News for Authors

10 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

by Andrea Bachofen|September, 2014

We asked some of our authors to anonymously share their best ideas on how to beat writer’s block. Read on for inspiration.

(If you would like to contribute to this series, see the note at the end of the article.)


1. Take a Hike

“Overcoming writer’s block is, for me, less a question of possessing the needed “What will I write?” knowledge than the willingness to SIT DOWN and do so. Literally, I walk around it. I will go for long walks, a trail run, anything to physically get my brain loosened and approachable once again. It may take a day, or days. By the time I’m spontaneously writing scenes in my head as I move down the trail or that night before falling asleep, I’m ready.”

“Walk more miles—get a dog if necessary.”


2. Write Yourself Out of It

“For me, solving writer’s block involves working on an unrelated writing project. In addition to writing books, I also do some magazine freelancing and write for my own websites. Diverting my attention from a temporary block to something else seems to restart the creative process for me, even if I’m just doing research or editing someone else’s writing. When I return to the original project, the block is gone.”


3. Write Anything

“Make an appointment to get back to it and then write anything—deliberately write rubbish. Write something you’d never allow anyone to read, then burn it—or eat it. Talk to yourself. Sit in two different chairs while you interrogate yourself. Try writing drunk if you usually write sober, or vice versa.”

“I found that Julie Cameron’s “Morning Pages” really helps in those droughts. Three pages in a notebook without a word to anyone, uncensored, and not to be read over. Eventually, something will break through.”


4. Get a Little Help from a Friend

“First I imagine one person—a friend. Then I simply describe to my friend what it is I am writing and how I got stuck. By narrowing my audience to one person, I become more decisive. And imagining the explanation keeps me in the right point of view to unsnarl my work. It sounds too simple, but it’s been very effective.”


5. Deny, Deny, Deny

“I choose not to believe in writer’s block. There’s always something you can write. If my creative juices are spent by mid-morn, I can ‘change channels’ and rewrite, or freewrite, or write monologues for my minor characters.”


6. Sleep On It

“I don’t get writer’s block, I get sleep block. I am an epic sleeper and need at least nine hours a night—and I can have a nap after that. When I had kids, I realized that my creative process is all about a good sleep. If I haven’t slept, my writing really suffers.”


7. Find Your Touch

“I have certain books that are touchstones, and I turn to them when I think I can’t write a single sentence. Virginia Woolf is one.”


8. Let Your Subconscious Do the Work

“I seldom feel blocked, but when I do, I put my writing aside. Let it sit and ferment. Don’t even think about your story—your subconscious will be grinding away on it even while you’re occupied with something else. When your subconscious is done incubating it will let you know, and when you go back to the story with fresh eyes you’ll be surprised at how much work has been done.”


9. Stay Put

“I very, very rarely walk away from my desk. There’s always something you can do, some exercise—put your two main characters on parachutes, have them shout. Each book, I have a moment of: I can’t figure this out. Then I sit there—and the best solution comes. One I wouldn’t have thought of if I’d walked away.”


10. Show Me the Money

“I rarely have writer’s block because my bills arrive too regularly.”


 . . . But Most of All:

“Don’t beat yourself up. Be kind. Give yourself a break, and have faith. It will come back.”


In a future article, we’ll cover the question: “What’s your best piece of advice for an author nearing publication date?” Please submit your answers here.


Andrea Bachofen is part of the Digital Publishing Development group at Penguin Random House.