How writers get unstuck differs from writer to writer – but there are common solutions. These five ways to find flow are from Deanna Proach, a successful novelist who just completed her second book.

Before her tips, a quip:

“People have writer’s block not because they can’t write, but because they despair of writing eloquently.” ~ Anna Quindlen.

We all worry that our work will not be good enough, that the right words won’t jump out of our heads and onto the computer screen. If we stopped worrying about our writing, writer’s block wouldn’t exist. We need to realize that worrying accomplishes nothing and instead focus our energy on writing.

If you need more than a few tips to get unstuck, read Unstuck: A Supportive and Practical Guide to Working Through Writer’s Block. Jane Anne Staw uncovers the practical and emotional reasons for writer’s block, and offers powerful ways to get writing again.

Before Deanna’s tips for finding flow, here’s what my fellow writers said when I asked for a synonym for “writer’s block” on Twitter:

Writer’s block is seen as everything from opportunity to death — isn’t that interesting?

What Writers Do When They’re Stuck – 5 Ways to Find Flow

Guest Post – Deanna Proach

Here you are, sitting in front of a blank computer screen. You may have a three-word title for your article typed at the top of your page, or you may not. Nevertheless, you have a great idea for an article, but where do you begin? This is where ideas flood your brain. All these ideas are great, but for some reason, you cannot transfer them from your brain to the computer.

You want your article to be superb, one that editors and readers will not resist. So, you write and re-write your opening sentence over and over again, trying to make your sentence catchy and grammatically perfect. When you fail to come up with a blockbuster sentence, you start to get frustrated.

Here are a few ways to find flow in your writing…

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Eat regularly and eat foods that are rich in protein, carbohydrates and fiber. You should also supplement your diet with vitamin supplements. You should have at least three meals a day. If you are unable to do this, have your main meal in the middle of the day and supplement it with snacks throughout the rest of the day. Remember, the brain needs food for thought and for energy. A healthy diet will help your brain work faster and for a longer period of time. You can alleviate writers block just by maintaining a healthy diet.

If you’re not physically healthy, read 7 Health Tips for Writers Who Don’t Get Enough Exercise.

Be Physically Active

When you start to get frustrated, leave your computer for an hour, go for a walk, a jog or a bike ride. Do any activity that will momentarily take your mind off your work. Physical activity will increase the blood flow in your body, which in turn, stimulates energy. When you are energetic, you will be able to think much more clearly and creatively — and write in flow. Different writers do different things when they’re stuck, but most say that physical activity helps.

Do Background Reading on Your Article Topic

Do some background reading on the topic you are going to write about. Give yourself at least a half-an hour reading time. If you are not too familiar with the subject, you will need to know about it before you can write about it! Ideas and writing flow much smoother when you are knowledgeable about the subject matter.

Write an Outline

Sometimes the blaring computer screen generates writers block. If this happens, grab a blank piece of paper or two and create an outline. List the main points you plan to write about in order of how the body of the article will flow. It might even be helpful to write your introduction. Sometimes ideas flow much smoother when you are not staring at a bright computer screen. Overcoming writer’s block is about getting unstuck, which can involve changing your writing tools.

Write First, Edit Later

Writers block happens when you think too much about what to write and worry too much about writing a fantastic article. Worrying about the outcome of your article causes stress. When your brain undergoes stress, its thinking process shuts down. Do not do this to yourself. Stress will not help you to write an impressive article. Besides, it is completely unnecessary. Write first, edit later. Besides, you will have to go over it and make corrections more than twice before your article is good enough to submit to editors. Your brain is most relaxed when you are not thinking too much. Ideas will flow and the next thing you know, you will have written that breakthrough article.

If you follow these five simple steps, you will be able to overcome writers block and the pain it causes. For more ways to find flow when you’re stuck, read 5 Writing Tips for When Your Mind is Blank

stuck writing

Fellow writers, what do you do when you’re stuck? How do you find the flow?

Deanna Proach is a novelist. Her first historical suspense book, ‘Day of Revenge’ was released by Inkwater Press. She currently resides in Sechelt, British Columbia where she is writing her second book, ‘To be Maria’.

Deanna also wrote Writing Historical Fiction? How to Write a Book Set in the Past, here on Quips & Tips for Successful Writers.

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7 thoughts on “5 Ways to Find Flow for Stuck Writers”

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comment, Matthew. Food fuels our brain — and that old cliche that “you are what you eat” is so true. If you’re not feeding your mind both physically and emotionally, you’ll ultimately be left with nothing.

    When I’m stuck, I drink chocolate mint tea 🙂

  2. Great list, I’m glad you mentioned diet in there. Too often, I get busy and go without eating for too long – my blood sugar drops and I get very lethargic and my creativity essentially stops. Its amazing the difference in my energy and thought process when I take the time to eat healthy snacks between meals. Beyond diet, outlining works nice. I try to write the first sentence for each paragraph while the ideas are flowing, then go back and fill in the details. Then, as you mentioned, lastly go back and edit.

  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks, George – I’m enjoying the site 🙂

    Writing, then editing, is something I have to keep reminding myself to do. I tend to edit as I go, which slows me down.

    When I’m stuck, I take my dog for a walk, or just a wrestle with the tug toy. Lightens me up and helps me find flow!

  4. I like the tip about writing and THEN editing. I know how important for us to focus on the writing. A lot of us forget that there will be plenty of time for editing later (which can actually be a lot of fun.)


  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comment, Michelle! Typo fixed.

    And yes, I agree that regular writing practice is a great cure for writer’s block…and so is reminding yourself that professional, “real” writers write!

  6. Thanks for including my quote: can you do me a favor and eliminate the space in this phrase: “in ability to write” so it says “inability to write.”

    For me, one of the best cures for writer’s block is preparation. If you can’t write it could be a sign you haven’t done enough research or thinking on the subject. If I’ve done all the reporting I need to or have thoroughly thought out an opinion about something the words practically ooze out of me, and it’s all I can do to not write.

    Regular practice is another sure cure for writer’s block, and one reason why blogging is such a great writer’s prompt, whether or not you blog for pay. Nothing matches the discipline that comes with writing or blogging on a daily basis; you get so that you can think, write (and type) in one unit. I liken it to skiing: if you only ski once or twice a season you have to practically relearn the basics every time you visit the mountain. But if you’re there every weekend and on holidays and vacations, racing down those black diamond runs becomes second nature. Pretty soon you’re able to forget about the mechanics and concentrate on how beautiful you can make it.

    Michelle Rafter