How To Beat Writer’s Block

on March 2, 2015 in AnnieWrites with 9 comments by

I love when people ask me questions about writing. I don’t know everything about everything, but I’ve written a few books (here here here here and here) and I’ve written on this blog for eight and a half years (literally here), and I LOVE LOVE LOVE writing and learning about writing, so I’m game anytime someone wants to talk shop.

Last week, a high school student posed this exact question. “How do I get over writer’s block? How do I beat it?” And I realized that may be a question a lot of you have.

How To Beat Writer's Block

So here are my thoughts.

A few years ago, I asked the same question to one of my favorite writers, Seth Godin. “But what do I do when I get stuck, Seth? When I can’t think of what to write next?”

He asked me a question in return. “How often do you get talker’s block?” … to which we both immediately laughed, as I’m sure you did, because HELLO I NEVER RUN OUT OF TALKING WORDS.

“Exactly,” he said, “you don’t run out of conversation- you shouldn’t run out of writing words either.”

It changed everything for me.

Writer’s block attacks me when I’m looking at the blank screen like a page I need to fill instead of a vehicle for conversation. So when I feel the moments (and yes, I do feel them), I change my perspective.

While I am writing a book, I picture a handful of people I am writing for- it’s the same people throughout the book, but I picture them, and I think about what I would want to tell them about the chapter/story/topic at hand. And then I type it like I am talking to them. I stop looking at it like LITERATURE (said in an English accent) and start treating it like CONVERSATION.

. . . . .

Some other things:

— If you are writing fiction and you have writer’s block, the problem is in the outline. If you can’t tell the next part of the story, your outline needs to be fleshed out more. Outlining your writing, no matter the length or genre, is a great way to protect from feeling blocked.

Give your first draft permission to be terrible. I wish you could see the difference between what authors turn in to editors and what editors turn into the books you hold. VERY VERY DIFFERENT, PEOPLE. So if you are feeling blocked because you want just the right word or phrase, skip it, come back to it, or write what comes to mind and fix it later.

Lots of people can edit your work,

but you are the only one who can write it.

So quit spending so much time self-editing and write the thing!!

You may need to step away. Not forever, but for 30 minutes or 10 minutes or a few hours. When I literally cannot squeeze another word out, I will:

  • go on a walk around the neighborhood
  • change locations (home to coffee shop, coffee shop to park, coffee shop to home, coffee shop to down the street coffee shop)
  • work on a puzzle
  • go to a movie
  • have a quick catch-up with a friend on phone or Skype
  • change the music
  • eat something green (IT HELPS YOUR BRAIN!)
  • paint my nails

Audio-record yourself telling the story you are trying to type. It can be way easier to pace around your house talking into your iPhone than sitting at a desk clacking out the words. Tell yourself the story, then transcribe the recording.

Set a word count for your daily writing goal, versus a time goal. For example, when I am writing a book, I try to do 1500-2000 words a day. If that takes me 3 hours, HUZZAH! If that takes me 9 hours, HELP ME RHONDA. If I tell myself to sit there for 5 hours, I will have a blinking cursor for most of the time because I’m bored let the timer ding and let me outta this cage I have built for myself!. But if I tell myself to get through a certain amount of words, they may not all be good, but they count. So I write them, and then delete the terrible ones the next day. (See above- your first draft can be terrible.)

Do not run to the internet for inspiration because you will end up sucked into the vortex that is Pinterest and within a few hours you will realize you are at the bottom of the internet, your writing time is gone, and you still feel blocked. Woof.

. . . . .

So those are my thoughts on writer’s block.

Do you have more suggestions of how you power through those times when the words don’t come easy? (Or do you have other writing topics we should talk about?) Leave your thoughts/questions in the comments below!

. . . . .

PS- quick reminder. Part 1 of the That Sounds Fun podcast with Dave Barnes released last week and thousands of  y’all have downloaded it, which is ridiculously fun. Part 2 comes out on Tuesday, so just wanted to give you a heads up to listen to Part 1 so you’re ready for tomorrow! 🙂

. . . . .


  1. posted on Mar 02, 2015 at 11:34 AM  |  reply

    Love this advice! I am still brainstorming my idea for my second book, but the outline and format is not coming as easily as the first. Since I write non fiction I decided to do more research. So I will be speaking at a couple of youth services which is my intended audience for the second book (teen girls) and we will have a Q and A format discussing a lot of topics and issues they are facing. It’s been 13 years since I have been in high school so instead of stressing myself out hoping to address needs and going off of my very old perspective, I am plopping myself right into the thick of it again for a fresh take. Pray for me!

  2. posted on Mar 02, 2015 at 1:33 PM  |  reply

    I love this on so many levels. But, especially the coffee shop, coffee shop, coffee shop one.=) Sometimes when blogging I have an idea, but I can’t seem to get it the way I want. So I just let the thoughts flow and then go back and edit. It is much easier to edit something that to edit nothing.

  3. posted on Mar 02, 2015 at 3:21 PM  |  reply

    THANK YOU. I’ve been stuck for weeks? months? a long time and LOVE the advice about using our talking words and treating writing as a conversation. Duh. Adore you, Annie – thanks again.

  4. posted on Mar 02, 2015 at 3:36 PM  |  reply

    This is so full of truth! Whenever I write, I always picture it more like a conversation I’m having, and the words just seem to flow when that happens. The more you try to overthink things, the harder it is to put them on paper. But if you simply verbalize whatever is in your heart and let that be translated through your keyboard, it doesn’t seem nearly as difficult. Thank you for once again stating things so genuinely!

  5. posted on Mar 02, 2015 at 3:46 PM  |  reply

    Wow. I have never thought about it as a conversation. That is life changing right there. Thanks for the advice. Looking forward to conversations with the people in my head.

  6. posted on Mar 02, 2015 at 5:05 PM  |  reply

    Annie, i love your generosity in sharing your writing tips – I can’t tell you how much it means to me as a fan of your books and an aspiring writer. “Writer’s block attacks me when I’m looking at the blank screen like a page I need to fill instead of a vehicle for conversation. ” Wow that really hit home here. Thank you again for sharing and i can’t wait for more posts on this topic!

  7. Jeannie Nowarita
    posted on Mar 02, 2015 at 9:04 PM  |  reply

    I seriously feel that my writing life has been completely changed after reading your suggestion to “audio record yourself…and then transcribe the recording”! BRILLIANT!

  8. posted on Mar 03, 2015 at 9:19 PM  |  reply

    THIS IS GOLD. I love the idea of it being a conversation, and RECORDING to transcribe later. Genius! Thanks for the words of wisdom!

  9. posted on Mar 11, 2015 at 7:53 PM  |  reply

    […] week I read Annie’s blog post about writer’s block, which is a problem for me, as for many bloggers. In case you […]

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