How to Deal with a Writer’s Block? My advice – Do Nothing

What does Elizabeth Gilbert and I have in common? We both went on a trip, ate lots of yummy food, and we did no work. And… we both are writers.

Last year, I too went overseas with the noble aims to eat, relax and shop. And yet, going to visit family with two kids whining on the long plane ride doesn’t evoke the same sympathiesand romantic feelings that Ms Gilbert did with her Eat, Pray, Love phenomenon. It just doesn’t seem as important as going away to spend one year – no kids – no work – in three countries, that was all paid for.

Furthermore, my trip did not give me any fodder to write about, and sadly I felt no urges to start a book about it either.

I was never sobbing on the floor at night, although there were plenty of times when I did feel like making some little people cry. This was disappointing because I was hoping to have enough material to write something, in times like this, when I have a bad case of writer’s block.

This brings me to Anne Lamott (Author of Bird by Bird) who has been my inspiration in times like these. She helpfully suggests to simply embrace it (writer’s block). In her understanding words, we are running empty and when we accept this and go on with life, we will start to fill up again. We will then be hit with the urgency to rush back to our computers. Such profound words!

I am taking this advice to heart and I am going to give my block some space. In the meantime I am going to whine about other things…

Well of Inspiration is Running Dry

Every morning I wake to an inbox full of emails from all sorts of blogs – writing blogs, blogging blogs, inspirational blogs and few lifestyle blogs.

At my bedside table, the tower of books piling high is about to topple over and looks as though it’s gonna drown me any moment now.

The stories that I keep hearing from my kids, friends and family are never ending. And yet the only feeling that I have in my fingers is of numbness, from the Melburnian cold snap. Oh actually, this might very well be the reason for all my miseries. Sure, when in doubt, blame it on the weather.

Life Duties are Beginning to Bring me Down

It’s more than a week that cold and flu have declared our home as theirs. Initially, they came to visit but formed an affinity to all family members and refuse to go away. Two children and a well bodied spouse – who is acting worse than a sick toddler – its hardly surprising that I can’t even sit down for a minute, let alone sit down to write.

There is no fun in hubby dearest yelling – yeah go and do your blogging while I am dying here … ah, a woman’s guilt, how men manipulate us. And what else could I do except sit by my poor husband and give him a head massage, while what I really want is to do something – to his neck.

Even a Turtle is Faster than Me 

I started my blog because I feel that I need to give myself a chance to find out if I am any good at this online writing thing – or not.

I started blogging because I love writing and helping people to get inspired.

If there is anything that I’d rather do than write, is to teach about writing. In fact, I left my law and marketing careers to take up teaching full time because this is what I believe my calling is – learning, writing, teaching.

And yet, sometimes I wonder if I am making even a dent in the infinite world of blogging. Could I ever go like .. infinity and beyond? (A much loved proclamation of both my 7 year old and  Buzz Lightyear.) When would I start getting some well deserved results?

I am usually a pretty positive person but a like a Duracell battery, I too need to be recharged to be able to keep going. My writer’s block allows me this time.

Good, now I have at least one reason to sob on the floor at night, if I can stay up that long – that is.

Waaaah … My muse has left the building.

What do you do when you are hit by a dreaded case of writer’s block? Can you afford to follow Ms Lamott’s suggestion and wait it out? Or are you desciplined enough to start like a half dozen pieces, and not worry about how they turn out? Do share your tips while I keep on whining …

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  1. MA Jan Says :
    Posted on July 6, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Very well written and very sensible and down to earth advice.
    I am enduring a block (ie writer’s ! ) for a while and it doesn’t seem to go away any soon. I am not going to fret any more and as per your advice do nothing. may be this will work.
    Thanks for the antidote.

    • marya
      Posted on July 6, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Yes. certainly do nothing – only don’t do it for a really long time. If your desk doesn’t beckon you soon, its time to get to it and start writing, block be damned!

      Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

  2. Catherine
    Posted on July 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    So you see the irony with this post? You have found something to write about in the fact that you have writers block. 🙂 I have just written a post about ‘flow’ and allowing life to be. That is, to not have expectation. I’m just putting the finishing touches on my blog site and should have it up next week so I cannot speak specifically to your situation of writers block but I have learned that we all need to let go and let life happen.
    Can you get out and away for a walk or anything that gets you out and into yourself more.

    Dont’ fret and try to lower you expectations for yourself and maybe the idea(s) will come. Could you solicit ideas from your readers? Maybe this is the time to ask for input from those still learning about blogging and those trying for the very first time to be a writer.


    • marya
      Posted on July 6, 2011 at 11:41 pm

      Hi Catherine. Yes I am very much aware of the fact that I wrote this one having the biggest excuse to not write. 🙂 Actually the fact is, I must have started at least ten or so pieces but gave up in frustration. I had so many ideas and yet none of them worked for me. I sure couldn’t write anything for the past week or so. So I started to write about how I felt and the result is the post. Which inevitably did break the spell for me – fingers crossed.

      Maybe it was time to end the block anyway, who knows, . Like I said, I did give it time and space and then came out of it afterall. I know people deal with it differently, as for me I am such an emotional writer that it’s really hard for me to keep going when I can’t.

