Overcoming writer’s block and finding your flow

If you’re a creative person, you’re likely familiar with the concept of ‘flow’, a state where you are so focused on your work that time flies by, you’re unbelievably productive and you can’t be distracted. When you’re in flow, it feels like magic. You look at the clock – hours have gone by, you’ve finished a bunch of work, and you’re rewarded with a sense of productivity that will carry you through the next month.

But then, the worst happens – writer’s block. Or you’re hit with a classic case of ‘can’t focus on anything!!!’ where you jump from one thing to another, unhappy with the half-finished final results left in your wake. 

When experiencing writer’s block, you’ll probably also indulge in negative self-talk, which might convince you that you’re a terrible writer and everything you’ve achieved up until this point has been a fluke or dumb luck. This blog post is here to tell you otherwise.

What is writer’s block, and why do we get it?

At its most basic, writer’s block is a desire to write but an inability to do so. Fuelled by internal fears, perfectionism or self-criticism, or set alight by the external pressure of a looming deadline, writer’s block is generally assumed to be the result of stress.

It could mean you:

  • sit and stare blankly at your laptop screen, unable to come up with anything to write. 
  • write fragments of things that don’t get you anywhere.
  • write but feel unhappy with word choices, phrasing and sentence structure.
  • are overwhelmed with anxiety and question your work and your abilities.

Writer’s block will look different for every writer.

The history of writer’s block

The term came about after English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge described his “indefinite indescribable terror” at not being able to produce the work he thought he was capable of. At that time, writer’s block was treated with mysticism – the spirits/gods were no longer shining upon the Romantic poet, so he was unable to write skillfully, or at all.  

More recently, author Elizabeth Gilbert offered her own interpretation of this mystical force in her book, ‘Big Magic’, when she suggested an idea is a living thing that we must grasp with two hands, or it’ll move on to someone else. So if ideas are not our own, then we must wait. And wait.

While that concept might be comforting, it also takes us out of the driver’s seat of our creativity and work. 

If you don’t like the idea of waiting around for inspiration to strike, you might be heartened by psychologist Susan Reynolds’ opinion on the matter. She suggests that writing “requires more hard-core, cognitive expenditure than many other lines of work” and is a challenging mental process, offering that that is why writers struggle with writer’s block – not because they are void of creativity or inspiration. 

So if writer’s block is simply the result of mental fatigue, then there are things we can do to turn things around.

How to overcome writer’s block

Take a break

This isn’t ground-breaking, but it’s a classic for a reason. According to Samantha Artherholt, a psychologist and clinical associate professor in the University of Washington School of Medicine Department of Rehabilitation, rest allows our brain to complete some of the same consolidation activities that happen when we’re asleep. 

In rest where we intentionally step away from an activity and do something active – like go for a walk or do some light stretching – we get a boost because our brains change electrochemical states depending on what we’re doing. 

Taking breaks can:

  • restore focus and attention, especially for long-term goals.
  • allow your brain to problem-solve and store information.
  • prevent decision fatigue.
  • increase creativity.


A writing strategy developed by Peter Elbow in 1973, freewriting is a writing exercise similar to brainstorming, the difference being it requires you to write your thoughts down quickly, in full sentences. 

According to Grammarly, it can help boost your creativity, defuse internal obstacles like self-criticism and fear of failure, beat writer’s block and also help you develop your own written tone of voice. 

To freewrite, find yourself a prompt, set a timer for 10 minutes, sit down with your laptop or a pen and paper and write. Pay no attention to structure, and don’t circle back to cross anything out or fix a mistake – just let the words flow.

Write badly on purpose 

If your writer’s block stems from perfectionism, the fear of failing might hold you back from even starting your project. There’s no point in trying to talk yourself out of a panic and settling for doing something just okay, so what if instead, you wrote badly… on purpose. 

According to the Harley Therapy Counselling Blog, doing something badly on purpose can help you challenge the core belief that if you’re not perfect, your life will go wrong. Switching up the goal will also give you something different to focus on, and by attempting to be the worst writer imaginable, you might find the joy in writing again, and you never know when that terrible writing will turn into something worth reading. 

When it does, Dot Point Proofreading and Editing is here to help. With a proofreader and editor on your side, your work can go from great to perfect. 

To learn more about how a professional proofreader and editor can help your business thrive, contact us to get started.