is how easy the nonsensical nature of silly sentences like that can be filtered, rearranged by the brain, and we can read them with little hesitation. Yeah, it’s nice to have grammatical correctness, syntactical synchrony and spelling perfection but the brain still read what was rit. Contrast that to OMG, BRB, LOL, ICYMI, or any other net’slangism. Now THAT is totally incomprehensible. IIRC, 2G2BT & 2GTB4G YSAN.

    Oh yeah, did you know OMG is not a valley-girl-ism but was first coined by a 75 year old Admiral in a letter to Winston Churchill in 1917? I use the dictionary in my writing and reading, a lot. I really don’t need alphabet soup as dribbled out by valley girls to complicate the issue.

    • Wow, Gary. You are a walking encyclopedia. Thanks for both the info and the entertainment.

      • Gary G Little

        You’re welcome, Marcy, and I thank you for the article.

  • I love this advice Marcy! I’ve heard the suggestion to just write anyway, about the fear, etc, but I never heard the last part, which feels crucial to me, how your brain will tire of it. That rings so true to me. You get it out of your system and then keep going. I am a big fan of Steven Pressfield’s book The War of a Art and would recommend that to any writer/creator. It really normalizes doubt and offers tangible ways to break through it.

    • Hey Dana,
      I ADORE The Wart of Art and actually gave it to every one in my weekly critique group. A great read.
      So, yes, eventually your mind will grow tire of your whining and will switch gears and get ready to work. We’re like unruly children and just have to be reminded who is in charge. Good luck.

  • Phil Turner

    Thanks Marcy
    Great ideas here. I usually have 3 or 4 projects on the go and just switch projects when any one stops coming.

    • That’s nice that you have multiple projects to switch from when writer’s block hits. Keep up the good work, Phil.

  • Sandra D

    Thank you, this was a helpful reminder. I keep forgetting that when i am having trouble writing that I can just write anything. I did that and it was a fun activity for me.
    I can basically be reminded this everyday and it wouldn’t be too much. 🙂

    • Thanks for trying this, Sandra. I’m glad it was fun. Simple and easy usually is best. Try to remember this the next time you’re facing writer’s block.

      • Sandra D

        Thanks. I’ll try. Thanks for the positive article. 🙂

  • Sandra D

    It is amazing how strongly the brain or whatever gets locked down and makes a person do anything but their goals.

    • Isn’t that interesting, Sandra. We SAY we love to write and hope to do so, but then do everything we can to avoid writing. Crazy.

      • Sandra D

        yeah, it’s what makes people weird..

  • Robert Ranck

    So you’re saying, “Put the thing in gear and burn donuts in the parking lot a while; pretty soon, it will be begging you to turn out and run on the long road” ????

    Enforced warm-up exercises. I like that.

    I had a friend who had horses. After being left in barn or paddock for the winter without being ridden, they were often stubborn and unruly about being ridden. He would saddle up and take the recalcitrant mount to a freshly plowed field and hold him to ride in a straight line with a short, tight rein, diagonally across the furrows. Even his most obdurate horse would remember ts discipline and training after a short while. Only his most stubborn holdout lasted forty-five minutes.

    The brain is like that. Put it to work, it will soon remember what it is supposed to do, and will fall in line. It works for me, anyway, In my work, I frequently have a short interval in which to write, and I stop work, change hats, and make that change.. After a while, it gets easier.

    I guess it comes down to “Just WHO is in charge here, anyway?” The desire to write or the lethargy that prevents its fulfillment?

    • What a great story, Robert. Yes, “Who’s in charge here — us or Fear?” Many of us have our own little rituals to remind our brains, “it’s time to write.” Muscle memory doesn’t just apply to athletes. It works for writers, too.

    • Debbie L

      I love this, Robert.
      Next time I might really burn donuts in the parking lot, it’s really fun on ice!

  • Sandra Hould

    In my case, what always helps me when I am stuck is to write some flash fiction. It may suck, it may be clumbsy, but it helps me warm up and disconnect from the story I am trying to write into, but am stuck in. Writing a 500 word flash fiction on any given subject, often started with a prompt found online really helps me get unstuck. After that I am a bit more able to go into my story. And when that doesn’t work, often it means that I am not ready to write a particular scene, so I go in another chapter in my book and add there. I often keep some chapters unfinished so that I may add a bit later until I feel the chapter is complete, at least in my draft. I hope that this will help others.

    • What a great idea, Sandra. I hadn’t thought of flash fiction to overcome writer’s block, but I’m so going to try it next time. Short, creative and totally doable.

      Thanks for sharing!

      • Sandra Hould

        You are welcome and the best about Flash Fiction is that you can decide how many words you write, what theme you write into, it is one of the most fun ways to just get unstuck. I am happy I was able to help you.

  • Miriam N

    Hey Marcy, Thank you for this I needed a reason to vent, and let out the things in my post below. It was very liberating for me. Thanks and enjoy my 15 min.

    Here I am, sitting at the computer, thinking and pondering about my words. I love writing, I love the feel of the chills that run down my back when I finish a sentence or create a scene that is so vivid and wonderfully written that I can’t stop reading it over and over.

    Yet I have been living without this and now I feel the separation. It is dawning on me as i write this post and I realized how much we miss each other. I gave in to fear and now I realized that it lied to me. How does it know what I like or who i am? Its just a feeling, its not a person, it doesn’t have a brain, just a mindless urge to stop anything that might bring us pain.

