beating the block

Allow me to share with you, dear readers, my expectation for my literary productivity this past weekend:


And now, allow me to share with you the reality:


I think we can all agree that writer’s block sucks. It sucks, like, so much. Every writer has experienced it at one time or another–the story in your head sounds great, but the process of putting that story onto paper or into a word document just…doesn’t work. Or, even worse, you get the words down onto the page, and what you thought was going to be the next amazing bestseller is just…kind of meh.


Every writer has their own methods for dealing with writer’s block, and I won’t pretend that mine are the best (because let’s be real, they probably aren’t). That said, I’m a sharer by nature, so here we go: Shelly’s Tried and True Tips to Kick Writer’s Block’s Square Ass.

1. Write Something Else (Seriously. Anything Else.)

Sometimes a scene is just determined to give us trouble, and if it’s really kicking back that much resistance, maybe that’s just not the scene you’re meant to be writing right then. Step away from that scene and try something else. If you want to stay with your character but that scene isn’t working for you, write her grocery list. Write a letter from her to a friend. Write her first memory or her first kiss or her first time leaving her hometown. Don’t force the scene that’s not happening–you’ll get frustrated, the scene won’t work the way you want it to, and nobody’s going home happy.


Alright, maybe killing someone isn’t the way to go–it depends on the type of story you’re telling. But something’s gotta give. Maybe someone needs to leave, or someone new needs to alive. Maybe someone needs to learn something new. Maybe a dog needs to suddenly start talking. I don’t know what your story needs, man, but whatever’s happening now isn’t working. So change it up.

(This, by the way, is why I sometimes like “by the seat of your pants” writing more than “super-outlined” writing. Once you spend a lot of time on an outline, it’s a lot harder to make yourself deviate from it. If you’re already winging it, what’s the problem with changing course?)

3. Cheat.

I don’t mean plagiarize–I want to be clear on that. But there are plenty of resources out there to help you out. Try some writing prompts. Stick your characters in a weird situation. Throw in a plot twist. The internet is a beautiful place, full of beautiful writing tools and resources. Learn them. Use them. Love them.

And when all else fails…give the Hemingway Method a try.


I’m not advocating getting yourself a shiny new vice or suggesting that a great work of literature can be written if you’re completely plastered. But sometimes, we need to turn off our inner critics and push let ourselves write without self-editing. A glass of wine, a tumbler of whiskey, a bunch of ice cream (I know it’s not “write sugar high, edit sober,” but it still works)–whatever your poison, it can be good to let your guard down and let the words flow without checking and double-checking each line, and a few sips (or more) of something with considerable alcohol content to get yourself going.

Writer’s block is a unique beast that manifests differently for every writer. In the end, you need to figure out your own strategies for beating it back. So go forth, writer friends, and slay your dragon. If you’re interested in my methods, I tend to find the best luck curling up in a cozy place with a nice drink, plenty of books on prompts, some productivity-enhancing white noise–and, of course, the perfect candle.


It’s all in the fine print.


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