Writer's Block. It's Not Always What You Think.

Image 2.  5 Reasons for writer's block and how to overcome it.
(Image by Susan Foster)

We usually think of writer's block as a situation when the writer just can't come up with anything to write. But that's not always what's going on.

A lack of ideas is not always what stops a writer from writing. The ideas can be flowing, but efficiency and confidence are not. Many factors can get in the way of creativity, and I suspect many writers and bloggers have the same problems I've experienced.

Five Reasons for Writer's Block and How to Overcome It

What Can Block a Writer's Productivity?

Many factors influence the craft of writing. Here are five obstacles that like many writers, I've encountered:

1.  Being pulled in many directions

Life can be pretty distracting. Daily life responsibilities and even blogging tasks can slow down the process of creating. For example, instead of writing my novel recently, I have been:
  • working on improving the layout of this website. 
  • troubleshooting an issue with the delivery of this blog's newsletter.
  • searching for suitable places other than this blog to submit my writing.
  • working on improving my social media presence.
  • learning more about the craft of writing.
 While all of these endeavors are worthwhile, they can inhibit or slow down the process of actually writing.

No one lives in a vacuum, and other tasks will always compete with writing. Time management skills are essential. Although I am well aware (having actually taught time-management seminars) of how I should be managing my time, it is still easy to become scattered. Sometimes, it is important to take a step back and prioritize our goals and figure out how best to achieve them.

2.  Not being held accountable
Being your own boss sounds great, but without someone telling you what to do, it can be hard to stay motivated. Setting self-imposed deadlines and sticking to them is really important. I never used to have any trouble publishing five-to-six days a week on my lifestyle blog, until after I announced that I would be taking a break from that publishing schedule for a while. I just wasn't getting enough sleep to keep writing that many posts, but no longer having set publishing deadlines gave me too much flexibility. I became less productive than before because I wasn't feeling compelled to publish on a set schedule.

3.  Fear

My best ideas are the ones that cause me to procrastinate the most. When I get excited about something, I want it to be perfect. I become afraid of not doing my best work and may then freeze up and hesitate to write at all. 

4.  The timing isn't right 

I wrote a blog post about overcoming writer's block about a year ago, in which I talked about timing. Sometimes the problem is not having the right thing to write about, rather than not having anything in mind.  I have a long list of potential topics and quite a few partially written articles right now, but none of them are suitable to be published yet. Some just aren't pertinent at this time of year; the rest require a greater amount of time and energy to finish than what I have right now. 

5.  The temptation of potential opportunities 

When I begin to feel exceptionally proud of something I am writing, I start to think about where it might be well-suited to be published. I then consider saving it for another use. Every writer dreams of seeing their work published by major print magazines or websites, but many of them only accept previously unpublished work. Sometimes it is better to have your writing plans disrupted than to publish a piece and later regret having done so.

An example of when hesitancy paid off: 
My article, "A Fine Shave", was published in the January issue of the professional journal, Nursing 2016. One of the first paragraphs was a short personal essay I had written to be publishing somewhere else. Thankfully, I recognized its greater potential, and decided not to submit it there. If I had, I would not have been able to use it as the opening for my article in this more widely-read and respected nursing journal. 

Most bloggers, myself included, value their blogs and strive to always fill them with high-quality content. Often, there is no better place for an article than one's own blog. However, sometimes it is smart to take advantage of being published in different places. Those articles can then usually still be shared with our blog readers, either by republishing them on our own blog (if copyrights allow) or by sharing a link to the places where they are published. 

When we decide not to use something we have been working on for the purpose we originally intended, we are suddenly faced with nothing ready to post and the challenge of creating something else instead. This can be a little daunting.

How can a writer overcome these obstacles?

None of the obstacles I have mentioned are insurmountable. Here are a few good strategies.

1.  Use your time well.

Staying focused can be hard. (Especially when working on a computer with access to the Internet!) 
  • Write a daily to-do list and set a timer for each task. Take a short break in between. (The Pomodoro Technique is a helpful guide if you want to learn about this highly recommended technique.)
  • Limit your use of social media and the time you spend checking email and phone messages to only certain times of the day.
  • Keep your goals realistic, but have them clearly defined and refer to them often.
  • Ask for help when you need it. (I couldn't have solved a technical website problem without some help. (Thanks Kim Six! When it comes to giving Blogger platform support, she really rocks!)
  • Apply the 80/20 rule, and spend most of your time on the activities that will best help you meet your goals.
  • Create productive routines and stick to them.

2.  Set deadlines. 

(Clearly stating your goals to yourself and to others can help hold you accountable.)

  • Use an editorial calendar and plan in advance what you will write and publish on which days. This can really help eliminate the timing issue I described above.
  • Inform others of what you are working on and what your deadlines are. 
  • Join a writer's or blogger's group where members motivate each other to be productive.

3.  Believe in yourself.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was right, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." But maybe what we should really be scared of is perfectionism. It gets in the way of our productivity. While editing and rewriting are crucial and we should always strive to create our best work, there comes a time when you just have to say, "It's good enough" and hit publish.

4.  Utilize good resources and always keep learning.

It often makes sense to learn from others, rather than trying to figure something out yourself! Here are a few examples of ways I do this:

  • Reading posts by other bloggers is how I learned almost everything I know about blogging.
  • I've taken a lot of fiction and novel writing classes and workshops, as this is a strong writing interest of mine.
Investing time in learning may decrease your current productivity, but it can boost your confidence and save you time in the long run.

5.  Prioritize and plan ahead 

  • Set both short-term goals and long-term objectives.
  • Prioritize what needs to be done at the beginning of each day/week/month. 
  • Rank in order of importance the places where you would like to see your writing. This will help determine where and when to submit or publish it. (I got this tip from Susan Maccarelli, who used to write the website Beyond Your Blog.)
  • Plan and prepare posts well ahead of when you plan to publish them. 
  • Using an editorial calendar ensures enough time to write your posts, and provides you with a stash of completed articles, available to substitute if case you change your mind about publishing a piece. 
Image 3. 5 Reasons for Writer's Block and How to Overcome It.
(Image by Susan Foster)

Being a writer can be challenging.

Being a writer is not as easy as many people believe. Sometimes words almost magically string themselves across and down a page, but often many obstacles are in the way. True "writer's block" does happen from time to time; that horrible state when words and thoughts just refuse to flow. But the process of writing can be blocked in many different ways. 

Writer's blockIt's not always what you think.

What is the biggest obstacle to your writing productivity?
 How do you manage it?


Note: A version of this post, titled Five Reasons for Writer's Block & How to Overcome It was previously published on my lifestyle blog, The Most--of Every Moment.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of them, the price you pay will not be affected but I may receive some small compensation. All opinions expressed, however, are entirely honest and my own.


  1. Fear is usually the main productivity blocker for me. This was so spot on. I'll be trying these tips the next time I get writer's block. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It's one of my top stumbling blocks, too!

  2. Thanks for the guide on ways to overcome writer's block . Prioritizing my objective is one tip that I will be working on. Thanks again.

    1. Sometimes identifying our objective is all it takes to figure out how to finish what we started!

  3. This was very insightful! For me, the biggest obstacle is just knowing what to write about. Thinking of a topic that will interest the visitors/subscribers of my blog. This is super helpful! thank you!

    1. Try brainstorming topics and then setting up a publishing schedule for them. I've found that helpful.

  4. I identify with this so much - #1 is my biggest issue and I feel overwhelmed at times. To the point where my blog takes the hit which saddens me. Great tips to overcome & will be definitely applying them in the future. Thank you!
    - Morgan @mommyaboveall.com


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