Tips for Fighting Writer's Block

Our question of the month comes to us from Ana Dinescu: “How do you fight writer’s block?”

March 31, 2011

Our question of the month comes to us from Ana Dinescu: “How do you fight writer’s block?”

Ana Dinescu (Berlin, Germany): I fight normal writers' block in two different ways: either I start reading something completely different (varying from a cooking book to a travel review) or I continue a detailed documentation of the issue I am about to address. If the weather allows, I take a long walk and/or go out for a coffee and a piece of cake, during which I put on hold my usual thoughts.

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe (Evanston, USA): For academic writing, nothing works like a deadline. I find it much easier to propose papers for a conference or a collection then meet deadlines imposed by those commitments than to make my own call about when something is ready to submit to a journal for review. My UVenus topics typically come from my desire to opine on current events; I always have an opinion. For my own blog, I turn to my husband's photography for inspiration when stymied.

Afshan Jafar (Connecticut, USA): I write blogs!! I think I wrote more blogs while I was finishing up my book manuscript than any other time (so far). I don’t have a plan for what I’ll do if I start having trouble writing blogs…

Lee Skallerup Bessette (Kentucky, USA): I rarely suffer from writer's block; I suffer from life interfering with my writing (although I suspect that this is not an uncommon problem). Focus is what I often lack, as I am easily distracted. So, I give in, time permitting. I'll watch a favorite movie, for example, but then my mind will drift to what I really should be writing, coalescing my ideas. Win-win. Anything is more constructive than staring at a blank page.

Deanna England (Winnipeg, Canada): I’m not convinced I have a firm technique to deal with this, but when I’ve encountered writer’s block in the past, I generally engage in a form of auto-writing. I just start typing and don’t worry about topic constraints and style. It’s amazing how the subconscious is constantly analyzing and creating. I’m often surprised with the end result but typically find something I can work with and expand on.

Rosalie Arcala Hall (Visayas, Philippines): My writing regimen involves a few weeks of reading and taking down notes. Then I go into a “zone” where I structure all my arguments in writing (a 2-3 hour exercise). The “block” occurs when I am in the “zone” of mapping out my arguments. To fight the block, I go out for a walk or go grocery shopping-- that is, if it isn’t too hot outside. Otherwise, I get myself some snacks (preferably something crunchy), which will allow me to think.

Heather Alderfer (New Haven, USA: My writer's block is so extreme, I hardly write. With the monthly deadline for UVenus I'm forced to write at least once a month. I hope to set mini deadlines for myself to propel me to complete shorter pieces more frequently. I free-write for a few minutes, then delete the entire first paragraph of a first draft. Not writing linearly is a good challenge for my logical mind.

Meg Palladino (Boston, USA): There are a few things I do when I have writer's block. Sometimes I do some free writing. Often, I take a walk. The best thing, however, is to do some brainstorming with a friend.

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten (Lund, Sweden): It is difficult to get to write when I have no inspiration. Or better said when I have no desire to think about the matters I must describe. Then I like to read books and articles written in a style I appreciate. Recently I have also started a research blog to help me put down ideas and get some feedback. My blog is http://eurosymbols.blogs.ku.dk.

Itir Toksöz (Istanbul, Turkey): Pouring words, sentences from another source into my mind generally does the trick and during the periods when I read more, I also do write more and better. Ideas attract other ideas. Also when I have a nice ambiance (tidy room, candle lights, incense, something nice to drink) that also makes me feel that I am doing something enjoyable and thus writing becomes less of a challenge.

Mary Churchill (Boston, USA): Once I’m writing, I don’t encounter blocks. It’s the starting that can pose challenges. To jump start the writing process, I do a number of things: eat chocolate, drink coffee, do some jumping jacks, call a friend. If the chocolate is good, that’s all it takes.

How do you fight writer’s block?

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