Thursday, May 12, 2016

5 Reasons For Writer's Block & How To Overcome It

I've been suffering a kind of writer's block and that's why it's been a whole week since I've published anything. Today, I'm writing about some of the reasons for writer's block and ways to overcome them. 

Image 1. 5 Reasons for writer's block and how to overcome it.

We usually think of writers' block as a situation when the writer just can't come up with anything to write. But that's not always the reason.

A lack of ideas is not what has been stopping me from writing. The ideas are flowing; efficiency and
confidence are not. A number of factors are getting in the way of my creativity, and I suspect many writers and bloggers have problems with them as well.

Image 2.  5 Reasons for writer's block and how to overcome it.

What Can Block a Writer's Productivity?

Many factors influence the craft of writing. Here are five obstacles a writer may encounter:

1.  Being pulled in many directions

My life is pretty distracting right now. Many life events are competing for my attention. Daily life responsibilities and even blogging tasks can slow down the process of creating. For example, instead of writing I have been:
  • working on improving the layout of this website. 
  • troubleshooting an issue with the delivery of this blog's newsletter.
  • searching for suitable places other than this blog to submit my writing.
  • working on improving my social media presence.
  • learning more about the craft of writing.
 While all of these endeavors are worthwhile, they can inhibit or slow down the process of actually writing.

No one lives in a vacuum, and other tasks will aways compete with writing. Time management skills are essential. Although I am well aware (having actually taught time-management seminars) of how I should be managing my time, it is still easy to become scattered. Sometimes, it is important to take a step back and prioritize our goals and figure out how best to achieve them.

2.  Not being held accountable
Being your own boss sounds great, but without someone telling you what to do, it can be hard to stay motivated. Setting self-imposed deadlines and sticking to them is really important. I never had any trouble publishing five-to-six days a week on this blog, until after I announced that I would be taking a break from that publishing schedule for a while. I just wasn't getting enough sleep to keep writing that many posts, but no longer having set publishing deadlines has given me too much flexibility. I've been less productive than before because I haven't feel compelled to publish on a set schedule.

3.  Fear

My best ideas are the ones that cause me to procrastinate the most. When I get excited about something, I want it to be perfect. I become afraid of not doing my best work and may then freeze up and hesitate to write at all. 

4.  The timing isn't right 

I wrote a blog post about overcoming writer's block about a year ago, in which I talked about timing. Sometimes the problem is not having the right thing to write about, rather than not having anything to write at all. I have a long list of potential topics and quite a few partially written articles right now, but none of them are suitable to be published yet. Some just aren't pertinent at this time of year; the rest require a greater amount of time and energy to finish than what I have right now. 

5.  The temptation of potential opportunities 

When I begin to feel exceptionally proud of something I am writing, I start to think about where it might be well-suited to be published. I then consider saving it for another use. Every writer dreams of seeing their work published by major print magazines or websites, but many of them only accept previously unpublished work. Sometimes it is better to have your writing plans disrupted than to publish a piece and later regret having done so.

An example of when hesitancy paid off: 
My article, "A Fine Shave", was published in the January issue of the professional journal, Nursing 2016. One of the first paragraphs was a short personal essay I had written to be publishing somewhere else. Thankfully, I recognized its greater potential, and decided not to submit it there. If I had, I would not have been able to use it as the opening for my article in this more widely-read and respected nursing journal.
Most bloggers, myself included, value their blogs and strive to always fill them with high-quality content. Often, there is no better place for an article than one's own blog. However, sometimes it is smart to take advantage of being published different places. Those articles can then usually still be shared with our blog readers, either by republishing them on the blog (if copyrights allow) or by sharing a link to the places where they are published. 

When we decide not to use something we have been working on for the purpose we originally intended it, we are suddenly faced with nothing ready to post and the challenge of creating something else instead. This can be a little daunting.

How can a writer overcome these obstacles?

None of the obstacles I have mentioned are insurmountable. Here are a few good strategies.

1.  Use your time well.

Staying focused can be hard. (Especially when working on a computer with access to the Internet!) 
  • Write a daily to-do list and set a timer for each task. Take a short break in-between. (The Pomodoro Technique is a helpful guide if you want to learn about this highly recommended technique.)
  • Limit your use of social media and the time you spend checking email and phone messages to only certain times of the day.
  • Keep your goals realistic, but have them clearly defined and refer to them often.
  • Ask for help when you need it. (I couldn't have solved a recent technical problem without some help. ("ThanksKim Six!" When it comes to giving Blogger platform support, she really rocks!)
  • Apply the 80/20 rule, and spend most of your time on the activities that will best help you meet your goals.
  • Create productive routines and stick to them.

