Seven Surprising Ways to Break Through Writer’s Block

Don’t panic! It happens to almost everyone. There are ways through. Deep breath…

Write Rubbish!

Honestly. NOBODY is going to see it. You set yourself a time and start writing. It only needs to be 30 minutes. No matter how bad it is, it’s more than nothing. Be as ridiculous as you like. Take the mic and write something atrocious. It’s okay, because it’s like a leaky tap, it starts dribbling and then all of a sudden it just gushes the words out. And somehow, they start to get better all by themselves. You can fix the beginning later – just go with the flow.

Clean the windows/floors/vacuum/exercise

Mundane jobs take no thought but occupy you enough to stop you hyper-fixating on your writer’s block. Moreover, if you’re trying to enjoy writing, knowing that you have visitors tomorrow and your house is a state, it puts you into what Prof. Steve Peters (of The Chimp Paradox) calls “the dark playground” – you are trying to do something pleasurable, but it is ruined by the nagging guilt at the back of your mind that you should be doing something else. This definitely contributes to writer’s block. Just think – if it doesn’t work, at least your house will be gleaming! Exercise can have exactly the same effect – did you tell yourself you would run twice a week but haven’t done it? Get out for that run, you’ve ticked a task off your list and allowed your mind to run free with you.


Have you ever sat somewhere for a period of time with nothing to do? Like a train station for example? I like to “people watch” I look at them and try to guess their story. Who are they? Where are they going? Why are they going there? What are they like at home? I get clues from the way they dress, their body language and interactions, what they have with them and so forth. I’m probably wrong 100% of the time – I’ll never know, but they give me great writing material. You can do the same by visiting your local library and looking at book covers in your genre, then try to guess the story. Or visit a local art museum. There is inspiration all around, once you tear your eyes away from the screen/paper you’re using to write your story.

Walk through nature

The more you panic about your writer’s block, the more uptight you become which just adds to the mental immobility. Go for a walk. Make sure there is nature around you. If you’re lucky enough to be close to open countryside, that is perfect, but if you are in a city, head to the nearest park or graveyard. It is important to understand that you haven’t gone there to think up solutions to your block. You are purely there to allow yourself to unwind and your mind to expand. Engage all your senses: look up at the sky, look around you at the flowers, bushes and trees, listen for the insects and birdsong, smell the flowers, touch the leaves and the petals. Remove your shoes and press your bare feet into the earth to really connect. If you have an animal with you, stroke it. Lots.

Read similar books

Know your genre and age group, know your target audience. Then pop to the library and borrow lots of books in that genre. Allow yourself a break from writing to read, but keep a notebook and pen handy. Sometimes a book will inspire new ideas, sometimes you will think of how you would have written that book differently. Either way, ideas will start swimming around inside your head.

Chat to your book friend about favourite books

We all have that one geeky book friend to whom we can chat overly-enthusiastically about books for hours upon end and they don’t look at us like some kind of weirdo. Go visit them – in person preferably, but over Zoom if necessary. Ask them what they’re reading, tell them about what you recently read, let the conversation go wherever it wants. You’re not asking them for help. You’re just enjoying chatting about books – any genre. Oftentimes that’s enough to unplug the blockage.

Sentence starters / Writing prompts

You can internet search thousands of sentence starters and writing prompts, but here are just a few from me:

  • Henry had an unsettling feeling he’d been here before…
  • It was 2am, too early for sunrise, yet the room was bathed in a bright light…
  • The two old ladies, held on to each other as they laughed and laughed…
  • Just around the corner, Jack’s life would be changed forever…
  • The two girls skipped down the beach hand in hand, never to be seen again…
  • It was the same coffee shop. The same street. The same time of day. Yet there was one big difference…
  • Deep under the ocean, something was stirring…
  • “Two people can see and hear the same thing, yet interpret them very differently,” the detective thought to himself.
  • The apparent strangers exchanged a brief look. Somebody else at the airport noticed that look too…
  • Angela arrived unusually late for work, her face red and her usually immaculate hair wild. She rushed into her office, slamming the door behind her…

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