No-Fail Ways to Beat Writer's Block: 30 Tricks and Prompts

Try some of these 30 ways to conquer your writers block!
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Writer's block happens to everyone. Every writer, student, teacher, artist, and creator has been there. You sit down at your desk to write that paper or poem or story and nothing comes out. Suddenly, your mind goes blank. You swear you have ideas floating around in there, but you can't seem to locate them, and the more you try the more frustrated you become.

Writer's block happens to everyone.

What is writer's block?

You sit down to get some work done, to produce a few pages or lines, but you can't. You can't and your not sure why, but it's as if an invisible barrier is between you and the page. That invisible barrier is writer's block, and it may be invisible, but it's real. Maybe, as soon as you start typing or writing, you find your brain has shut down. Like a computer, it's shut down and you can't get it to boot back up. Maybe you jot down a word or a sentence and it feels "blah," lifeless, and uninspired. There are words on the paper, but they don't make you feel anything. Maybe your mind is elsewhere, focused on work or chores or other responsibilities. You have so much going on and your mind has become the Energizer bunny. It keeps bouncing from thing to thing and the faucet of creativity in your mind has been turned off.

Even the most confident writer can be plagued by self-doubt after a difficult critique.

What causes writer's block?

Writer's block has many causes and is unique to each and every writer. Writer's block can be the result of stress or stressful events occurring in a writer's life, chores and responsibilities stacking up into an insurmountable pile, or recent personal obstacles. Writer's block can be physical, due to fatigue or illness. That mind and body connection not firing on all cylanders. It can also be due to criticism. I was once given some harsh feedback on a novel I was working on, and I consider myself to be thick-skinned to literary criticism, but I couldn't work on that novel for months after. Even the most confident writer can be plagued by self-doubt after a difficult critique. The list goes on. The causes of writer's block are endless and intimidating, which is why it can be such a plague to writers.

Now let's get over that writer's block!

Whatever your case of writer's block looks like, it can't go on forever. There are many ways to conquer writer's block, from prompts to exercise to found poetry. Try my 30 no-fail ways to beat writer's block, one of them is sure to help you clear your mind and feel like your creative self again.

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Map
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Location can be the difference between finishing the project you're working on, and staring at the paper is frustrating silence. Move. If you are used to writing in the same spot, maybe you need to switch it up and give yourself a different environment or more stimulation to work in.

Location ideas

  • Go to the cute little cafe around the corner,
  • Weather permitted, write at your local park.
  • Write in your car.
  • Write at a library.
  • Go to your friend's or family's house.
  • Get an Airbnb or take a trip!
  • Move rooms. If you've never written in your kitchen, give it a go! See how each room in your home feels. Maybe, that small change of location will change everything for you!
Book and candle
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How is the ambiance in the room you're writing in? Is it too bright, messy, or unorganized? Do you have your bills and laundry right next to you? Is there anything inspirational around you? While I tend to agree that you can write anywhere, I also believe that if your environment is too messy or lacking inspiration, you might want to take a few minutes to create a more writing-friendly environment.

Ambiance ideas

  • Candles! Try lighting some candles, turn on your Himalayan salt lamp, or use some flameless candles to bring some calming lighting into your space.
  • Clean up. You don't need to go overboard, but the saying, "out of sight out of mind," can prove true when trying to create in a cluttered environment. Do a quick clean-up and see if it helps!
  • Where are you sitting? Are you in your favorite chair with your favorite blanket over your lap? You should be!
  • Move any items that might steal your focus. If you are stressed about bills or chores, and you can see the envelopes and dirty dishes from your seat, move those envelopes and put your dishes in the dishwasher.
  • I like to put my TV on either fireplace or ocean views. This trick takes me to another place and time.
Time Travel
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Take your character, or yourself, into a different place and time. Time travel. Travel to a place you've been that still holds a spot in your heart. Travel to a place you've never been, but always dreamed of visiting. Just go somewhere else, somewhere different.

