Overcoming Writing Resistance…but not writer’s block – it doesn’t exist

Writer’s Block doesn’t exist. That’s right, you heard me.

It Does… Not… Exist.

What does exist is mental resistance to the regular discipline of writing. This is easily overcome IF you want to be a writer, and not someone who sits down and writes when you feel like it.

I know it’s a harsh statement, but really? Too freakin’ bad kids. If you want to be a writer, you gots to put in da time.

Do you know of any opera singers at the Metropolitan who walk on stage after singing in the shower once a week? NO.

Do you know of any chefsย at 3 star restaurants who only cook meals when they’re in the mood and never learn basic knife skills, and how to make sauces without a recipe? NO.

Why should writers be any different, I ask you? They shouldn’t.

Practice and effort improves technique and creates the mental discipline needed to get from here to there (where here is a blank page and there is the end of a story).

So why bother writing about something that doesn’t exist, a writer’s bogeyman that creeps up on an unsuspecting writer and throttles them when they least expect it?

Because if YOU have conditioned yourself to believe “WB” exists (and by giving it an official name you made it worse) then you’d benefit from having a few tricks up your sleeve to deal with your resistance. Here are some tricks to use, and feel free to add more in the Comments Section below:

  1. Go back to a piece of writing that isn’t finished and work on it instead of looking at a blank page
  2. If you’re just beginning to write and want to create a habit, set aside a similar time each day to do your writing
  3. And if you’re the type who wants a particular space to write, go for it, but don’t allow setting up your writing space be the excuse for why you aren’t writing! No one cares if that potted fern is on the right or left side of the desk, stop avoiding your work and get back to it.
  4. Just Do It. The slogan works for Nike, but it works for writer’s too. You just sit down and make yourself do some writing. It may not be the next Pulitzer winner, but who cares, you’re writing something. You can edit it later.
  5. Take a book you love, turn to a chapter you love, and start typing it out. You’re writing someone else’s words, but eventually this can spur you to open up a new file and write some of your own.
  6. Write nonsense. Make yourself write anything. It’s like a singer doing scales. It doesn’t make any sense but it’s a form of practice and by giving yourself the ultimate freedom to write any blasted thing you want, you might be surprised at where your thoughts lead.
  7. Stop what you are doing (banging your head against the keyboard) and get a drink of water, or soda/coffee. Take a BRIEF 10-15 minute break (time yourself!) and then get back to it.
  8. If you’re the type of writer who likes to outline a story, write your story notes, or re-read your story notes, or do whatever it is you people who outline do. I don’t do that, so I don’t know how that works…but whatever it is you do, good luck and use the tool you’ve created.
  9. Open a dictionary to a random page and write a sentence based on that word.
  10. Use a photo as a writing prompt

Coming up with these “tricks” took me five minutes. You know why? Because ANYthing you do can prompt you to start writing, if you’ll only sit down and DO IT.

To sum:

– There is no such thing as writer’s block.

– Writers sometimes have a resistance to sitting down and doing the work. SNAP YOURSELF OUT OF IT.

– Writing as a regular discipline is a permanent antedote so would-be writers can become writers.


Now – get back to work!


P.S. This post was inspired by Mike ReVerb’s Blog Post: Writer’s Block Personified, which you can find here: http://mikereverb.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/writers-block-personified/


14 Responses

  1. Very nice tips Carol. I like that you don’t encourage the use of the “Writer’s block slogan” It does not exist. I have numerous drafts that I have not yet matured and numerous headlines. When I have a writing resistance I go over them and immediately my juices start flowing again.Sometimes, when that does work I take a real break and do a chore or anything not writing related.

    I really like the idea of typing out the chapter of my favorite book. Will do that next time…there is always a next time ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Good deal Veeh! Exactly “write”!

      I like the idea of writing headlines, coming up with story titles, or writing first sentences.

      I took a Gotham Writing Seminar a few years ago and we did an exercise where we wrote first sentences, and I’ve had two pieces published (plus other pieces I’ve self published on my blog) that use those first sentences.

      Try it, you’ll like it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks so much for your comment my friend!

  2. You are very funny.

    11. Writing is not an Art.
    12. Change the word block in blog.
    13. Try to write in another language.
    14. Don`t worry if you write a word wrong.
    15. Write to someone you don`t know.

    Sincerely yours, George.

    The Netherlands.

  3. Why would you prefer people to agree?

    The funny part is … I agree with your opinion about WB.
    Read my comment in the blog from Mike.

    Your reply was the most quickly reply ever.

    • It’s like the old philosophical question – if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there, does it make any sound?

      If you write to amuse others, as I sometimes (read: often) do, it’s nice to know the audience is, in fact, amused. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Let’s call it the equivalent of electronic laughter.

      Thanks for bringing up MikeReVerb’s Blog. My idea for the posting above came directly from Mike’s recent post on Writer’s Block. (Thanks for the inspiration Mike!)

  4. I still think you are funny.

    If a tree falls.
    In the woods.
    And … NoOne is there.
    Then … NoOne would heare a sound.
    The tree does not make any sound.

    There is no .. if .. question.
    There is only the .. why .. question

    • Hahaha, based on your response, I’m beginning to think you’re the one that’s funny.



      Thanks for jumping in the pool at my blog. It’s kooky over here, but I think you’ll like it.

      By the way – since you are new, let me suggest two blog posts you might like:

      – Ways for Neurotic Writers to Torture Themselves …Possibly a Rant
      – Reasons Why Your Short Story Was Rejected

      You could get a laugh or two out of those.

