Writers block, the struggle that most writers inevitably face.

How do writers get unstuck?

It happens to every writer eventually. We’ll be plugging away on a project for days or weeks, making varying degrees of progress. Ideas and sentences flow. Then we hit a wall, and try as we might, we can’t seem to get past it. We’re stuck. But how do we get unstuck? Is it just a matter of waiting it out, or can we take any steps to get back in the groove?

While every writer is different, here are four actions I’ve found that help me whenever I’m stuck and can’t seem to move forward.

Take a break

When I get stuck, it’s usually because I’m tired. I need to take a break, so the best thing I can do is step away from my computer for a little while. Maybe I’ll go for a walk (if it’s during my workday), or call it a night to come back fresh (if I’m working on a personal project). Twenty minutes away from the screen can do wonders, especially if I’m on a walk. I can start working out problems as I move and come back with a fresh perspective.

Read a book

I’m a bit obsessive about reading in general. I always have a book or 10 on the go. Good writing makes me want to write. I love seeing how other writers use words and delight in well-crafted sentences. (One of the many reasons I’m excited Leif Enger has a new book coming out.) So when I’m stuck, grabbing a book—especially one that has nothing to do with what I’m working on—is hugely helpful.

Some writers hate reading while they’re writing, which I understand. But reading refuels and refreshes me in a way that few other things do. So, if you’re like me, this is a great way to get unstuck.

Try writing something completely different

Sometimes, the block I experience has nothing to do with an inability to write. It’s just that I can’t write about what I’m writing about. There are bits that work, but it doesn’t flow. It doesn’t hang together.

A way to get out of this is to try writing something completely different. If you’re writing something requiring deep emotional investment, maybe write a limerick or haiku. Start playing with stories that will never see the light of day. Do something you can finish, so that you can come back to your primary project refreshed.

Talk it out

This is usually my last resort, but a fourth way I work to get unstuck is by discussing the problem with someone I know. Sometimes the goal here is to get advice on how to overcome whatever aspect is causing me to get stuck. Other times, it’s a way of working through the problem to see if whatever I’m writing even makes sense.

The good news about getting stuck

I’ve been working on a project for the last several weeks now. I’m not as far along as I would like to be. One of the reasons? I got stuck. For about a month. (It was as frustrating as you can imagine.)

I got unstuck on Sunday.

And that’s the good news about getting stuck: eventually, inevitably, you’ll get unstuck. It isn’t forever. It’s just for a little while. It might take longer than you’d like, but eventually you’ll get there. And then, you get to keep going.

Photo by Ryan Snaadt on Unsplash

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