Travel prompt ideas

  • Did you visit a specific state or country once, and you've always wanted to write about your experience? Jot it down. Don't worry about the project you were working on, this method will just help you get in a writing mindset, so you can go back to it after.
  • Are you writing a fiction piece and your character lives, or is visiting, a specific time or place? Try switching it up for a moment. Take them to the ocean, mountains, cityscape, or rural farmlands. Switching up their setting this way can tell you a lot about your character, then when you go back to your character's original setting you'll have a fresh perspective.
  • Travel to a new era. Visit the 20's, 30's, 1800's, or whatever timeframe is calling to you. Take your character there, or take yourself there. What does it look like? How does it feel? What drama, beauty, or events occur?
  • Have you always wanted to visit Japan, Italy, Sweden, or Australia and have learned everything about it in your free time? Write about it. Travel there in your mind. Take yourself or your character there. What adventures happen?
  • Write a poem in that era, time, or setting.
Let go
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Did you sit down with the expectation of writing a particular story? If you were really fixated on a certain story or topic and it's not working out, consider writing down the basic idea in a notebook and walking away from it. Release that idea for a moment. The idea might be magic, but it could need to sit a bit before you start working on it. In the meantime, write about something else or write about that same topic but in a different way.

Ways to release expectations

  • Don't limit yourself. If you really want the idea you have to look or sound a certain way and it isn't coming to you naturally or it's different than you wanted, maybe try it a different way temporarily. The finished product might even be better than the idea you were holding onto originally.
  • Write down what's in your mind right now. You don't have to have the finished product you were originally thinking about right now. Just get down what you do have. The rest might have to come at a different time.
  • Let go. Just let the words happen. Release any rigid expectations you have.
Writing
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Do you usually write on your laptop, desktop, typewriter, or paper? The way you write can put you in a different headspace. If you are used to writing a certain way, consider going a different router this once. If you are already trying to write in a different way than you normally would, go back to what's comfortable and see if that makes a difference.

Writing methods

  • Pen to paper. Do you have a pen that glides across the paper just the way you like?
  • Pencil to paper. Maybe the tactile experience of a pencil to paper will inspire you.
  • Try writing, or typing rather, with a typewriter.
  • Get out your laptop.
  • Take a trip to your desktop computer.
Character from book
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You've become the character in your favorite book or short story. You have the opportunity to do things your way. What do you do differently? What do you see differently? How does the story end?

Character ideas

  • What do you look like in your character's clothes and setting?
  • Do the other characters notice the changes to your main character? Do you tell them whats happened? Does the main character live your life while you're living theirs?
  • What mistakes do you make? How do you mess up the character's life? Are they mad at you for the changes you've made?
  • What changes did you make to the character's life? How does it feel to live in their world? Are you disappointed by their world or is it better than you expected? What do you learn about your own life by being in their shoes?
Writing
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Can't focus? Is your brain pinging all over the place? Write and write some more. Random things popping into your mind like grilled cheese, the dog you saw at the park earlier, and last week's episode of your favorite show? That's okay. Write everything down. Be the protagonist of your story and write every thought as it comes.

How to write stream-of-consciousness

  • Don't discriminate what thoughts you will or won't write down. Thinking about how you really need to clip your nails or buy cat food? No problem. Get it not the page.
  • Don't judge your thoughts.
  • Don't worry about formatting or punctuation at all.
  • Write until the thoughts stop coming. You may find a story within those random thoughts.
Yoga
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Not feeling good? Have a lot of tension in your shoulders or back? Mind and body are connected. If your mind is focused on that physical need, take care of it before pushing yourself to write.

Checking in with your body

  • Hungry? Grab a snack.
  • Have you drank water today? Drink some.
  • Need some medicine for that headache? Grab it!
  • Tense? Stretch, take a hot shower, go for a walk, or do some yoga!

Whatever it is, address it so you can go back to that creative space without your body resisting you.

Sun
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You, or your character, live in a world where the sun never shines. How do you grow food? How do people survive? What does that dystopian world look like? What are plant life and animal life like?

