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Two kinds of writer’s block

See No Evil
Is it really writer’s block?

I get a lot of emails from writers who think they’re suffering from writer’s block.

But are they really blocked, or is there something else holding them back? The truth might surprise you. 

Based on my conversations with hundreds of writers, I’ve discovered that when you’re stuck, there are usually one of two entirely different problems going on.

(Sometimes, it’s both at once. Ouch.)

What type of writer’s block do you suffer from?

1) I don’t know what to write.

2) Everything I write is terrible.

Those are the two different kinds of writer’s block. Here’s what you can do to break through and get writing again.

If you don’t know what to write:

Type 1 writer’s block can make you feel like you’ll never be able to write again. The best way to beat that kind of writer’s block is to generate as many ideas as you can.

Use brainstorming techniques. Bounce story ideas off of a creative partner. (Click here for an easy way to figure out what your novel is really about.)

Keep going until you come up with no less than ten different ideas. Yes, some of them will be awful. That’s okay. Because all you need is one workable idea.

Review your list of ideas and pick one. The least-worst one, if necessary. Then just start writing.

If you hate your own writing:

Sometimes, we second-guess ourselves into paralysis. If that’s you, you’re suffering from Type 2 writer’s block.

You’re caught in the trap of trying to write and edit at the same time. Problem is, creativity doesn’t work that way.

You need to get it all down on the page first … and then polish it up later.

Sometimes, much later. A week is good. A month, maybe better. Whatever you write today, promise yourself that you won’t re-read it until a week has passed. Seal it in an envelope if you have to.

Set an easy quota for yourself: 100 words or 15 minutes. Then sit down and do it. Write everything that comes to mind. Give yourself permission to write badly.

Get it all out on paper, then put it away and don’t look at it until later.

(You might even try using a notebook or typewriter.)

Are you suffering from writer’s block?

Share your story in the comments.


  1. Books & Art - Spirit & Soul - Lesley Fletcher

    I fall under neither of your categories. I know I am a good writer. I have subject matter. My problem is that I am discouraged. Should I write in a certain format, print in a different size etc etc …Yes, I write for my enjoyment but I also write for others to enjoy. In order to have others enjoy, it means writing to a specific audience, genre, type. In order to meet mainstream where my work can be read, I find myself in a position of compromise. The whole process is skewed in that case. Does this sound complicated? I think it is.

  2. Laurence MacNaughton

    Lesley, thanks for your perspective! I think all writers struggle with trying to find an authentic voice that appeals to a wide audience. Here’s the most important thing to remember: always write from the heart. If you believe in yourself and your writing, and never give up, then you will find your audience. Hope that helps!

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