Writer’s block

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I started writing a post about writer’s block, but it wasn’t working. I know that sounds like a gag opening, but I’m serious.

It was going to list the types of writer’s block and some tips for conquering it. I wrote the whole post but all I was saying was “keep working” or “take a break.” So instead I’m just going to talk about my personal experience with writer’s block, and how I deal with it.

Since most of my writing occurs in a work environment, so does most of my writer’s block, usually when I’m trying to write a headline for an ad or billboard. I call this “hitting my head against the keyboard.” I feel guilty, because I’m being paid – by the hour, from the client’s perspective – to come up with something clever, and here I’ve spent two, three, four hours staring at a blank screen with nothing good to show for it. I begin to panic, thinking I’ll have to stay at work until seven or eight, so I can still put in eight hours without counting the three I wasted. But how far have I gotten? I open an email to my boss and paste in my work from the last few hours. For some reason, it’s easier to think away from the Word doc I’ve been working on. I weed out the worst lines first. There might be two or three half-decent lines left, which I scrunch together and stare at. If I had just a couple more good lines, that would be a decent list of options. I take a few more minutes to think about it. I type whatever comes into my head. Then, most of the time, something good comes to me. It may be the best line of the lot – or not. Either way, I now have a decent list to send to my boss to pick favorites, tweak, or make suggestions.

It’s like playing the kid’s hiding game, Hot and Cold; to find out where the thing is, you have to move. You can’t be afraid of moving in the wrong direction, because even going from chilly to freezing helps you figure out where it is.

You have to write something to know what you are not writing to know what you are writing.

First, you just dump something out. Read it – no, that’s not it. Dump again. You kind of like that part. But the rest is rubbish. Dump again, building around the good part. No, never mind; you were really aiming for something else. Dump again. Eventually, you’ll eke out something decent. You’ll spend the next week editing, and a few months later, you will completely rewrite it again and that will be The One. With a few minor tweaks, of course.

It’s all part of the process.

About Stephanie Orges

Stephanie is an award-winning copywriter, aspiring novelist, and barely passable ukulele player. Here, she offers writing prompts, tips, and moderate-to-deep philosophical discussions. You can also find her on and Pinterest.
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18 Comments

  1. The truth has been spoken. Spill. Delete. Spill. Delete. Spill…edit….edit…edit…delete…edit. For every four words, delete three.

    Sometimes I leave it, and when I go back I can’t believe how bad it is—but the great part? It’s there to edit!

  2. I wrote a similar post about my experience of Writer’s Block just a few days ago – http://theelementarycircle.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/some-cures-for-writers-block/

    C-C xx

  3. I haven’t written in quite a while. I have so much to say but it’s not coming out on paper. I sit there looking at my laptop and end up playing a stupid game. The place where I want to write seems to have my thoughts all blocked in. I need a different environment. I am thinking about maybe going to a library or possibly finding a fantastic coffee shop where I can just sit and think and ponder all these marvelous thoughts I have going round and round in my head. If I don’t get these things down on paper I am so afraid I will lose them. Sometimes I feel I have just lost my way. I know it will get better and I will write the great article, or book I am attempting to write. I AM A WRITER, I AM A WRITER, I AM A GREAT WRITER. Now Write!@#$%^

    • I know the feeling. Sometimes the clutter of life seems suffocating. I recommend a library over a coffee shop – coffee shops tend to get loud. If you don’t have time to get there, make sure you take notes! I get ideas for plot changes, blog posts, etc. all day long at work – so I add them all to a draft of an email which I then send myself at the end of the week.

  4. I know how that goes! I had a similar experience when I set out to write my post on my inner critic. At firt, it was like my inner critic was shouting in my ear because I was writing about him. Made it very hard to write. I kept pushing on and ended up with a post and a quiet inner critic. Nicely done all around, I’d say.

  5. I started writing at this site called 750words.com because I just could never seem to get past my inner critic. The site is for your eyes only, strips the social aspect so it is like a true online journal. Somehow that helped me finally just get out anything and everything, no worries about grammar, punctuation, spelling, nothing, just dumped it all out. After about 3 months of daily writing I found that my inner critic quieted enough that I could attempt writing (blogging) publicly.

    I still write there daily and have found a post or two culled from those “brain dumps.” Truly, the only thing to bust writers block is to write. Hard to swallow when you feel the block though!

  6. Hi there! I came across your blog via Scribbla, and wanted to check it out! There’s great stuff in this post. I must admit, sometimes writing rubbish is better than writing nothing, simply because there may be “something” that you can use – and you may no even realise it at the time. I write musicals – and sometimes it’s really hard to “dump” a section of music that you’ve worked on. I like to relegate it to a “bottom drawer” – there may be another project that it suits better. Of course, there’s always crap that will forever remain crap, but something is better than nothing! 😉 Thanks for the great blog!

    • I’m the same way. I actually have a file titled “Deleted Scenes” in which I dump any big chunk of stuff I delete. Too hard to let go – when maybe there might be something usable in there!

      • Hah, yeah. I have a few of those. It helps dull the pain of the editing knife, too. When a passage or a chapter I am fond of needs to go because it just clutters the story, it goes to those files too.

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