Sun ideas

  • If the sun never shines, does the world function on artificial light? Has the world froze over or is science advanced enough to find ways to prevent it from freezing?
  • Did the sun explode? What happened to cause a dystopian, sunless world? What was the aftermath?
  • How are people adapting? What scientific advances were made?
  • Did scientists decide to move to a different planet or maintain and rebuild earth under the new circumstances?
  • Write a poem about the changes the world would see without the sun.
Drinking Tea
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Drink a generous cup of hot tea with honey and lemon, turn on a fan, or get curled up with your fuzzy slippers and heated blanket. The point is, get as comfortable as you possibly can (not comfortable enough to fall asleep, but comfortable enough that you can enjoy the experience).

Soothing ideas

  • Drink hot tea, cocoa, coffee, or broth.
  • Incorporate heated blankets or comfort items.
  • Wear comfortable clothes.
  • Grab cuddly pets to hang out with you.
  • Let the gentle hum of the fan run in the background.
Girl Reading
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Reading is my favorite way to spark inspiration when in a writer's block rut. Grab your favorite book and read that quote that makes you feel all the feelings. Read something new or something you've read over and over again. If it will inspire you, read it. I find the more I read, the more ideas I have.

Reading ideas

  • Read a poem, new or familiar to you.
  • Read 30-minutes of the book you're currently reading. If you aren't currently reading anything, pick something out!
  • Read an essay or flash fiction. Try something outside your comfort zone.
  • If what you're reading isn't making you feel anything, put it down. Pick something else that will inspire your work.
Money
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You have no choice but to sell your soul. How do you do it? What's your sales pitch? Who are you selling it to and why?

Sell your soul ideas

  • Write a poem about the price of a soul, your soul, any soul.
  • You are selling your soul in turn for a sibling, parent, or best friend. Why are you making this sacrifice? What does it mean to you and what does it mean to them?
  • You are selling your soul to your favorite actor, artist, or public figure. Why? What is that conversation like?
  • You are selling your soul to save someone's life. Who's life are you saving and why?
  • Imagine selling your soul is the "normal" thing to do. Everyone does it in the world you're living in at some point. Why is the world like this? What is your sales pitch?
Yogurt bowl
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Eat a healthy, soothing meal. This is another way to check in with your body, but it's more than that. It's about feeding your mind. Brain food! Eat something that makes you happy. Eat your favorite food. Eat a nutritious meal. Maybe eat something your character would eat or something you ate during the stage in your life you are writing about.

Food ideas

  • If you are writing about when you were five, and at age five you loved tomato soup and grilled cheese, eat that! Let that meal take you back in time a bit.
  • If you are writing about a character who lives in Ireland, try making an Irish stew or Shepard pie.
  • If you haven't been eating very healthy lately, make sure to make a meal with all the nutrients you've been missing.
  • Eat comfort food.
VHS
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What are you nostalgic for? What are the foods, shows, songs, places, or people that make you feel nostalgic? Be open to taking a trip back to a different time and phase in your life. By choosing to visit a nostalgic time or place, you can open up a world of ideas, emotions, or memories. Then, write about those ideas, emotions, or memories. Turn them into a poem or essay or an ode to someone.

How to get nostalgic

  • Listen to a song or playlist that you enjoyed during a different time in your life.
  • Watch a movie you watched more times than you can count growing up. Let it transport you.
  • Look at old pictures. Unlock old memories.
  • Read old journal entries.
  • Go to a place you used to visit like a museum, park, home, or take a drive through your old hometown.
Hand
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Write about you, but not you as a whole. Write about just one body part. Write about your hands, the scar from when you fell off your bike as a kid, or cut yourself were cutting onions for chili. Write about your ears, mouth, nose, eyes, or knees. Pick a body part that is matched to a memory or an action.

"You" ideas

  • How does that body part serve you? How are you grateful for it? Are you grateful for your eyes and eyesight? Ears and ability to hear? Maybe you have an injury or disability. If you have arthritis or had surgery on your leg after breaking it, write about it.
  • Write a poem about your hands.
  • Write a poem about a scar.
  • Write about a way your body endured hardship or trauma.
Don't listen
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If you are struggling with how to fit your idea into a certain form, genre, or page length, consider ignoring it. Write until you can't anymore and then let the words tell you which form will be the best fit.

