Sunday 16 September 2018

Nerd Church - The Writer Diaries: 7 Radical Ways To Defeat Writer's Block

Staring at the blank page (...or screen...) we've all been there.

You need to write the thing - but the thing just doesn't seem to want to be written.

You have the Dreaded Writer's Block.

notebook and crumpled paper

But Writer's Block ain't welcome around here!

I don't put up with Writer's Block (that pushy little so-and-so) - and neither should you!

As you probably know, but... internet..., these tips etc. are just what works for me.

People are individuals, and what works for me might not work for you!

This post is inspired by the awesome Emily @ The Paperback Princess.

She said I could metaphorically piggy-back on her Writer's Block post - thanks Em!

This also kind of fits in to last week's Nerd Church post on creativity taking time and all that jazz.

Sherlock: 'Don't you worry about anything. I'll get you out of this.'
Via Giphy

1. Let it be cr*p.

Get a piece of scrap paper, or a word document if you prefer typing, and try to write your story or blogpost or poem or whatever it is you want to write.

Let it be cr*p if that's the way it's going.

If it's cr*p, it's cr*p.

No problem!

The great thing is that no-one has to see it!

(You have NO IDEA how often I delete blog drafts and write about a different topic entirely! And thank God for that. Some of those posts are just bad!)

Sometimes you just gotta write and let it suck, just to give it a shot.

You can't win if you ain't in the game, y'know?

And you might find that just writing with no qualms about anything helps you come up with an idea that you actually wanna write about!

And you'll find that removing the pressure of it having to be 'good' (or perfect, let's face it, a lot of us are trying to be perfect,) you'll find it's weirdly more likely to actually be good.

Because life is full of weird and wonderful contradictions.

And also because you're not wasting all your energy and brain power on stressing. You can divert it to actually doing the thing. Which is kinda handy! *nods sagely*

2. 'Fess up

Admit your vulnerabilities. On paper/screen. Get it written down.

Admit what it is about what you're writing that scares you, or that you think isn't up to standard.

Write the words 'I'm having trouble writing this post,' or, 'I'm not sure how to start this,' or 'I'm not sure I know what I just said.'

Put the truth out there into the universe. Because there's a weird power in letting yourself be vulnerable.

If I didn't do this, I don't think I'd actually get anything written what with the Anxiety and everything.

This is something I found while dealing with my Anxiety in general: admitting something, putting it out in the air, removes the power from Anxiety and gives it back to you.

Emma Watson: 'If you truly pour your heart into what you believe in, even if it makes you vulnerable, amazing things can and will happen'
Via Giphy

Admitting things gives you the control.

You're not wasting energy trying to hide what you feel, or thinking about what it means, or what other people might think.

YOU are the one in charge here!

You can delete your admissions later if they don't fit in.

Sometimes I leave mine in - I'm sure you've seen them if you read this blog a lot.

And certainly, for something like a blog, they give your posts a level of authenticity that readers appreciate (imho.)

Obv., if you're doing a college essay or a work report or whatever, that's not necessarily appropriate!

So delete as needed for the tone of whatever you're writing.

Again, this fits in with the whole 'relieve the pressure' deal-y I was talking about earlier!

3. Procrastinate your a** off

Procrastination is actually good for you if you wanna get sh** done. True story.

Turns out our subconscious is really fairly damned terrifying smart.

It can do all sorts of sh** without our conscious brain being involved. Just tell it what you want it to do and then go watch YouTube for a li'l bit!

So, yes, it's possible to procrastinate your way to productivity.

PLEASE be careful with this if you're on a deadline though!

4. Write in patchwork

OK, I have a limited attention span.

Some days it is downright non-existent.

It's uber-frustrating because as a kid, I used to be able to concentrate for hours on end, but since all of my mental health problems, my thoughts bounce around like a caffeine-fuelled kangaroo.

(Which, ironically, is worse if I don't drink coffee.)

You know Dug, the dog from Up? And how he's constantly talking and stopping cos he gets distracted by squirrels?

That is the current state of my brain.

Only there's about 50 Dugs in there, who all want me to see their particular squirrel.

Dug and other Dogs, 'My sophistication will always surpass your - SQUIRREL!'
Via Giphy

So I write in patchwork.

I'm hoping that I can explain this adequately*, cos if it works for you, it'll REALLY work for you.

(And if it doesn't you don't have to use it!)

*Example of tip #2. Right there.

I work with my limited attention span by writing the sections that I can concentrate on, when I can concentrate on them.

So if I know that I need to write about A, B, and C, but I haven't written about A yet, I might write about B first if that's where my mind's at.

Or I might write about C, then A, then B. Or A, then C, then B. Or whatever!

And as I go along I add bits, take away bits, expand on some things, delete some things...

Basically what I write ends up looking completely different by the time I've finished.

I think of it like threading the writing together, or making a patchwork blanket.

But how do I remember to include everything I wanted to?

Well, I use markers, notes, placeholders, whatever you wanna call them.

