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A Writer’s Mortal Enemy

Writer’s block.

The bane of every writer, this disease may be fatal to many works.  However, the disease presents in varying degrees of severity, with symptoms lasting from minutes to years

Symptoms include: blank pages, crumpled papers, a seeming loss of creativity, explosive diarrhea (paying attention now, eh?), and hours spent staring at an unchanging screen.


  • Relaxation
  • Some patience
  • A hint of humor
  • Get started now!

As writers, we’ve all faced this mortal enemy.  Writer’s block threatens to steal the very thoughts from our minds, leaving our fingers useless to type or write anything more than “See Jane run.  Run, Jane, run!”

I’ve developed a series of techniques that have helped me overcome writer’s block.  I now see this once deadly disease as nothing more than an inconvenience.  With a little practice, you too can put this demon to rest.

For right now, though, you’re stuck.  You’ve written yourself into a corner, and no matter what you do, you can’t seem to find your way out.  What do you do?

Treatment #1:  Relaxation (Dosage:  3-5 minutes)

Anyone who has been on an airplane has seen the typical safety routine.  In that routine is a segment where passengers are instructed, if the oxygen masks drop, to secure one’s own mask before assisting a child (or anyone else).  In a similar manner, writers need to take care of themselves before taking care of their work.

For most writers, in order to create their best work, relaxation is key.  I usually close my eyes and imagine a quiet stroll through a forest, or walking along a beach.  Any imagery will do, as long as it relaxes you (though not too relaxed…wake up, wake up!).  The goal is to (temporarily) allow yourself to stop thinking about the work at hand.  In fact, your true goal is to keep from doing anything at all, so that you can approach your work with a clear mind.

After 3-5 minutes of relaxation (or whenever your mind feels more clear), try again.  Often, this is enough for me to get moving again.  If not, I try treatment #2.

Treatment #2:  Some patience (Dosage:  30-45 minutes)

You’ve tried relaxing, but it didn’t work fast enough.  What’s treatment #2?  Essentially, the idea here is similar to treatment #1–you want to try to get your mind off the current problem (again, temporarily).  Take a short walk, eat a meal with your family, or read a favorite book.  You’re looking to take an approximately half hour break from your writing.  When you get back, do not go back to your work. Instead, use treatment #3.

Treatment #3:  A hint of humor (5-10 minutes)

Spend 5 minutes reading jokes online, or, if you have one, rifling through your joke file.  I have several jokes conveniently located above my desk, which are guaranteed to give me a laugh.  You know what makes you laugh…spend 5 minutes reading or watching something funny!

Why humor?  Humor breaks you out of your typical operating mode and frees up your creativity.  Writer’s block is truly just the feeling that you lack creativity, so allowing yourself to laugh breaks you out of the box.

Treatment #4:  Get started now! ( (Dosage:  will vary)

Enough procrastinating! Treatments #1 and #2 are condoned procrastination techniques, which force you to take a break from working on something you’re stuck on.  Treatment #3 helps you to think differently.  The goal with this treatment is to force yourself to get something (anything!) down on paper.

At first, just focus on the ideas that you want to get across.  Don’t worry (right now) about getting full sentences, unless they happen to come to you.

Once you have your ideas down, focus on how you want to put them together.

Example (also available in the forums):
What I want to say: Fish tastes good.

Wait…what type of fish? Am I saying all fish tastes good? Is there anything else missing that I want to say or imply?

What I want to say: Salmon tastes good, and I also like the way it looks.

Okay, this is better, but what do I like about the way it looks?

What I want to say: Salmon tastes good, and I love its pink color.

Okay, this seems like enough about what I want to say. Now how do I want to say it? Let’s pick a story form:

The salmon was delicious–the grill-streaked, peach flesh was so tender that it melted in my mouth.

Or let’s pick a cooking video:

Grilled salmon tastes best when it has turned from a dark pink to a rosy, almost peach color, with nice dark streaks from the grill.

Or perhaps even from the perspective of the salmon’s spirit:

My peach flesh was so tender, marked with beautiful streaks from the grill’s flames, that even I had to admit that, were I still alive, I’d have to eat myself.

Allowing yourself to have fun with what you’re writing is the best defense against writer’s block.  There are many other treatments for writer’s block, but this is the formula I usually prescribe for myself.

Other treatments will follow soon…until then, get started on your 4-step process!

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2 Responses to “A Writer’s Mortal Enemy”

  1. Shyam says:

    Great post, i especially like the way you detail how to write, which I have been trying to incorporate into a novel that I have started working on. I tend to ignore that in the ficlets I write, but an essential for any writer.

    And thanks for your comment, I have to admit I never thought of taking it in the direction of Victor being a ghost, though I can totally see it working.

  2. […] I talked about in a previous post, relaxation is important for a writer as well.  In order for you to do your most creative work, […]

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