Ideas to help you ignore form

  • Shun punctuation. Pass on periods and commas, and don't worry about typos. Write it out, fix everything after when you edit.
  • Are you really wanting to write a sonnet, but the idea you have isn't coming to fruition? That's okay! Write what you can. Set aside the sonnet idea. Write until you can't anymore. once you are done, ask yourself, if it can work as a sonnet or not. If not, turn it into something else. Don't limit yourself by sticking too rigidly to an idea.
  • If your brain is saying, "No, it has to be..." then you might want to take a step back and ask yourself your idea is cramping your creativity.
Embrace Tree
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Explore a form you are very familiar with, something comfortable to you so that the words can flow out without your mind taking over in how to tackle a new and intimidating form. Alternatively, try out a form you've never tried. Have you always wanted to write a villanelle? Why not try it now? As long as the form isn't constricting your ability to get words on the page, consider switching forms for long enough to get the words out. You can always edit it after.

Form ideas

  • Do you usually write prose? Switch to poetry or flash fiction for a bit.
  • If you usually reject form, but the writer's block has taken over, give form a try for a while. Go outside your comfort zone or stay within it, whichever inspires you the most.
  • Chose a unique form you've never heard of or been leery to try.
  • Choose that form that never disappoints you. Maybe short stories are your thing. Go write one!
Childhood Memories
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What is the first memory you can remember having? How old were you and what was happening? Why do you think that specific memory is the oldest memory you have? What about it is significant? What about it is mundane?

Memory ideas

  • How did your first memory make you feel? Write about that feeling and what triggered it.
  • What is your first memory of food? What were you eating and how do you remember it tasting?
  • Turn your first memory into a poem.
  • What are all the objects you remember from that memory? Turn those objects into titles for short stories and write a collection of flash fiction or poems with those objects as the titles.
Rainy window
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Find an image, painting, picture, or piece of art that appeals to you and write about it. Let it inspire you and spark a story, any story at all.

Image ideas

  • Do a google search. Type in the first word that comes to mind. I like to type in "art," because the word is vague enough to give me a variety of results.
  • Ask a friend to send you a random image.
  • Have a favorite artist? Search for their work.
  • Search for images of specific people or objects. Type in "apple," or "women walking along the ocean."
  • Write about a person or object in the image.
  • Write about who you think took the picture or painted the image. If it's a famous artist or person, write a short fiction piece with them as the main character.
  • Look at the image or art for a moment. Let yourself stare until a word or two comes to mind. Once they do, jot them down!
Smell the Flowers
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Use one of your five senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. Pick one, it doesn't matter which one. If the first choice doesn't work, you can always switch to another. So, pick one and run with it. By activating one of your five senses, you may recall a memory that leads you somewhere beautiful.

Ideas to use your five senses

  • Smell the roses, literally!
  • Light scented candles.
  • Use an oil diffuser.
  • Play rain or ocean waves in the background.
  • Turn on the twinkle lights.
  • Listen to spoken poetry.
Emotions
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If you could have a conversation with all of your emotions, what would they say to you and how would you respond. What does that conversation look like? Is it a happy conversation or a sad one? Somewhere in between? What emotion has the most to say?

Emotion ideas

  • Imagine your emotions decide they are going to give you the silent treatment. Write about it.
  • Your emotions all appear in your bedroom around you. They need to talk. What do they say? What do they look like?
  • Imagine your emotions decide to move away. Where are they moving and why?
  • Your emotions and you get in a fight. You're mad at them and they are mad at you. Why?
  • Each of your emotions is a character. Write a short story from each of their point of view.
Meditate
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Is your mind go, go, go? Are your thoughts bouncing around like a ping-pong ball? Give yourself a few moments of uninterrupted quiet time. Turn off the lights. Turn off the TV. Put your phone and other electronics down and enjoy the silence of your home.

Ways to enjoy the silence

  • Do a short meditation.
  • Take a short nap.
  • Do nothing for a while. Don't meditate. Don't move. Lay in your favorite spot and soak in the silence.
  • Take a bath or shower.
Listening to Music
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Listen to music for a while. Have it playing gently in the background. Get up and jump around while it plays. Listen to music you've never heard before or something soothing and familiar. Music will get your mind going, inspire you, and can be a buffer for other distracting noises.

