Help with Writer’s Block

Seeing as Nanowrimo starts this Sunday, I thought now would be a great time to share the writing tip that has helped me the most out of everything.

I struggle with writer’s block often. I just cannot commit to sit down and write, for one thing. For the last couple of years I had an office job that left me exhausted, and now I have a brand new business that’s taking up the majority of my time. Also, when I do manage to sit down and actually write, I struggle greatly with perfectionism. You know, that what’s-the-point-of-doing-unless-it’s-perfect thing. I’ll write a few pages and then read it back, feel terrible about myself, and give up for the next few months. But I do have something that tends to work for me if I stick to it. It’s how I plan to get through Nanowrimo this year without tearing out my hair at a loss for words. So I thought I’d share.

If you are a handwriter, you’re going to need two notebooks. If you’re a computer person, two documents. Or you could do a combination of both. You’ll also need a timer of some sort. Personally, I like to use the Forest app, which grows a tree while my timer is going (unless I close out of the app to do something on my phone, in which case the tree withers).

This is where the two notebooks come in. The first is your project notebook (or computer document), where you’ll be writing whatever you’re working on. The second is your journal, where you can write absolutely anything that comes to mind, even if it’s gibberish. You set the timer to about 20-30 minutes. You have to write all the way through the timer, but it doesn’t matter where you write. The important thing is that you can’t do anything else while the timer is running. If you write 30 minutes of stream of consciousness writing in your journal, it still counts as writing. If you write for 30 minutes straight on your project, great!

When I do this, I find that almost every single time I start in my journal and end up working on my project within 5-10 minutes. For me, it’s almost a failproof method of getting words on the page. And the thing is, if I really feel like I need to journal for 30 minutes straight, that’s normally because I need it. And I always feel much better afterwards.

If I have more time, I’ll take a short break and then set another timer. Rinse, repeat until I’m out of steam or time for the day.

I hope this helps you on your writing endeavors this November! I’m going to start including a new “weekly reads” section at the end of every post to share things I’ve been reading the past week.

Thanks for stopping by.


The Writer’s Grove — Please check out my friend Kammi and I’s new project on Instagram. We’re creating a writing community online and are in the process of planning workshops and retreats (online for now) and working to foster connections within writergram. We have both benefitted greatly from our personal writing communities, and we want to help other writers find theirs. Check us out on Instagram @thewritersgrove.

Against the Muse Myth: On Motherhood and the Writing Life — I really loved this article by poet Molly Spencer about how the idea that the act of writing has to be sacred can be harmful; especially to women who often have a hard time finding that kind of time and space.