I’ve read approximately 40 bajillion books on writing. If a book touches upon the writing craft, the writing life, writing inspiration, writer’s block, or the business of writing, I’ve read it. And if there’s one piece of advice that connects each of these books, it’s this: To be a writer, you must write.
It’s a good— albeit obvious— tip. The only way to get better as a writer is to sit and do the work. But what about those days when the mere act of placing one word after another feels insurmountable? Those days when you stare at the monitor and lay your fingers on the keys, but the ideas just won’t come? When you try desperately to form a coherent thought—just a few words that will form a sentence that will form a paragraph that will form a page—but all that fills your brain is a vast empty space void of inspiration?
On those days when writer’s block won’t budge, when you are incapable of drafting even the most basic of phrases, are you still a writer?
Of course you are.
Though practicing the craft is the core component of a writing career, there are other aspects of the job that are just as crucial. When you’re having one of those “just can’t do it” days, instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself: What can I do today that will continue to move my career forward?
A few suggestions:
Promote your work
If you’ve published any writing in the past—be it a blog, essay, article, or book—use this time to share it with potential readers. Join Facebook writing groups and post your work for other writers to read. Tweet out links to your writing, along with hashtags like #WritingCommunity and #amwriting. Use Canva to create a Pinterest pin with a link to your piece. If there’s a business-related angle, upload your blog, article, or essay to LinkedIn.
And if sharing across several platforms seems too daunting to do all at once, use a social media marketing tool such as Hootsuite to schedule posts in advance.
Improve your skills
Education is a great antidote to writer’s block. Even if you’ve been a professional writer for years, there’s always more you can learn about the craft. Read a book about writing. (Some of my favorites include Stephen King’s On Writing, William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, and Windy Lynn Harris’ Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays.) Listen to a podcast such as Longform, The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins, or Launch. Take a writing class through Skillshare or MasterClass. Or read through articles in the Submittable Blog, The Writer, or Writer’s Digest Magazine.
Get lost in a story
Stephen King once said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” If the writing isn’t happening, do the next best thing: immerse yourself in another writer’s creation. Allow yourself to be taken on a journey. Forget about the difficulties of writing for a bit and just enjoy the act of getting lost in the pages of a book.
Connect with fellow writers
Writing is a hard, lonely job. One of the best ways to pull yourself out of a writing funk is to connect with others who understand what you’re going through. Become an active member of the writing community. Attend readings, conferences, and workshops. Read and share works by fellow writers on social media. (Be sure to tag them so they hear your kind words!) If you learn of a new book by a first-time author, request it at your local library or bookstore. Do what you can to foster a creative community, both online and in real life. When you support other writers, they’ll be sure to support you when you need it most.
When was the last time you sat and stared out a window? Or let your mind drift aimlessly while sitting at your desk? Though some might consider daydreaming a sign of laziness, numerous studies have shown that zoning out can spur creativity. So, when you’re stuck, allow yourself the freedom to do nothing. Go back to that time when you were a child and it felt perfectly natural to let your thoughts flit about. Daydream without the pressure of it having to mean something.
When you sit and stare at a computer, attempting to force an idea onto the page, there’s a good chance your day will end with nothing but wasted hours, a few gray hairs, and an overwhelming sense of disappointment. Instead of allowing your day to be consumed by writer’s block, try instead to spend the time on other writing-related tasks that can forward your career. Focusing your energy and attention on different areas of the work can help you gain new writers, enhance your skill set, and stimulate your imagination. Soon enough you’ll be back on track, and you’ll have words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages completed and ready to publish.