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This one is for the countless emails and Instagram messages I receive, asking me how I combat writer’s block when I sit and write for 40-plus hours per week.
The truth is there is no secret. Some day, I sit uninspired and type, but I’d be certain the creativity will return when it is ready.
But some of us don’t like that answer and love lists, assuming there is a formula for each problem we are facing.
I can’t promise the list I’m about to provide will work, and I can’t even recommend that you try some of these steps. What I can say is that I have done every single item on this list, and while I still suffer from the notorious writer’s block, more often than not, words float onto the page, and I go to sleep at night still calling myself a writer.
Maybe you can too.
So here are nine ways to cure writer’s block (ways you might have never heard of before):
1. Remember every single unfair thing that has ever happened to you.
This is always my first step anytime I have writer’s block because I am bound to do it anyway, while I am waiting for the words to come. I try to be proactive about the situation and get the self-pity about housing prices and cellulite out of the way so I can actually start the writing process.
2. Call your sister.
This is another proactive step I take when I am feeling stuck. My sister is incredibly important and always busy and can type quickly, so I will have to leave her a voicemail that she has heard a million times before: “Nothing important. Just don’t really feel like writing. Anyway, do you have HBO?”
3. Call your other sister.
This step is where we actually get into the writing process because, while this sister is equally as important as the first, she tends to answer her phone and provide interesting insights about her all-women jiujitsu class, Roller Derby tryouts, and “The Labyrinth” starring David Bowie. You might find someone who gives you inspiration from their own lives as well.
4. Take a break.
If you have reached this point and have not found your inspiration yet, it’s okay. Take a break and stretch your legs. Walk into the kitchen. Eat one bite of every single thing in that damn refrigerator if that’s what it takes. Do not use a plate.
5. Pray for divine intervention. Change your mind and take it back.
Some believe it is the job of the creatives to sit at the feet of God and beg for inspiration, but Elizabeth Gilbert views it slightly differently. In her mind, the job of a writer is to simply stand with a pen in hand or with fingers hovered over the keyboard and wait for the inspiration to show up. If God doesn’t bring the creativity that day, well, then we can’t keep relying on that divine inspiration now, can we?
6. Quit your job if you want to focus solely on writing.
Even if writing is not your job (yet), and even if it is just a fun pastime that you enjoy casually, or if poetry or journaling makes you happy, or if you are writing something that is miles away from your career, I don’t care. It’s part of the process.
7. Read old rejection letters.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Thank you for sending us your work. We really enjoyed this piece but not enough to feature it.
We hope that you will continue to send us your work.
While there is much to admire in this story, we regret that we are unable to use it. We wish you luck finding a home for it elsewhere.
I was one of the judges in the writing competition you entered and even though you didn’t win, your story resonated with me. I wanted to let you know that I tried to get the other judges to vote for you, but they didn’t.
8. Write your own rejection letter.
Even though your writing was incredible, we decided to publish another individual who is not good enough but had a better grasp on comma usage. I hope you understand and continue to write to us, despite the heartless rejection that all of us magazine editors send out at the exact same time so that you can receive this harsh reality not in small doses, but in one, soul-crushing wave.
Anyway. Have a nice day.
The magnificent Yrsa Daley Ward wrote this phrase in one of her recent novels, “I bet there are millions of stories in your legs alone.” And you know what? There are. You, my friend, are full of magic and stories and beautiful words. And if you have a moment, take a deep breath and write what you know.
Write about the world being unfair and summer being too short and the ache in your heart, and don’t worry about what the rest of the world thinks. Because, truly, I believe that this is the main cause of writer’s block: trying to write something that the world will love instead of something we know to be true. It can’t be cured by ritual or a list or by buying a salt lamp or burning incense. It’s cured by writing your truth.
You’ve got this.