How 5 Famous Writers Conquered Writer’s Block

by | Mar 4, 2013

Writer’s block is that seemingly insurmountable feeling that stops you from writing. Either you’ve started a story and can’t seem to find the words to continue or you have no idea how to begin writing. It’s as if your inspiration inkwell has suddenly dried up.

If you are suffering from writer’s block (or have suffered in the past), you are not alone! Nearly every famous writer has suffered from writer’s block at some point in their career. Thankfully, many writers have shared their methods for how they overcame writer’s block and became successful writers.

1. The “Just Write” Strategy

Writing is like any art or sport. Practice makes perfect. Just because you are suffering from writer’s block doesn’t mean that you should stop writing. Rather, Maya Angelou, author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, believes that when you are suffering from writer’s block, you should force yourself to write every day. She explains: “What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.'”

2. The Hibernation Strategy

What happens when you’ve been chugging happily along on your novel, but suddenly you have absolutely no idea how the story should end? Or you’ve been working on a brilliant essay, but you can’t figure out how to write the conclusion?

Neil Gaiman, the award-winning graphic novelist and children’s author, offers this advice: “Put it [your writing] aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.”

3. The Outlining Strategy

Your writing teachers have probably told you this one a hundred times, “Outline, outline, outline!”

That was famed American author Mark Twain’s strategy too: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

This strategy attempts to outmaneuver writer’s block. If you already have an outline, you don’t have to worry each day about what to write or how to find inspiration since you already know exactly where you are going.

4. The Hoarding Strategy

If you’ve suffered from writer’s block but suddenly find all of that inspiration flooding into you again, don’t exhaust your resources! Always make sure to keep some inspiration in reserve.

Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway explains: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”

5. The “Get Away From Your Desk” Strategy

Sometimes the best way to conquer writer’s block is to clear your mind. Writer’s block often happens because your mind is overwhelmed by all of the thoughts about your daily life that are crowding your brain. You need to create a space for your inspiration to fill.

Award-winning British author Hilary Mantel says: “If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”

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“Thanks to Nicole’s instruction, two of my reluctant writers have come to enjoy writing,
feeling more confident and eager to work on their assignments.” — Silveria Shultz