Just a li'l something like: 'write about X here,' or 'say something about X's effects' and then I move on to the thing that I actually currently know how to write about.

I wouldn't call it planning my writing, so much as I would call it 'capturing one of the buzzing thoughts roaming around my head before it's gone forever.'

Cos I know that I need to write about X.

And I know that I don't have the time/concentration/whatever to write about X right now.

But if I don't make a note of it? I'm totally gonna forget that I needed to write about X!

It's also a good note to your subconscious (#3 again,) that you want it to think about X for you while you skip off merrily* to write about Y.

Productive procrastinating for the win!

*The skipping is optional.

If you use this method, though, I'd advise using a different colour, like red or whatever, to write your placeholders in - at least to start with.

Because you don't want to forget where you left the placeholders, and then forget to delete them.

Unlike 'fessing up (point #2,) there's pretty much no appropriate piece of writing to leave your placeholders in after you've finished.

(Especially if you're like me and write things like, 'say something about the weird chick,' or 'write about the sh** in chapter 7' - because that's gonna get embarrassing.

Check things like that BEFORE you hand your writing in to wherever the eff it's going!)

5. Break it down

This is a 2-for-1 tip, cos I mean it in two ways:

Break down what you wanna do


Break down emotional barriers between you and your reader/s.

Breaking down what you wanna do can help you if you don't have an effing clue where to start.

If you're just like, 'I'm gonna write a novel!' or just 'I'm gonna write a blogpost!' it can seem like a massive task and just kind of turn into white noise.

So you need to break it down into smaller parts.

Figure out what you wanna achieve, to start with.

Are there things you need to cover in this essay?

Is there something you wanna write a blogpost about?

Is there a genre of novel you've always wanted to try?

Then make notes and/or mind-map - depending on what you feel like doing.

Strip it back: list the things you need to cover, then break that down into ways you could cover them.

Keep breaking down the various aspects of what you wanna do until you feel like you can start actually writing it.

Oh, and your notes?

Write down whatever comes into your head.

Even the silly stuff. Even the ridiculous stuff. Even the cr*p stuff.

Let it be cr*p (tip #1!) - cos there's no need for anyone to ever see it.

You can delete your computer files or recycle your paper notes afterwards.

They're just scrap.

You can f**k up scrap as much as you want.

You can doodle genitalia or translate obscenities into different languages for all I care.

In fact, just writing down anything and everything - including the childish and/or obscene stuff - can be a good way of getting your brain in gear, or just procrastinating (tip #3!)

Once you've figured out what you wanna do, pick one or two of those smaller tasks, and focus on those.

Smaller, manageable, tasks usually freak people out less than ONE GINORMOUS TASK. Lol.

Breaking down emotional barriers is trickier.

This is one that's context-dependent, cos pouring your heart out in an essay on mitochondria for your Biology class isn't really appropriate!

But if you're writing a more intimate form of writing - anything from a blogpost to a novel - you need to break down some of those barriers.

I don't mean that you have to tell your readers every single little intimate detail about either yourself or your character - f**k no! - but if you emotionally cut yourself off from the reader, you also cut off both the heart and the authenticity of the writing.

Lena Dunham 'I'm planning to write an article that exposes all of my vulnerabilities to the entire internet.' gif
Via Giphy

I'm not a fan of Lena Dunham, but this gif was just too appropriate!

Sometimes we use an excess of words, or a certain tone, as a sort of emotional shield.

For example, if I was writing about a (in this case, fictional) bad day I had, and I wanted to emotionally distance myself (consciously or subconsciously,) I might write something like this:

The day had been really bad to a level I couldn't explain to even those who had known me all of my life, like Jodie had. Everything about it, from start to finish, had been really bad.

Lots of words there, but not a lot of info. I'm talking without saying much beyond 'it was bad,' - which in some cases is fine, but... there's that distance, y'know?

If I want my words to actually matter to someone, if I wanted to actually convey the levels of 'badness' to our fictional day, I might say something like:

I got home, and all I wanted was to go straight to sleep. This day. Oh God, this day! Jodie asked me what was wrong. I couldn't even start to explain.

Which has more impact? Which version let's you know more about what the person's feeling?

Maybe you think it's the first one - let me know if so, cos I'd honestly be interested!

I know a lot of people would say, 'but Cee, surely you're talking about show don't tell...?'

And I kind of am. But I'm also kind of not.

It's kind of hard to explain the difference (Tip #2!) as I see it, but I could 'show don't tell' like this:

After today, I just wanted to go to bed. Jodie asked me what was wrong, and I couldn't even start to explain.

See? That's also 'show don't tell,' but it hasn't broken down the emotional barriers as much as the second version.

Unless you don't agree!

In which case, lemme know!

It might even help me explain what I mean better.

I guess what I'm saying here is you need to let yourself be vulnerable.

Because your readers will be able to tell if you're being emotionally honest or not, even in fiction.

But don't go thinking you have to share things you're not comfortable with sharing - because this works EVEN WHEN YOU DELETE THE RAW STUFF.

