Writer’s Block Isn’t Real

Written by Claire L. Fishback, PMP

Book Coach & Story Strategist

April 23, 2024

Okay okay before you get all up in arms about the title of this post, let me set the record straight!

Writers block absolutely is real.

Now it may not always be tied to a mystical muse going on vacation, but it is absolutely tied to how our day went, what our energy levels are like, where in our hormonal cycle we are, if we have pain (mental or physical or emotional), and like everything life throws at us.

So, why the fake news, Claire? You ask.

A while back, one of my writing friends told me to listen to a podcast in which some John Q Podcaster talked about writer’s block not being real. To that podcast, I scoff and say, “Of course writer’s block is actually real!” in a shrieky and incredulous voice.

Life is real and challenging, and therefore writer’s block is real and challenging.

The creative energies that live within us, or the well of creative fluids, if you want to go with that metaphor (who hasn’t heard of filling the creative well?), are delicate and fragile and highly sensitive to the things going on around us. 

They are sensitive to the neurotransmitters firing in our brains. 

Stress, depression, illness, thinking too much about something that seems trivial but you can’t give up thinking about (usually something that causes anxiety or worry). Any number of things can sap away those creative juices and leave you at the keyboard wondering what in the hell did you write last time, why did you write it, where you were heading, if you can even do this anymore.

Who am I? As you scream upward toward the asbestos ceiling tiles.

Asbestos ceiling tiles?

Where am I?

Now you might be confused, in which case, you’ll start to panic.

In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic.

These are the things that cause writer’s block.

Not a lack of ideas. Not a lack of motivation. Not a lack of anything. You have what it takes (this is a mini-pep talk for you and your brain).

Sometimes all you need is a break.

Our brains are wired for ideas and innovation.

That’s why dogs didn’t invent airplanes and start flying, or discover electricity, or clone a sheep. Humans did. 

And though I love to think my dog has as much brain power as I do but can’t articulate it for lack of the right mouthparts to form words, or the opposable thumbs to help with the dishes, I know deep down my motor skills and ability to speak are because of my highly complex, albeit tiny and addled, brain.

Writer’s block is all of life’s stressors imprisoning the proverbial muse.

Drying out the creative well so all that is left are the dusty remains of someone who got tossed down said well during a fight that broke out in the creative village of your mind. 

Hopefully that mind-villager got his reckoning in the single cell jail, but the sheriff is probably an incompetent bastard with a big mustache that can’t even string a complete sentence together. 

It’s possible the prisoner will get out again and cause more trouble in your little town. 

Probably when “no one is looking.”

Who is that prisoner? 

Your proverbial muse. And by “no one is looking” I mean, while you’re in the shower or elbows-deep in delivering a breech calf or some other task in which your hands are wet with some sort of fluid so you can’t possibly write the idea down.

Most likely? It’ll be while you’re just about to fall asleep. 

And you’ll tell yourself, I’ll remember this in the morning. 

But you better get out of bed and write it down. Or do as I do and use the lighted screen on your Kindle or other favorite e-reader as a flashlight to write the idea in the notebook you have learned to keep beside your bed for such instances.

Back to the point.

If you’re new around these parts, you may not know about the Toucan20 (if not, you can learn all about it for free with this mini-course). Toucan 20 is my way of battling writer’s block. Here’s how it works. 

When you sit in stillness and quiet for long enough, your brain will activate. 

The brain likes to fill in those idle spaces. 

Why do you think we dream? Why do you think we have persistent and obsessive thoughts that cause us to worry?

The brain is this powerful being inside of us that can do so many things at one time. Look at all the things we do without even thinking. Like breathing and pumping blood through our bodies and moving food through our systems. And sweating. Dear lord don’t get me started on the stress sweating.

Can you imagine if by thinking about things, you suddenly stopped breathing, or your heart suddenly stopped beating (and you stopped stress sweating??? I could get behind that one actually).

That would be insanity! 

The brain can push blood and oxygen through our systems, make our lungs expand and contract, and keep us alive at the same time as thinking about things that may or may not be important. 

The brain does it all. Good job, Brain!

Instead of letting your brain prattle on about unimportant types of things the way I’m prattling on about this, give it something to do.

Use Toucan20 to defeat writer’s block by setting that timer for twenty minutes and telling yourself, “I’m just going to stare at the blank screen for twenty minutes.” Chances are your brain will want to do something with that blank screen. Let your brain do its thing.

There are people who say, “Just write, ‘I don’t know what to write’ over and over again.” 

But I say, nay. 

Instead, turn the tables on that old adage and ask your brain, through writing it down or typing it up over and over, “What should I write?” Suddenly, you’ll know what to write, or you’ll find yourself writing something other than “What should I write,” because chances are, your brain will answer that question for you and send it to your fingers so you can start writing it down.

Don’t censor yourself during this fragile time. Even if you think the ideas are stupid, they probably aren’t. Write everything down.

Additionally, if you know you have a pesky plot situation you don’t know how to get out of, I challenge you to open a blank document, or open a journal to a blank page (one of the many beautiful journals I’m sure you have sitting around that people have gifted you because you are a writer), set a timer for twenty minutes, and sit quietly. 

You can even pose a question to your muse at the beginning of the session. 

“How will the pesky prisoner at the bottom of the well get out and wreak more havoc?” 

Or simply put, “How will character A get out of predicament B?” Breathe deep from your belly button up to your clavicle. Be prepared to write nothing, be prepared to write nonsense, be prepared to have an amazing Aha moment.

Also, be accepting if nothing happens. You have put that question into the Universe and left it with the Creative High Powers. 

After your timer goes off, go about your day. I can almost guarantee the answer will come to you at some point during the day. Probably when you’re in the shower. Or elbows-deep in delivering that breech calf.

One of the best ways to combat a creative block is to take a short break. Go outside. Move around. Don’t think about the block (that makes it bigger and stronger than ever). If you have a nice streak going, taking a break could be writing something fun with no stakes (at least you’re still writing). Take a break from your current WIP and just let go. Writing should be fun, not stressful. And in the words of Elizabeth Sims, “If it isn’t fun, make it fun.” And by “make it fun,” I mean set a timer for twenty minutes and challenge yourself (or your friends) to a friendly round of Toucan20.

Then, come back into it stronger than ever with these sweet bundles I put together for ya!

These low-cost bundles are all about creating and maintaining a daily (or regular) writing habit and are upgrades to the free 30-Day Challenge to give your writing habit a boost, but you don’t need to sign up for the free challenge to access these. Each bundle includes the 30-day challenge deluxe edition for a discount or even for free!

  • The Writer’s Block Banisher Bundle for the writer who fears the blank page, needs a little warming up before getting into the novel, or is currently experiencing writer’s block and needs a little inspiration.
  • The Writers’s Sprint Set Trackathon Bundle is for the writer who loves data! We’re talking charts, graphs, trackers, calculators! Word nerds and data nerds unite! Get motivated AND inspired and stay that way.
  • The Writer’s Empowerment Bundle is for the writer who wants it all! This is by far the best deal. It combines the word and data nerdery of the Trackathon with the inspiration of the block banisher for the ultimate writer bundle! Empower and enhance your writing habit!

Check out the bundles here.

Until next time, friend!


You May Also Like…

What CAN DO can do for you

The CAN DO Formula is the way to create the writing habit you've always wanted so you can finish your book. You...