Music ideas

  • Try out classical or piano. Even if it isn't the type of music you enjoy, if you have it playing gently in the background it can be soothing and help you think more creatively.
  • Give ambient music a try. When I write, I prefer music without words. Ambient music is my go-to. I even have a writing playlist full of my favorite ambient songs.
  • Acoustic music can also be soothing to have gently played in the background.
Compass
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Start your story, poem, or form of choice stranded in the middle of nowhere. Imagine your character, or yourself, has been dropped off with nothing, no money, no personal items, and you have no idea where you are. What do you do?

Stranded ideas

  • Imagine you're stranded in the middle of swamplands. Are you in danger? Do you know how to get home? Can you get home or do you have a home to go to? Are you scared? How do you feel? Do you have all your memory? How did you get there?
  • Write a poem from the point of view of a stranded animal. The animal is lost or been separated from its family or pack. How do they find their way home? Write their journey.
  • Write a collection of flash fiction pieces as different members of your family are stranded in the middle of nowhere. There are different tools nearby, which family member chooses which tools. Tools nearby could be a water bottle filled with fresh water, a compass, hiking boots, a walking stick, or a jacket. Each family member can only choose one.
Nature
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Get out of your house or apartment and get some fresh air. Be outside anywhere that feels special or significant to you. Take a break from the indoors and the pressure of writing, or take your laptop into the great outdoors with you.

Ideas to get out in nature

  • Go to the park.
  • Go for a hike or walk.
  • Go to a dog park with your dog (if you have one). Watch them have fun, enjoy their excitement, and take in the fresh air.
  • If you live close to the beach, don't waste another minute! Go listen to the waves crash and get inspired by the beauty of it.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Take a mini road trip or drive around the block.
Right Brain
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Creativity is a right-brain activity. If you are finding yourself stuck in your left brain and unable to make the switch over to that more creative part of the brain, try some of these tricks to activate your right brain!

Right brain ideas

  • Watch a play or musical.
  • Paint. Draw. Color. Writing is art and painting is art. Try a different kind of artsy activity to get you in the right mindset.
  • Look at some art. Viewing art can help get you into a thoughtful, creative headspace.
  • Try to meditate.
  • Dance a little or watch someone else dancing.
Five senses
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Imagine you lost one of your five senses. Which one is it, and how does it impact how you view the world and live your life? What beauty does it during your daily life? How does it impact your relationships?

Senses ideas

  • Imagine you lost your character lost your sense of touch.
  • Write a poem without one of the five senses, while using more of the other four senses. Which ones you use are up to you!
  • Write a short story about a character who only has one of the five senses. How do they view life? What do they enjoy?
  • Write a poem about losing a sense.
Found
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Found poetry is a lot of fun, and the reason why this is helpful for writer's block is: the words don't have to come from you. They are already there. Your job here is to notice them.

Ideas on how to create found poetry

  • Rip or cut a page out of an old book.
  • Begin creating a poem out of the words on the page by circling the words lightly in pencil.
  • Then, using markers, paint, or pencils, create art around those words.
  • I like to fill up the page with watercolors making sure to avoid the words I've chosen
  • Fill the space outside of those words however you'd like while avoiding the words

Watch the video:

Backwards
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Not sure where to start? Try starting at the end. Where do you or the character end up? Where does your paper or essay end? What's the resolution? Start there and work your way back to the beginning. This is a method I've used many times, it's similar to how artists will sometimes turn their paintings upside down. Give it a try!

Ideas for writing backward

  • Is your character running away from something? Start with the running, let the character look backward with flashbacks as to why they ran away.
  • If your story ends with a death, start there. Let the main character or narrator slowly reveal where everything began.
  • Do you know the punch line you're wanting to end on, that final line that brings your story to a close? Begin with it too. This small amount of repetition will bring your story alive.
Girl in Ocean
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Write about a dream you had recently. Preferably, choose the one from last night or during your last catnap. The more recent, the more you'll be able to remember from that dream. Write about the dream in any form that inspires you.

Dream prompt ideas

  • Write a haiku about your dream.
  • Pick one item or animal from your dream and make that object or animal the main character of a short story.
  • Pick a symbol from your dream. If you dreamt about a long road or a huge wave coming toward you, write about it!
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