  5. Lately I find very difficult to express nearly every thought that comes to me in words. I used to write and talk a lot when I was young but lately when I say something or I make a statement on paper/on my keyboard or verbally I know that it is an incomplete statement. Everything seems to me like works A-way but also the opposite -Away may be right. Everything is and is not at the same time and both seem fine to me.
    The reason I made this point is that I agree to the statements of your posting to a high extend. True if someone wants to be a writer by profession the same way someone is electrician, cook, MD, pilot, painter, designer or salesperson, needs to keep on practicing. Practice improves a craft and teaches new tricks along the way.

    It also brings new improved ideas for an existing project we work on.
    Musicians, financiers, technicians, athletes and of course writers improved their skill by practicing.

    However often ideas come when they decide to come to us. Of course by practicing I invite them. But many times creative ideas come to us at the least expected moment. They may are intense to be expressed while we put the idea on paper, then it slows down and we feel that we have nothing to write. If we express discipline we write something for sure but we -at least I am talking about myself- I have to throw it away. I applied discipline many times in my creative endeavors to discover that I had to throw all the product of disciplined writing to the waste-basket. Often I had ideas while I was sleeping, walking to the store, working my day job, in the shower, or while I am in the train. My greatest piece of creation came to me like a flash at the moment I had a big fight with my then spouse. I felt so strong desire to put down the initial idea that stopped arguing and picked a paper and pen. It was exactly 3-4 years from my previous idea.

    Writing, like music, painting, or any form of arts is coming from somewhere in some other plane and through us is expressed to the outside world. We are like carriers of ideas or products…some carriers have bigger traffic some they have less. There is -according to me always-something or someone who chooses us, may be our higher- self or something else- who uses us the same way we use a highway to drive through. Some roads have traffic others do not. However both the busy ones and the non-busy ones can be very useful. Of course, the highway (at least the town maintenance officials) have to maintain the road in great condition, to make improvements and advance the technology that is needed to be applied on this road….but if for some reason the road is not of use any more no improvement will save it….in other words if this higher-self decides that our role as writers or artists has run its course we are done….that’s why many writers or musicians who have become rich and famous in order to maintain their status repeat themselves or create later in their life works of less quality….

    To me humans are like travelers and writing is for some people
    a path we take to express something internal. We become roads for something deeper to come out. During the process we certainly need to do what you suggest…improve our current skill.

    But no matter how much we improve ourselves when the
    “something else” presses the button and says “done” then we need to realize that it is about time to move to something else..

    i wrote all of the above to emphasize that yes, I agree that practice makes perfect but at the same time there have been unruly creators who wrote when the idea came to them and they created great pieces of art or literature. When they turned their random creativity to professionally organized craft they lost their edge.

    We have also to remember that writing is a gift and an expression and runs its course. We may create and produce for a period of few years, a lifetime or just one time and then the source is closing down. Many writers created immortal piece of literature once and then the source turned off its tap. Some write once every few years.

    Those who are into mass production and come up with a book every year or so, the same way as a new car-model or a new tank-top mostly they recycle old ideas and keep selling, often because their publishers push them to write and the public still buys.

    In this case people buy brand the same way we buy Colgate, Starbucks Coffee or Victoria’s Secret and the writer amasses as much as opportunity” lasts. In this case discipline is needed because the product “writing” is an industrial piece of literary work.

    I agree 100% with the posting. However I just wanted to add that there are some more dimensions to creative works. That’s why writers often are unstable people with volatile lives. Always according to me the more organized life someone has and the more emotionally stable s/he is, the less can offer as writer. You cannot be creative and apply your craft the same way as an electrician, a secretary or a banker. Great writing is like a storm and people with stormy lives have more first hand material to offer…..

    • Well, that was a lengthy reply. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Let me answer in brief.

      I disagree that writers, musicians, artists, poets need to be “a little crazy” or “volatile” to tap into their creativity. I disagree that ‘artists’ (of all varieties) need to use drugs (you didn’t say that, I’m adding the thought) in order to open up creative pathways.

      It may very well be that Jimi Hendrix, Modigliani, Sylvia Plath, and others would have lived longer, less creative lives, if they hadn’t died of drug overdoses, depression and suicide… but I don’t think so. They made bad choices that ended their lives too soon. They could have continued producing great works.

      There are many ways of tapping into creativity, whether part of our conscious or sub-conscious minds. You already mentioned one of those ways – remembering our dreams. I’m sure there are others.

      Regardless of what methods are used to create, or noting where the idea comes from, my point is as writers, we must continue to write regularly, otherwise we cease to be writers.

      A writer who doesn’t write for years isn’t blocked, s/he has given up writing until such a time as s/he decides to go back to it and do the work.

  6. LOVE this post – and I do heartily agree. Especially since I used to be a singer, and forced myself to work on those chops even when I wasn’t “in the mood”, so I could relate to that!
    Here’s my little two cents that’s helped me: Write about something weird, amazing, crazy, funny that actually happened to you. You don’t have to come up with any story idea, but you are getting a word and grammar workout. Even if you never use it or become a memoirist, I have used real life situations to create a fiction story.
    BTW – I thought you’d been abducted by aliens. For some reason, your blog isn’t showing up in my inbox anymore! Grrrr…

    • Great idea!

      Sorry to hear about my blog’s abduction. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ WordPress might be fooling around with digest settings? I don’t know because I’ve noticed the same thing…

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