Updated: Jun 28, 2020
Someone recently asked me the question; how do you deal with writer's block? As I thought about it I realised that not all writer's block is the same. In fact, I managed to identify four different types – each of which I would combat in a different way.
So, what are they? And how do we deal with them?
TYPE 1: THE LAZIES!
The first type of writer's block I'm calling 'the lazys'. The key thing about this type of writer's block is that it's not really writer's block at all. It's basically us just being lazy! It's when we're procrastinating, watching tv, cleaning the fridge, re-organising our sock drawer...basically doing anything BUT writing!
I thought it was worth including because sometimes we mistake that reluctance to actually sit down at our laptops as writer's block.
So, what's the solution?!
Solution: Write! Sit yourself down at your laptop / notebook and write!
One thing that I've found helpful, especially when I was trying to juggle writing with a full-time job, was scheduling a particular chunk of time every week to write. I would get bits of writing done during the week in the spare moments I had - but Sunday, from noon onwards, was my writing time. I would make no other plans for this period of time (and my partner knew he was in trouble if he disturbed me during this period!). And so, without fail, every Sunday I'd sit myself in front of my laptop, and I wouldn't allow myself to do anything else until words were on the paper.
TYPE 2: THE OVERWHELMEES!
The second type of writer's block I'm naming 'the overwhelmees'.
Maybe you're at the end of an absolute writing sprint/marathon, maybe you've just finished a project, maybe you've just picked your next story to write out of all your story ideas and you're starting to wonder if you should have gone with your other idea, maybe something else is going on outside of writing that's bothering you and it's affecting your general mental state – whatever the reason, you are feeling overwhelmed right now.
Every time you try to put pen to paper, the words just aren't coming out. When the words do come it, it feels like they're the wrong words. And everytime that happens you're putting even more pressure on yourself to get it right. It's pretty much bringing you to a standstill.
Solution: Take a break! Take some time and clear your mind!
I reached this point at the end of one of my writing projects. I'd started another project but I'd somehow got myself really stressed out over it. It wasn't quite coming together as I'd hoped it to. The more I tried to force the words out, the more stressed out I became. And to make matters worse, there were things external to writing that were clouding up my mind at the time.
I decided to take a few days off. I told myself I wouldn't write anything during these days. The alleviation of that pressure helped in itself. I used the time I usually would have spent writing to read books instead. I recommend that too. When your words aren't quite coming out, delve into someone else's. Re-ignite that inspiration.
I also managed to locate the source of the stress external to the writing project I was working on. I realised that even when I thought I wasn't thinking about it, it was there – in my mind – kind of like a dam that was stopping the flow of words. When I confronted that issue it really helped me in getting the words to flow again.
Take the time to look after yourself and your mind. Alleviate the pressure that you're putting yourself under. The words will come back, trust that – but if you're struggling due to this type of writer's block – forcing them out isn't going to help.
TYPE 3: THE PLOTEES!
Ok, so this isn't the best name! But I thought it fit with the theme of the others! The third type of Writer's Block I'm naming 'the plotees!'
This happens when there's something in the plot that isn't working and you've written yourself into a bit of a corner. You feel like you can't write, because you don't really know where you're going with the story.
Solution: Go back to your main conflict.
When I talk about the main conflict I'm talking about essentially the backbone of your story. The main conflict is - what the main character wants, what obstacle will be thrown in their path, and what the consequence of not overcoming this obstacle will be.
E.g. In the first Harry Potter book – Harry must retrieve the Philosopher's Stone before Voldermort's agent does, otherwise the dark lord will return.
Because your main conflict will essentially be the foundation of your story - if you feel like you're a bit lost in your plot or your story has taken a wrong turn somewhere going back to your main conflict can help you get back on track again.
If you don't have a main conflict, that could be your problem. Your story is likely crumbling because you don't have a strong foundation to build it on. Try to strip back your story and describe it in one or two sentences. If you can't do this it's likely you're missing your main conflict.
If you don't have a main conflict think about these questions -
What does your character need to do? What is their motivation for doing it? What problem will they need to overcome? What will happen if they don't? Why?
When you can answer these questions it will become clearer to you what needs to happen. You may need to re-write some of what you've already done or you may even need to cut some words you've already written to get back on track – but it will be worth it.
If you do have a main conflict but you're still suffering with writer's block – go back to that conflict and think about how it applies to the bit you're stuck on at the moment. Why isn't this particular scene working? Does it fit in with the main conflict? Is it necessary in the story? Is the conflict itself strong enough? Does it stand against hard questioning?
Question the scene. Question the conflict. Question the character motives. Try to analyse it.
I wrote myself into a bit of a corner with one of my projects. My main character was just about to be captured and my main antagonist was just about to be revealed – it was something I'd been formerly excited to write about, but when I got there I suddenly felt very lost in what I was writing.
When I looked back at the conflict I realised the thing that was bothering me was that I didn't understand the motive of the antagonist. I knew what the antagonist was up to, I knew what would happen if the protagonist failed to stop them - but I didn't really know why the antagonist was doing what they were doing.
Once I'd isolated that as the problem I was able to put in the work to fix it. And once I'd done that – the words came back again!
TYPE 4: THE BORINGEES!
The last type of writer's block I'm calling 'the boringees!'. This is where you're writing something, but it's boring you. You're not finding the fun in writing anymore. And so you stop.
The solution: Get rid of the boring bit!
If you don't want to write something no-one is going to want to read it anyway! Write what you DO want to write.
If you realise this is your problem you may find you need to cut some scenes, you may need to convey a plot point in a different way, and this may seem daunting or like a lot of extra effort. Do it anyway! It will be worth it.
Get back to writing, and make it fun again!
So, these are my four types of writer's block, and some tips to overcome them! I often find that once I've identified the type of writer's block I'm experiencing I'm back to writing again in no time!
What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you have any tips in combatting the dreaded Writer's Block?
Let me know in the comments below!
LAUREN PALPHREYMAN is a writer based in London. She is best known for her supernatural teen romance series, Cupid's Match, which has accumulated over 50 million hits online and was published by Wattpad Books / Penguin Random House, October 2019. Find her on