There’s a profound quote from Ernest Hemingway I came across recently. It goes like this: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.»
It made me chuckle the first time I read it. I can’t think of a better way to describe the creative process other than pain.
My goal is not to play into the tortured artist trope. But I do feel like there’s nothing more agonizing than sitting down to write a story you’ve wanted to tell your whole life.
Do you want to know something funny? I gave myself writer’s block while creating this post.
I wanted to ensure I ticked every box and gave the best advice with the wittiest yet most compassionate tone imaginable. But I started to hit a wall, perhaps because the one I built was impossibly high.
But I write every day. I’ve done so for years. And I think many people believe that I can do that because I’m just “good” at writing.
But the truth is that I write every day by choice and, admittedly, with great difficulty sometimes. Here’s what I do to get through those tough moments.
Write Any and Everything
When I tutored other young writers, there was one piece of advice I turned to repeatedly: word vomit, then refine. Get it all out, then sift through what you have to find the gems. You can even write about how frustrating it is that you have writer’s block.
Whatever is going through your mind deserves to be considered. You’ll probably find that this exercise helps you inadvertently reach the point.
“This paragraph should be an introduction to this point, but I can’t figure out what to say. I know I want to talk about X because it’s a good piece of evidence for my argument. I found it interesting because….”
Take a Break (A Real One)
Step away from your writing and do something that will actually take your mind off it.
I’ve seen others suggest taking a walk outside, which might be a good idea if you can spend it thinking about anything other than writing. This skill escapes me at every turn.
For me, taking a break looks like forcing my brain to shift gears completely. If writing is a zone, I need to completely vacate it by grabbing a coffee or chatting with a friend.
Otherwise, I’ll return to my computer even more stressed and with even higher expectations for what I ought to put on the page.
Read Something New
Almost every time I’ve felt like I was bursting at the seams to write, it was after reading something impactful.
It doesn’t have to be an epic, life-changing quote, either. How another writer describes something as simple as the color of the sky makes me want to produce something half as real. My mind is fresh with ideas or emotions I want to inject into my piece.
Reading similar writing from others can help with specific assignments. But reading just about anything reminds you there are infinite ways to string words together, and each has its merit.
Limit Your Time
Maybe it’s my tendency to be driven by urgency, but creating an arbitrary time limit for myself always seems to kick things into high gear.
I like setting a timer for myself to complete a certain section or paragraph, then race to finish it. You might worry that this would lead to poor-quality writing, but in my experience, it really doesn’t.
I often find that what I produce in 20 minutes is better than expected because I don’t leave enough time to overthink and overexplain.
Try setting a time limit to chip away at your writing. Force yourself to truly step away from it when the time is up. After all, you can always come back and edit it.
Write About Something Easy
Sometimes my problem isn’t that I can’t write; it’s that I can’t write about that.
I can turn on my creative faucet by starting with something I know I can do. This could mean returning to an ongoing project, but it could also mean sending an email.
Writing a text. Describing the way that brick in the wall looks. Talking about how I felt that day or moment. Recalling an event from my past.
Writing about something I already have the words to describe unplugs the block in my faucet’s drain.
Make Writing a Habit
Writing habitually seems like the antithesis of avoiding a block. How would more writing be helpful, especially if that writing doesn’t come from a place of genuine interest?
In truth, the “habit” part of the equation doesn’t have to mean I sit down and write a chapter of a book daily. It can mean little things.
For me, it’s journaling. I’m not trying to wax poetic in my journal (although I definitely do sometimes), but I’m still writing. I’m practicing.
The habit is to put words to your feelings and experiences, not to “write” necessarily. The more familiar you can get with your voice and the act of putting words on the page, the better.
Stop Striving for Perfection
I have yet to meet a writer who isn’t a perfectionist, whether self-proclaimed or undiagnosed. But why?
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Are people who are perfectionists drawn to writing, or are writers prone to unattainable expectations?
I don’t know the answer, but I do know that something about writing seems to prompt the desire to be “right.” We all want to create something that resonates so powerfully with others that it becomes etched on their mind like a tattoo.
I think a big part of it is wanting validation that “I did the thing!” Or maybe it’s wanting to say the right thing in just the right way to change someone’s life, maybe make them a little nicer or more open-minded.
Maybe it’s the fact that you can hit “delete” or erase; if you could have fixed it, there’s no excuse for anything less than perfection.
But the greatest works of art aren’t so because they’re without faults. They’re memorable because they dared to do something different and defy expectations.
So stop putting the weight of arriving at perfection on your shoulders.
Think of your writing like a painting: layers of intentional moves, mistakes, and strokes of genius overlap to create a picture that’s completely your own. And what’s more beautiful than that?
I hate to break it to you: if you write, you will almost certainly face writer’s block. There’s really no way around it. But that’s okay. I think that it serves a purpose.
Writer’s block forces us to slow down and think about what’s happening beneath the surface. It challenges us to reframe our mindset and find new ways to express ourselves.
Without writer’s block, we probably would all be terrible writers.
Nothing makes you more skilled than overcoming obstacles and coming out on top nonetheless.
A big part of my work at Inkless is focused on just that: rising to challenges. We are passionate storytellers who want to shape the future of writing and genuinely connect with our audiences.
Our team never misses a deadline and customizes our services to fit your needs effortlessly.