I have written numerous blogposts that were are actually way more frank than what they end up being published as.

Yes, even yours truly, the Queen of brutally honest, cuts stuff out that she doesn't feel comfortable with.

And because your writing maintains that tone of intimacy, openness, and authenticity even after you take out the too-personal stuff, your reader will still feel emotionally close to you/your characters.

Just give it a shot, cos you don't have to show anyone if it doesn't turn out right!

6. Listen to heavy metal

(...or the music genre of your choice.)

When I want to Get Sh** Done™ I listen to metal.

Stone Sour, System of a Down, Avenged Sevenfold, Billy Talent, The Disturbed, Serj Tankien... they're all on my list of productivity boosting music.

'Serj Approves!' gif
Via Giphy

Of course, I also listen to other music to be creative - mainly emo and punk, because yours truly is a rock nerd, but also rap and random other stuff.

Music can be uber-inspirational and you might even wanna make a creative playlist, or a productivity playlist, or whatever effing playlist you feel like making.

(This is a useful way to procrastinate! Lol, point #3.)

Of course, many people don't like music when they write and stuff - and that's totally cool too! 😄

7. Don't be hard on yourself

I know, I know, easier said than done.

But there's a whole lot of people who like nothing better than to rain on the parades of others. There's no need to be hard on yourself - other people will do that for you.

So remember: you're awesome.

It's rarely as bad as you think it is, and creativity takes time.

Have you tried any of these? Do you have any tips for defeating writer's block? Talk to me! 💖💬

You can follow me on Twitter @CeeDoraReads, on Dora Reads @ BlogLovin, and on Google+. For more ways to support me, check out the Support Me page

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Last updated: 21st September 2018


  1. YES to all of these, Cee! I have already started writing in my notebook again on literally anything. Stream of consciousness writing is so good because even if it turns out crap, nobody has to read it. This was a very helpful tip.

    I think part of my problem too is that I always try to get the project done and don’t accept the fact that some procrastination is ok! I never really thought that taking a break and revisiting when I’m ready would be helpful, but I think it would be.

    Also, I totally agree with listening to whatever genre helps you to get sh*t done! For me it’s any high energy song from musical theatre. I can really write when Hamilton is on!!

    1. Good luck Em! Glad to hear you're getting down to writing again! :)

  2. And you say you don't swear :D YOU JUST CHEAT! :DDDD all those asterisks. Tsk tsk tsk :D

    But this is a really good post :)

    I really need to catch up with you! Things have been crazy with me lately, but I haven't forgotten our joint post. Will come back to it :) eventually xD (I am sorry :D)

    (Listen to heavy metal xDDDDD)

    1. I never said I didn't swear! I just said I'm incapable of doing so without *'s! Lol.

      Thank you - and ok, no problem, I figured you were just busy!

      (Ain't nothing wrong with heavy metal dammit!!!! XD )

  3. This is such a helpful and useful post! I have to admit, the first one is definitely the hardest for me. I can be quite perfectionist when it comes to writing so I want my first draft to be perfect when it shouldn't have to be! I also love to break everything down into doable steps. It's basically how I live my whole life so I love that tip :D

    1. Thanks! And yeah - I get the whole perfectionism deal-y, but it's important to take some of the pressure off in order to actually get the thing done! Lol

  4. I agree that sometimes you just need to get stuff down on the page (or the computer) and then worry about fixing it up or paring it down after. When we worry too much about perfection from the beginning, we can just end up frozen.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. Totally true! You need to get something down so that you have something to work with :)

  5. I struggle with #1, not just with writing, but with lots of things that I do. I have such a hard time giving myself to do things badly. I want it all to turn out good! The best it can be! But I'd probably improve a lot more if I just did the things badly and got the practice instead of putting things off because I want them to be perfect. *sigh* I do write in patchwork, a lot, but that isn't working out very well for me in certain areas. For blog posts and stuff, it works. For stories and stuff, I just end up with a whole bunch of incoherent, random scenes lol. But hey, at least I get something written occasionally!

    1. My brain is essentially incoherent, random scenes. Have you tried sticking them together and then writing a marker like 'write scene connecter here' - ? Might be worth a shot, get that subconscious working on it! Lol.

      I get you. I have higher expectations of myself than I do of anyone else. But that all-or-nothing attitude just means we end up with nothing most of the time, y'know? No-one has to see our mistakes or our rough drafts: the only person judging them is us!

  6. Yesss these are amazing!! I try to use these a lot for writing books too, especially the "just go ahead and write it crappily". Like we can fix something IF we have something to fix. I also find talking about being stuck helps me actually work it out myself? If my sister's around she makes a great listener. Usually she doesn't even have to put much input in.😂

    1. Ha, my mother has conversations like that, we're all stood around like, 'You actually don't need us in order to have this conversation, do you? Because we've literally said nothing for like 10 minutes.' Meanwhile she's there like, 'You're right! I *should* pick up a t-shirt for you brother!'


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