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What to Write When You Can’t Write

Ever sit down, ready to write, only to stare at a blank page without a single clue what to put down? Hey! Me, too! All too common, actually. I get excited, flip open the laptop or bust out my favorite pen and notepad, and nothing, Nathan, nada. It can be extremely frustrating.


Well, for whatever reason, sometimes they don’t. They get stuck on their way from my brain to my fingers and I get left with a big zero-word count. But, I don’t give up. This is where I actually make the most progress in my writing.


I find what helps my writing most when the rivers run dry is to write about why I can’t write. Instead of sitting there telling myself I can’t, I write those feelings down. I start with something happening immediately around me to establish setting and then move into my feelings and eventually talk about what it was I thought I was going to write.


It’s a bit of reverse psychology that often helps tease out plot points or produce awesome, memorable lines for poems. Over the years, I’ve realized that some of my best work happens when I’m writing something else. I read back and suddenly this line goes well with that paragraph and this word works better in this sentence and VOILA! That writing session that looked like it was going down the tubes turns out to have been productive after all.


After I’m finished, I read back through what I wrote, editing for spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and then read it again for good measure. Editing is as much writing as actual writing is, which is another great way to dig yourself out of the black hole of writer’s block. Everything you submit to a publisher should be primed and polished to look its best, and that level of perfection begins with everyday practice, something as simple as sitting down for a few minutes to go over a poem or a chapter in a novel you’ve been writing.


A third way to beat writer’s block is to just start writing anyway. Write anything, ANYTHING, that comes to mind. Don’t hold back. Even if it’s just pure nonsense that pours out of you, words on the page are words on the page. Don’t let anyone tell you any different! Just don’t give up on yourself because of one bad day. The world needs your voice. Your words are worth it.