Everyone at some point will experience writer’s block. Whether you are just starting out or an acclaimed industry expert, writers block knows no boundaries and like an unwelcome house guest will turn up uninvited and often look like it’s going to stay a while.

Broadly speaking, writer’s block is a condition whereby the writing process simply freezes up. It doesn’t matter whether you are writing a biography, self-help book, or a technical manual.  The next step just seems impossible. However, forewarned is forearmed.  Instead of letting it stress you out, try and use it as an opportunity to reflect on your work and maybe take a break from it.  Think of it like this.  If you are working on a puzzle and are focusing on one small area, you will inevitably get stuck at some stage.  The longer you persevere the more frustrated you are likely to become. But if you step back for a while and then return to it, you will almost straight away be able to slot in a piece. Alternatively, approach it from a completely different angle even if it’s one that defies traditional puzzle logic.  

So here are some things to consider when the brakes come on and everything slides to a halt:

Time constraints. Deadlines, especially self-imposed, can stem productivity. Drop all pre-conceived ideas about how much you should be writing at any given time.  The more you worry about this, the more of a vicious circle it becomes. Stop thinking about it.

Self-examination. Are you writing for yourself or your target audience?  This may depend on the type of book but if the well is drying up it may be that you are over focused on what you think people want to read and not what you want to write.

Loosen up. Perfection is writer’s block best friend.  Getting information and ideas down is more important than their presentation. Just write.

Information overload. Feeling inundated by research, sources etc.?  Instead of trying to write, spend time organizing and collating your material. Writer’s block can occur when there is a surfeit of information, not a lack. Take time to refocus.

Do what’s right for you. If writing the middle part of your book first helps then concentrate on that.  There’s no magic formula.

Take a break. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Physical exercise is a great rejuvenator. Go and meet friends.  

Make a change. Vary your routine and your environment. Instead of writing in the morning at your desk maybe try writing in the afternoon or evening at your kitchen table.  If you always write inside take advantage of good weather and write outside.  Go to the library.

Boost productivity. Use a different writing tool.  For example, a laptop or tablet instead of a desktop.

Rediscover inspiration. Go to the bookstore or the library.

Go back to basics. Eschew technology for a while. Instead carry a notepad and pen around to jot down key points, sentences or words. Some of one’s best thoughts and ideas occur at night – keep a pencil and paper beside your bed and learn to write in the dark!

So don’t fear writer’s block or pander to it. See it as a chance to reexamine your own requirements, re-evaluate your approach and maybe use it as an opportunity for change.  Like an ignored, unwanted houseguest, it will soon become bored. And leave.  

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Mary Vaux-ClarkMary Vaux-Clark is a freelance editor, proof-reader and writer. Her areas of interest include current affairs, travel, history and sport. She has travelled widely and worked in Hong Kong as an editor and ESL teacher for over ten years.