5 Writing Tips for When Your Mind is Blank

Even the most successful writers have minds that go blank occasionally. These writing tips will help you overcome the paralysis that stops you from getting your words on paper.

Writing TipsWriting when you feel like you have nothing to say is about training your mind to think like a writer. What does this mean? I don’t know, but author Sage Cohen does. She wrote The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less & Create Success. These writing tips will help you write an essay for school, a post for your blog, or an article for your community newsletter. Cohen’s tips will help you write a book.

One of my coworkers told me she freezes when she has to write a report or even an email. She has a Master’s of Counseling, and had to write dozens of reflection papers and essays to get her degrees – and she has wasted hundreds of hours in front of blank pieces of paper.

5 Writing Tips for When Your Mind is Blank

1. Dig into the back story

I’m working on my Master’s of Social Work at UBC, and my next paper is to “describe a business practice for which you think Donaldson’s algorithm points in the wrong direction.” I have no idea what this means. My mind is a total blank when I read that sentence because I haven’t read the chapters and business case studies that explain Donaldson’s algorithm. The most basic writing tip for blank minds is to do your research. What are you writing about, who is your audience, what do you want them to know?

2. Say out loud what you want your readers to know

I’m writing these tips for when your mind is blank because I want you to stop wasting time and start being more productive. I rarely struggle with a blank mind because I reframe the assignment or my purpose for writing in my own words. Out loud. This alleviates the pressure of a blank paper.

3. Write the introduction

Writing essays for school – even graduate school – is SO boring. But they can also be the easiest things to write because the professors and teachers just want to ensure you’ve learned something. When I’m stuck on a paper – like I no doubt will be when I tackle Donaldson’s algorithm – I write the introduction. In graduate school it’s super boring because all papers start with the words, “In this paper, I will blah blah blah.” The blah blah blah is essentially the assignment I’ve been given. I always write the intro first, because it helps me focus my mind on the upcoming paragraphs.

If you get stuck on writing introductions, read 7 Ways to Write Effective Leads and Hook Readers.

4. Forget about writing good

writing tips blank minds

“5 Writing Tips for When Your Mind is Blank” image by Laurie

Don’t worry about what your editor will think of the article, what grade your teacher will give you on your essay, or how your readers will respond to your blog post.

Instead, focus on the topic. Are you writing about Robertson’s algorithm? Learn something about it, then write what you think about it. Forget about sentence structure, grammar, word count – just focus on your key point, your thesis topic, or the main point of your article or post.

5. Pay yourself to write

When I wrote 73 Ways to Fire Up (or Just Fire!) the Muse, I interviewed dozens of writers, journalists, novelists, bloggers, and even journalism professors for their writing tips. One of the most interesting strategies in that ebook is to give someone $100, and have them “pay” you $5 every time you write a pre-ordained number of pages, or if you write for a pre-ordained set of time. If you’re motivated by external rewards, you won’t have time to wrestle with your blank mind.

What has worked for you in the past, to overcome the blank mind? I welcome your writing tips!

If you’re a discouraged blogger, read How to Stay Motivated When You’re Starting a Blog.


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9 thoughts on “5 Writing Tips for When Your Mind is Blank”

  1. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for sharing your struggles with writing, Paul. You’re not alone! I think many of us have good ideas and can spill them out on paper, but stringing them together in a way that makes sense is more difficult. That’s why it’s important to take writing courses, so we learn how to tie everything together.

    Although I think there are lots of mediocre writers! Not just good or bad ones 🙂

  2. Here’s my problem: I seem to be able to spill out a whole lot of great, pertinent stuff (mostly good reasoning and ideas) in giant chunks on paper for a writing assignment, but when it comes down to putting it all together, I make a mess of it. I have natural structure, when I’m not being overly critical, but when I have to think about the structure, as with larger writing assignments, I can’t seem to hack it.

    Honestly, I feel like I’ve only met (seen the works of) two kinds of writers: the good and the bad (I really wanted to acknowledge the ugly, too, but I think it can easily fall under ‘bad’). But I feel like a good writer trapped in a shell of incompetency.

    It’s probably just my ADD, but I would really like to learn that I’m not alone with this and that there is a solution.

    Having said that, I do find it easy to argue a topic when I’m directing it in writing to an actual person, but I can’t seem to fool myself like that anymore. Hmm.

  3. I Love reading blogs just so I can live vicariously through everyone else! No, actually I am a writer and have been since 2009, so I like to see other genres of writing. I do mainly SEO work, so literally I write about everything imaginable.

    Just wanted to drop you a like and say thanks for letting me read yours and making it public so I could. Write on my Friend!


  4. Another thing that trips me up as a writer – and even as a participant in a group discussion – is knowing that everything has been written/said before. I have a serious lack of confidence that prevents me from offering my perspective, because I think others have already shared theirs.

  5. “4. Forget about writing good.”

    This point really resonates with me. Going over and over the same passage, is just another way of giving yourself writers block.

    “Don’t get it right… get it WRITTEN!” – Lee Childs.

  6. Escaping housework is definitely a challenge! How about letting the house get dirty and dusty? I washed the kitchen floor yesterday for the first time in over a month. Granted, we don’t have kids so our house is a bit cleaner overall. But the dust and dirt and hair and crumbs still pile up…I just have a high tolerance for messes 🙂

    Maybe that’s the secret – overlook the dust and focus on what brings you alive.

  7. Interesting article Laurie! The quote by Annie Dillard challenges all women who are writers. But i don’t know how can you escape house work? Any suggestions!