      Many thanks for your response. Asking my readers for input is a good idea. Maybe next time. Cheers

  3. Nida Says :
    Posted on July 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    What a delighting and uplifting piece since I’m going through the same! I started my blog with the aim of pursing my passion for writing and knowing that I can manage a well written piece or two, but my inner critique brings me down and this is when I get trapped in my writer’s block phase. But I’ve started working on a piece and your article has motivated further. Thanks! It would be great to get your feedback on my own blog, if you’d like 🙂

    • marya
      Posted on July 8, 2011 at 2:12 am

      Hi Nida. Ah – the inner critique – that annoying little bugger. Well, you are not alone, this is fairly common, like a bad recurring dream. heheh. Good to know my misery can brought people together and totally motivate them. Just kidding, I always write with the hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll have a look at your blog now …

      Q. What do you hope to achieve by writing your blog? Is it an incentive for you to write regularly? (Like this blog was when I started out). And so do you want to get better at writing by writing regularly. If this is the case, then you are doing fine.
      If you something more from your blog – you want lots of readers – then that’s a different story. So answer this question first ok? 🙂

  4. Nida Says :
    Posted on July 8, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Hey thanks for going over it, yes I started blogging to just write and I’ve felt that my writing has improved with time. However I wanted to pursue freelance writing to make a little pocket money for myself, for that I’ve always lacked confidence in my writing ability. hence this blog was an attempt to gain confidence and grow as a writer. Can you guide me as to how I can pursue freelance work which I will be good at?

    Thankyou 🙂

    • marya
      Posted on July 18, 2011 at 8:16 am

      Hi Nida,

      Sorry for the late response. My whole family has been sick for the past week and it has been impossible to find any time to do anything else except look after 3 babies – two boys and one husband. 🙂

      I admire that you seem to know what you want, at such a young age. Its highly commendable. There are a number of fantastic blogs on freelance tips. The ones I that particularly like are makealivingwriting.com, aboutfreelancing.com, freelanceswitch.com, freelancewritingsucess.com and freelancewritinggigs.com. You can check these out and hopefully get lots of help, tips and inspiration. Good luck! 🙂

  5. Bryan David @ Travelwis Consin Says :
    Posted on July 23, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Hello Marya,

    Being a writer is really a hard work for anyone except for the people who are born a writer. Because if you are a writer your brain must always be fresh and focus in your task.

    • marya
      Posted on July 23, 2011 at 10:38 am

      I agree Bryan. That being said sometimes it just pays to take a break from it all – to make room for new ideas. Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

  6. Darris Says :
    Posted on July 24, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Congratulations on the recent guest post! I’m a new A-List Bootcamper and read about your success on the forum. Thanks so much for the great advice.

    I’ve tried setting the clock and writing for a specific period of time.
    I’ve tried writing at a set time everyday.
    I’ve tried writing in the morning and at night.
    I’ve tried writing at the beach.

    It always seems that my best ideas flow while I’m driving or walking on the beach. I suppose I could use a voice recorder.

    I need to write what I’m passionate about and often times it doesn’t exactly fit into the theme of my blogs. After listening to Leo I am rethinking things a bit and making mental shifts. We’ll see where this takes me.

    Look forward to reading more ‘Writing Happiness’ . . .

    • marya
      Posted on July 25, 2011 at 4:38 am

      Hi Darris,

      What a lovely response. 🙂

      My best ideas come when I am either doing the dishes, or when I am about to fall exhausted into bed. Needless to say, both times not ideal. Often I just end up making a list of ideas, which just sounds ridiculous when I do find time to get to them. I cannot produce text upon request as well, I too write when I am inspired to write. Sadly that doesn’t always happen at a time which is convenient.:)
      Hope to see you again … Cheers 🙂

  7. Nida Says :
    Posted on August 2, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Hey marya!

    Thats alright..How is everyone feeling now? I hope to achieve what I’m aiming for, eventually!
    Thank you for your help and your guidance..I will definitely look into each one.
    Thankyou again:)

  8. Noah Garcia Says :
    Posted on August 11, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Great post. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. If I have writer’s block I will go outside get some fresh air, go on a photography nature hike, just do something completely non-related to writing. A mini-vacation from writing 🙂 There are many ways to deal with writer’s block and doing nothing is one good way. Have a great day 🙂

    • marya
      Posted on August 12, 2011 at 2:37 am

      Thanks very much Noah. I wholeheartedly believe that if you stop fighting your block, and give it some room, things will often improve on their own. Glad to see you agree. Thanks for dropping by. Cheers 🙂

  9. Adeline Says :
    Posted on August 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Personally, I found that changing the place where I write helps me overcome writer’s block. Only when that doesn’t work do I resort to just do nothing about it wait it out.

    • marya
      Posted on August 31, 2011 at 5:24 am

      I agree – there many different ways to try and get out of the so called block. That being said I just wanted to suggest that taking a break is as good an option as any. Many thanks for your comments. 🙂

  10. Michael Leahy Says :
    Posted on October 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Hmm. Not so sure. For better or for worse, I write for a living, and there are times when you just have to deliver in one form or another.

    I agree that you should not stress too much, as that is a source of stupid unanswerable questions such as: “why can’t I write when everyone else can?”

    So over the years, I’ve noticed I get around hesitation in different ways that I summed up here: Is your own songwriting sending you to sleep? http://www.a-lyric.com/2009/09/habit-is-your-own-songwriting-sending-you-to-sleep/

    • marya
      Posted on October 29, 2011 at 1:09 am

      Hi Michael, I hear you. You can’t afford to laze around around the house if you have deadlines – I get it. That’s why deadlines freak me out. I much prefer to work at my own pace if I can. Then it’s easy (and more practical) to follow my own advice! 🙂

      Thanks for the link, I will check it out. And welcome! 🙂 Let me know if I can help out with any blogging questions.

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  15. Shradha Bhatia Says :
    Posted on June 2, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Great post. I find your alternate view point very interesting. Check out my post, Writer’s Block 101, for my take on how to deal with the dreaded creative block that writer’s often experience: http://shradhabhatia.com/2014/06/writers-block-101/