Sunday, March 11, 2012

Breaking out of the prison of writer's block, pt 2

So, continuing with “Issues Associated with Writing Blocks & Decreased Productivity”, compiled by David Rausch Ph.D., Stanford U Faculty & Staff Help Center. Following are more tips for getting writing to happen. I’ve paraphrased because the language is hardcore stuffy!

Behavioral approaches
- Make a chart of daily productivity and put it on the fridge
- Break writing projects into bite-sized chunks
- Have specific daily goals that are reachable (my edit: this is not cheating)
- Make a list of the usual things you do to avoid writing, and take steps to avoid procrastination (no TV in writing area, no phone, rule that you are not to be interrupted during writing time except for true emergencies, etc)
- Notice when you reinforce the pattern of avoidance by doing something you like instead of writing
- Use activities you like as rewards for getting writing done

Cognitive approaches
- Notice that little devil on your shoulder who says you’re no good as a writer, and when he tends to show up. Interrupt his negative tirade by taking a short break then jumping right back into writing
- Remind yourself of things you wrote that others liked, or even things you liked yourself. This one really helps me. I go back to individual scenes I wrote and inevitably find myself smiling over how well something came out. Even a few lines that are spot on are good for your self-esteem
-Recognize that unrealistic criticisms of your writing process or content are not helpful. Beating yourself up over only hitting 50 words today will only make the next 50 harder

People issues
- Develop relationships with other writers and keep active. My local writers’ group meets weekly. I attend most weeks. Writers’ groups that critique are a venerable tradition and I love being part of that. Over winter, I’d sit at home reading and marking up somebody’s piece, while thinking about JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and their friends sitting around the fire on a cold English night, passing around the latest chapters, discussing, making literary history. I don’t expect to have as big an impact as any of those guys, but I love feeling the connection to writers of the past and those of the future.
- Try a collaboration on a new project
- Avoid isolation by keeping in touch with people you like—but not as procrastination!
- Consider if there are big problems with other people in your life, that may be contributing to writer’s block, and try to deal with the problems
- Make a public commitment to keep writing. Using a personal blog can be good for this, or your online or local writers’ groups
- Usually all of the above at various times are enough to shake us out of our occasional doldrums, but sometimes there are deeper things going on that need to be addressed by a professional. Don’t scoff. I was on an anti-depressant for a couple years and it did help

This is just an overview of tips. I’m sure you guys have various tricks that you use, maybe without even realizing it. If you’re so inclined to share any here, please do!

PS—I have a whole page of references from this article, so let me know if you’d like more info on the subject.


  1. I wish my writer's group met as often! We only meet once per month, and then we only have time to review two member works of lengthy portions.

    I think once per week would be a good time frame if we cut down on the number of pages each person can submit, but increase the number of people who can submit to the group.

    Great tips!

  2. Welcome, Diane. Your ideas for your group are worth a try. Sometimes it's hard to find a happy medium between people who want crits because they're aiming for publication, and those who aren't. Best of luck to you, and Keep Writing!