2.  Set deadlines. 

(Clearly stating your goals to yourself and to others can help hold you accountable.)

  • Use an editorial calendar and plan in advance what posts you will publish on which days. This can really help eliminate the timing issue I described above.
  • Inform readers what days new posts are published on your blog. 
  • Join a writer's or blogger's group where members motivate each other to be productive.

3.  Believe in yourself.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was right, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Or, maybe what we should really be scared of is perfectionism. It gets in the way of our productivity. While re-writes are important and we should always strive to create our best work, there comes a time when you just have to say, "It's good enough" and hit publish.

4.  Utilize good resources and always keep learning.

It often makes sense to learn from others, rather than trying to figure something out yourself! Here are a few examples of ways I do this:

  • The Beyond Your Blog website, and the e-course Submission Savvy have saved me a ton of time in figuring out how and where to submit articles to other publications.
  • Reading posts by other bloggers is how I learn almost everything I know about blogging.
  • I am currently taking a fiction writing class as this is a strong writing interest of mine.
Investing time in learning may decrease your current productivity, but it can boost your confidence and save you time in the long run.

5.  Prioritize and plan ahead 

  • Set both short-term goals and long-term objectives.
  • Prioritize what needs to be done at the beginning of each day/week/month. 
  • Rank in order of importance the places where you would like to see your writing. This will help determine where and when to submit or publish it. (I got this tip from Susan Maccarelli of Beyond Your Blog, by the way!)
  • Plan and prepare posts well ahead of when you plan to publish them. (I need to get much, much better at doing this, by the way!)
  • Using an editorial calendar ensures enough time to write your posts, and provides you with a stash of completed articles, available to substitute if case you change your mind about publishing a piece. 
Image 3. 5 Reasons for Writer's Block and How to Overcome It.

Being a writer can be challenging.

Being a writer is not as easy as many people believe. Sometimes words almost magically string themselves across and down a page, but often many obstacles are in the way. True "writer's block" does happen from time-to-time; that horrible state when words and thoughts just refuse to flow. But the process of writing can be blocked in many different ways. 

Writer's block. It's not always what you think.

What is the biggest obstacle to your writing productivity?
 How do you manage it?

Many obstacles can stand in the way of writing, but there are ways to blast through them.

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In the spirit of full disclosure, this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of them, the price you pay will not be affected but I may receive some small compensation. All opinions expressed, however, are entirely honest and my own.


  1. 3. Fear
    My best ideas are the ones that cause me to procrastinate the most. When I get excited about something, I want it to be perfect. I become afraid of not doing my best work and may then freeze up and hesitate to write at all.

    When I get a great idea or get excited about something, I write it down right away. Sometimes short notes, sometimes I let the words pour out onto the page for later editing. Even if I don't polish and publish, at least I have my great idea written down so it can't get lost.
    I don't use any of your "overcoming" techniques, good thing I'm not a writer of books with an agent breathing down my neck, because a lot of the time, my problem is I just don't want to turn on the computer. I'd rather read a book or walk along beaches with my camera.

    1. I write ideas down when I think of them also, River. I have found though, that sometimes if I let too much time lapse, they are either no longer of import, or I have lost the perspective I had at the time to write about the topic well. Still - it is better to capture the idea by jotting it down, than lose it completely!
      Reading a book and walking along beaches are worthwhile activities to justify leaving the computer keyboard for a while!

  2. So much great stuff here, I've left this open on my browser for a couple of days. I need much improvement. And yet, for the past 30 months, I've never once missed my own personal blog deadline of posting every Friday. Now if I can apply the same discipline to the longer term goals... like fiction writing. Can't wait to hear how you progress with your class!

    1. Thanks, Mithra. I am glad you found this helpful! Good for you for sticking to your deadlines. I did really well for almost 2 years, but realized posting 5 to 6 days a week was interfering with the quality of my writing. Now, I'm experimenting as to what my best blogging schedule should be. When I figure it out, I hope to publish consistently here again.
      Fiction writing takes a back burner for me, too because there is no deadline. I have only just started the fiction class (Write Story Books for Children) but it looks interesting so far. My only disappointment, there is no audio for the course, the material is all just presented visually, with an interactive screen which allows the student to answer questions and take the tests.

  3. I can relate to all of this Susan. I think fear and not planning ahead have been my biggest problems. I hope to get back in a groove this fall!


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