We’ve all felt it. That sense of melancholy panic that washes over bloodshot eyes as you stare at the cursor blinking on your computer screen. This feeling comes to us at many moments in the writing process. Sometimes we struggle on where to even begin, and other times the battle begins as we read through what we have been working on for the past five hours, only to realize that it makes no sense.

I’ve heard people say that there is no such thing as writer’s block. However, there are other writers who stop writing for years and blame it on this clog of the creative mind. My thought: maybe it depends on the person. Below is a collection of quotes on writer’s block from modern authors of a variety of genres. They obviously knew what they were doing some of the time, so maybe one of them will resonate with you. If it does, give that philosophy a try. If that doesn’t work, try another one. If you think you have a chronic case, scroll to the bottom of this page and give us a call.  

Take a break.

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”

Hilary Mantel

Have you ever said to a friend, “Uh, I had something I wanted to tell you, but I can’t remember what it was!” That most likely happened because between the time that you thought of what you wanted to tell them and saw your friend, you interacted with a bunch of other humans. This strategy usually works best when you are not on a tight deadline and have the house to yourself. Hilary Mantel is the award-winning author of fourteen books, many of which are historical fiction, but when she gets stuck, she doesn’t look back. Sometimes taking a few distracted minutes, or even an hour, to yourself is the perfect recipe for inspiration, but according to Mantel, people is one ingredient that you can leave out of the mix.

Just do it.

“Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.”

H. Jacksohow to overcome writer's blockn Brown Jr.

If you play sports, then this is probably the philosophy for you. Think of it like this: when a basketball team has a big game, it is scheduled. The small forward cannot simply say to the team, “Sorry, guys. I’m just not really feeling it today. Can we just wait to play until I do?” Whether they are sore, tired, or in a bad mood, they still get on the court and play. According to H. Jackson Brown, Jr., who was on the New York Times Bestseller list for three years with his book Life’s Little Instruction Book, it’s the same with writing. Just do it and see what happens. With any luck, it might be something good.

Have a mental or literal outline.

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block, so long as you’ve had plenty of time to think about what you want to write.”

Fennel Hudson

Some writers swear against writing outlines or pre-planning, but for others, it is the best way to block out the whispers of that sabotaging voice that sits in your head saying, “You’ve got nothing.” If you know you have to write something and have a deadline, start integrating that thought into your life and pull inspiration from your daily experiences. When a thought is triggered that might be a good idea for a blog, a story, or a tweet, jot it down. Then, when you find yourself with a case of writer’s block, you have an arsenal of equipment to fight it off with.

Set deadlines. Set expectations.

“A hammer made of deadlines is the surest tool for crushing writer’s block.”

Ryan Lilly

As a blogger, author, and advisor to start-up companies, Ryan Lilly has a mind for business, so it’s no wonder that he has a got-to-get-it-done mentality. After all, time is money! The best way to set a deadline for yourself is to tell someone else, whether it be a manager, colleague, or even a friend, so that they can hold you accountable. You can even put it on your calendar or set an alarm on your phone if you’d prefer to keep it quiet. If you set mental deadlines, it’s easy to push them off just like you do with the snooze button on your alarm clock. However, knowing that you’ve said it out loud and put it into the universe makes it seem more real. That pinch from the time constraint can put a jilt into your productivity.

Think logically.

“Writer’s block is my unconscious mind telling me that something I’ve just written is either unbelievable or unimportant to me, and I solve it by going back and reinventing some part of what I’ve already written so that when I write it again, it is believable and interesting to me. Then I can go on. Writer’s block is never solved by forcing oneself to ‘write through it,’ because you haven’t solved the problem that caused your unconscious mind to rebel against the story, so it still won’t workfor you or for the reader.”

Orson Scott Card

This quote comes in handy as a piece of advice, especially when editing. When you get to the point where you are going over the same paragraph again and again and hating it more and more, try thinking of why you hate it rather than reading it once more. Make small changes and then reread. Making minor edits to get to where you would like to go allows you to keep the things that drew you to write like that in the first place and etch out the pieces that bother you or won’t be useful to your audience. Please note that deleting everything, starting from scratch, and throwing your computer across the room is not logical, nor is it what this science fiction writer is suggesting.

Find your muse.

“A writer is always writing for someone.”

L.L. Barkat

People often think of a muse as a little fairy or love interest that inspired writers and artists of medieval times. When Barkat, author of The Novelist: a novella, had a character in her book say this, she probably meant it in that same romanticized way, but we are going to take a more practical approach. When you get stuck coming up with an idea, shift the focus from what you think you should write to what your reader or audience would want to read. What would they want to know? If you were them, what questions would you want answered? If you do happen to find a mythical creature or a real person who inspires you to write, well then, that’s good too.

Have a drink?

“Yes, I felt very small. The typewriter seemed larger than a piano, I was less than a molecule. What could I do? I drank more.”

Albert Sánchez Piñol

When all else fails, pour yourself a stiff one or do something that helps you loosen up, suggests the Barcelona-born writer of Pandora in the Congo. After all, it worked for some of the most famous people in literature, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hunter S. Thompson, and Ernest Hemingway. This thought echoes the philosophy of many writers, in which they say, if you just write, it’s easier than overthinking. Definitely consider editing sober though!

Don’t have time for inspiration to strike, but have a book inside you? Click here and request a free toolkit to learn more about our Talk Your Book program and how you can have a beautiful, professional book to help grow your business in no time.

Get Your Personalized Authority Scorecard

Receive a complimentary critique of your business’ marketing and digital performance without having to talk to a human.

Authority Scorecard