Writer’s Block? Not Allowed.

Monday fuel: coffee and Reese's with my writing.

As I mentioned last time, I want to connect my feature and personal posts. My always-helpful roommate, Lea, got me started with my first prompt: “Have you ever experienced writer’s block and how did you overcome it?”

I definitely get writer’s block, but fortunately not often. For me, it seems to strike when I near a deadline or get so pumped about a topic that I want my first draft to be flawless. 

Most recently, writer’s block attacked me when I was writing my feature story about Augustana Deaf Awareness. I attended their Silent Supper event, conducted interviews, emailed for follow-ups, sorted my recordings and poised my fingers to write. 

No ideas. I typed my lead and immediately deleted it. Then again. And again. And again. Finally, I gave up, watched Netflix and didn’t look at the story for days. Sure, I opened the Word doc, but that was just a formality.

I returned to the feature a few days before the deadline. That day – after 30 minutes of staring at my blinking cursor – I gave up and went to talk to Janet.

My professor offered a simple, immediate solution.

“You’re not allowed to have writer’s block, Chloe,” Janet said.

Alrighty then.

After our pep talk, Janet sent me into the journalism hallway to sit on the couch and freewrite for 15 minutes nonstop. The result was a rambling mess, which Janet forced me to dissect in front of her until we located the theme hidden in the document.  

My writer’s block didn’t vanish immediately, but Janet’s method gave me the start I needed to move past it. I always want an excellent first round of writing and, when I think I’ll fail to reach my standards, I run headfirst into a block.

Everyone has different ways of writing, but here’s how I beat the block:

  1. Step away. I know your editor needs the story or the online submission form will lock you out at 11:59 p.m., but sacrifice a few minutes. Staring at the screen isn’t going to save you right now; in my experience, that makes it worse. Get some coffee, walk around the room, do some jumping jacks, whatever. Just relax.
  2. Freewrite. Your freewriting doesn’t need to make sense and you don’t even have to claim it later (trust me, no one is ever going to see my ADA freewriting). Just start writing what comes to mind and you’ll soon find your theme!
  3. Let go of the outline. I hate outlines and I usually don’t make one. In my experience, outlines give me worse writer’s block because I think I have to follow what I outlined. Sure, outlines are nice for writing down basic points you’d like to make, but don’t rely on them too heavily. The outline is probably slowing you down.

If you’re like me or Lea, you set high standards for yourself – and that’s okay! – but you have to recognize when this expectation is causing your downfall. When I accept that my paper won’t be perfect right away, the block fades. When all else fails, I remember that writer’s block isn’t allowed.  

Photo by the AU sign.
Hope my tips help you out, Friend.

Have any tips of your own? Share them below!


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Journalism, communication and media studies major at Augustana University (S.D.). Lover of coffee and writing feature stories.

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