    I’ve looked over my oldest writing piece, the one that I said was no good and am put into a sort of awe. Sure its not new yorks best selling author writing but its not two bad considering how old I was when i wrote it.

    I am NOT a bad writer, infact I stand quite good. When comparing my recent writing to this piece from so long ago I am put into amazement. Who is fear that they should tell me that this is no good? Look at how far I’ve come. Then a realization strikes, I can become better. Every time I write I become better!

    Everyone is afraid of something, we all have our fears, doubts concerns and feelings of never being good enough. But no matter what your doubts, fears or anything else say about you it is never true. It is the thing it tells you because it knows it can bite you there enough that you believe it. It is wrong.

    Negative feelings are NEVER right. They are always there for one purpose and making you better isn’t it. The only reason for its existence in you is to stop you and make you feel as though you are NOTHING. EVERYONE is worth MORE than they know. We are worth more than a million diamonds. No one can buy us because they would be broke before they even made it to any bit of the price.

    We are priceless wonderful people that are two often times criticized by ourselves. Don’t believe their lies I beg of you. It brings you grief, loneliness and a dawning depression. That has been my life the past few months. Its HORRIBLE. I would not wish what i did to myself on ANYONE. Everyone is two special for that, to valuable. I look back in shame at what i did but I know that because of what I have learned it will not happen so easily in the future. I am a survivor of doubt. Not a victim not someone who should be taken pity on. I am Miriam and I will live my name on with pride. I’m a writer, what more can I say.

    • Fantastic, Miriam. What a brave and fearless post you shared. Thank you.

      I wish I could take your words and make a sign for everyone to hang by their computers, “Every time I write I become better!” That’s the only person to whom we should ever compare ourselves — us, earlier in our careers.

      I’m so glad you’ve missed writing because I can promise you — we’ve missed your comments here, there and everywhere.

      Congratulations, Miriam. You’ve got your mojo back!

  • DizzyJade

    Sometimes, I find it nice to just write about how I can’t write. For example, maybe start texting my friends long paragraphs about how much I’m having trouble writing and then go on about how I really need their help.

    I guess they don’t appreciate the humor. But it still works a bit. Sometimes I take what they text back and put it in the dialogue of my story, which adds the well needed funny moments into the too dramatic story plots.

    Moral: Sometimes friends can inspire you to write more.

    • DizzyJade – I say WHATEVER works, use it! I love that you do that with your friends and they sound awesome.

      Good luck with your writing.

    • Debbie L

      I do that in emails! Often the reply could be a simple yes or no, but then something triggers a thought and I end up spewing out a ridiculous story that often ends up being a humerous blog post. I like that you get responses from them that you can use, usually get Haha are you drunk?

  • Debbie L

    I go to Instagram, I especially like #tbt Throwback Thursdays. When writer’s block hits I’m going back and forth to the synonym finder too much because sentences are too boring. So I choose a picture, from my extensive arsenal on my iPhone, that fires out that one thing to trigger a memory. Then i just write and write. Sometimes it’s about the person in the picture or the event that was happening or even the location, but ultimately comes down to descriptive feelings. I make myself laugh, I cry, I edit (and cry some more usually)
    Quite often I’ll share it with the subject of the photo just to let them know I was thinking about them and how I feel and more often than not it is with family.
    I have been know to have extremely long, descriptive Instagram posts!

  • christih

    I had never thought about this before. Unfortunately I’m still on the phase where I just sit to practice writing; I don’t have a story or anything in play yet. So I just usually start over when writer’s block hits. Another help I’ve found is violin music–it tends to get my creative juices flowing without being too distracting. Still, I’m relatively new to all this. 🙂

    Tonight’s writing practice (12 minutes–I have no endurance as a writer yet). I’d love some feedback!:

    The music started softly, just a whisper. It was gentle and sweet, much like a nursery scene—soft and filled with that emotion that is more than love and doesn’t really have words. It made everyone in the room smile and built anticipation.

    As the song went on it grew into more than just a sweetness. It was building and soon started to swell and soar. The chords became stronger, the notes less of an individual melody and more a theme, playing repeatedly throughout the different voices and characters in the music. She felt that she couldn’t breathe for the beauty of it all. As she listened she heard the peace and goodness of the world. She felt love and compassion and strength and kindness, all at once. The music was opening her heart and touching places in her soul she had thought had been lost forever.

    As the song gently came to a close, repeating the original theme and playing so softly she had to strain to listen, she knew that she had felt beauty. Something she had thought had been damaged forever had started to heal. She never wanted the music to stop. As tears spilled freely down her cheeks she sat frozen for fear of breaking the spell the instruments had cast.

    He let the music fade and turned off the stereo. Turning to her he caught her expression and breathed out a sigh of relief. She had understood.

    “It’s a beautiful piece,” she said finally. “It reminds me of beauty in this world.”

    “It sounds like God,” he said definitively. “Surely if a man can write a piece this wonderful, there must be a God.”

    Although she didn’t believe in a god, she understood what he meant. And if there was some ultimate force that had led to that beauty being in the world, well, she wouldn’t be disappointed with that.

    “Come back next week and bring whatever you’re working on. I’ll have lemonade and cookies ready” she said, a little dazed with the emotions she had been feeling.

    After he left, she sat there for a long time trying to dissect the emotions the song had made her feel. It was akin to staring at the night sky for a long while. As she tried to analyze and objectively view her feelings, she kept coming back to his statement. “It sounds like God.”