My 12-Step Program to End Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block. AKA the bane of every writer’s existence. It’s caused endless frustration in my life and no doubt in yours too, considering every class requires at least SOME form of writing, be it a random narrative stuck in for no reason in math class or a long academic lab report of something-something-synthase (I’m a Genetics major, I can make that joke). 

So who am I and why do I think I have the authority to talk about this? Well, I write books for fun while listening to Sweater Weather on repeat, started a club based on writing and am published. Just a subtle flex. Who am I kidding, I suck. I just like words and giving advice. 

Therefore, with my twelve-step program, I believe that I can help you overcome writer’s block. Can’t help with alcoholism though, that’s AA’s turf.   

  1. 1. Keep writing

    “But Shailaja,” you say, “I can’t write! I have Writer’s Block™!!!”  “Did I let you speak,” I answer curtly. 

    My main tip is to just keep on writing. It doesn’t have to be about anything meaningful. Just keep putting words down and your brain, desperate to fashion some meaning out of this boring nonsense you keep putting it through, will come up with something you wouldn’t normally consider.  The human brain constantly thirsts for something to entertain it, so much so that there’s a famous study about people shocking themselves painfully just because they were bored. Bore your brain and it’ll do something cool. Like poking a mysterious object with a stick. It’ll be weird to do but the results will be worth it. 

  2. 2. Read

    Read other works. This tip works for all kinds of writing, be it scientific, academic, or creative. Reading other studies will show you just how bad you are at your job, making you seriously consider dropping Bio 152 to become a SoundCloud rapper before you remember that you aren’t about that life and might just become the next 6ix9ine, leading you to take a breath and just write with the knowledge you’ve gained from reading what some 67-year-old studying one particular telomere on chromosome 7 has discovered. Fun! On a serious note, it helps. Like seriously, just read other works. It’ll show you new perspectives, different writing techniques and will help you gauge the kind of feel other works in your area have. 

  3. 3. Do something else

    No, I don’t mean procrastinate on your writing or completely distract yourself. I mean that you should go bake or something. Draw, or who knows, write something else or read something. Just anything to keep your brain from rotting because of the monotony -it’s the true killer of creativity. 

  4. 4. Talk about it

    ‘It’ in this scenario referring exclusively to your writing project. Find anyone free to listen and just tell them how it’s going. Or, if you don’t have the time to deal with all these snakes, just talk to yourself in your room. Hearing things aloud helps. Different neuronal pathways handle speech and the written word, so activating these could help the brain form new pathways that it otherwise wouldn’t create. 

  5. 5. Make memes about what you’re writing

    Not to flex, but as someone who runs three meme pages, I’m well-versed in the culture. I consider myself a meme aficionado -as if that’s something to be proud of. Oh look at me, I have no life so I make memes. What was I talking about? Oh, writer’s block. Making memes or jokes about my current project allows me to detach a little while still keeping the topic on my mind, meaning that I am also free of the constraints writing seriously brings.

  6. 6. Listen to music

    Music is like poetry but with a sick beat and a SoundCloud link, helping you come up with words even if the lyrics themselves are just “gUcCi GaNg” 50 times in a row. 

    Think about it. Music is: 1. Relaxing 2. Fun 3. Creatively driven 4. Potentially highly idiosyncratic and therefore almost tailored to your own voice 5. Mostly bops

    Genre doesn’t matter. I’m writing a long thing based on political science and have listened to nothing but Rico Nasty and Tinashe the whole time. If it gets your brain flowing, it gets your brain flowing. Simple as that.

  7. 7. Go do your homework

    Seriously. Get your work done. A lot of times, I have writer’s block, it’s because my brain is preoccupied with other things such as homework and studying; I spend all my time thinking about that rather than having any mental energy to spend on my work. 

  8. 8. Stop limiting yourself

    Stop overthinking it. Really. Your first draft will be hot garbage. That’s why it’s called a DRAFT. Editing exists for a reason.

  9. 9. (technically 8b) Throw away those inhibitions

    These things are useless. Inhibitions will do nothing but set you back and keep your real voice from coming through. As I said earlier, your first draft of anything you write will suck. That’s just the nature of it. Think about it--no book, study, report or speech was ever perfect the first time. John Kerouac, despite writing On The Road in an astronomically short amount of time while tripping, edited that sucker for years. Seriously. So don’t worry if your first five drafts are a pain to even think about. Everyone’s are.

  10. 10. Just talk about how you’re feeling

    I always keep a writing buddy. ALWAYS. Most of mine are people I met online through our shared passion for writing and whenever I have no clue what the hell I’m doing, I just text them and talk about...anything, honestly. Anything related to my work, anything related to my life. Talking about your work helps a lot in making you better at it.

  11. 11. Vibe Check!

    Meditate! Take some time to relax your brain! Let it just sift through everything that may or may not be roaming through your head. 

  12. 12. Leave the area for a bit

    Brain activity WILL happen, bud. Just go outside or in another room and change the stimuli your brain is receiving. Staying in the same place can turn your brain complacent, and therefore, a compromised asset. Keep it funky fresh. Make it so fresh that Shaggy would die for it. 

Next time you find yourself stuck, try checking out some of these tips to help you out.