6 Lessons Learned From 4 Years of Writer’s Block

To be a writer, one must do two things: write and, perhaps surprisingly, not write. Usually, we champion the first and demonize the second with much fear and trembling, giving it dread labels such as “writer’s block.”

The implication is that, for a writer, not writing is about as bad as it gets.

The truth, however, is nuanced.

I have been waiting to write this post for a very long time—four years, in fact. I have been waiting because I knew it was a post I could not properly write until I overcame my own lengthy writer’s block and could speak about the lessons it was teaching me. From my perspective on this side of the desert, I know it is a landscape I did not traverse alone. Many writers—I even dare to say most writers—experience significant writer’s block sooner or later. I am writing this post now for those writers who are currently struggling with significant creative blocks and also for those who may encounter this phenomenon later on. Perhaps you will remember this post and take heart, not just from the lessons I will share in a moment but simply from the fact that my writer’s block came to an end—and so will yours.

For four years, starting in the fall of 2018, I lived with significant writer’s block. It was my first such experience, and I felt bewildered by it, frightened, and often ashamed. After all, I was an established, published writer, who made her living not just writing novels, but teaching others how to do so. How could I possibly have writer’s block? It felt so threatening on so many levels. Nothing I did seemed to make it any better. In fact, it only got worse. What started as simply “writing being hard” (coupled with a lot of denial) in 2018 and 2019 turned into a full-on word drought in 2020 and finally a conscious sabbatical in 2021 and most of 2022.

One of the basic lessons I learned was simply that writer’s block comes in two different types—which may happen individually or be complicated by each other. The first type of writer’s block is the simplest (although no less frustrating): plot block. This is when your story simply isn’t working. Whether momentarily or fatally, your story’s logic has run itself aground. The plot doesn’t make sense. The characters aren’t likable or realistic. Beta readers aren’t connecting with your narrative style.

Resolving plot block is relatively simple in that it requires only the application of craftsmanship. This doesn’t mean plot block can always be solved; sometimes throwing logic and good story sense at a block forces you to recognize that an idea is beyond saving and must be abandoned. But plot block is something that can be worked through with the application of enough time and patience.

The other type of writer’s block is what I call life block. This occurs when the writer’s creative energy is blocked or diverted by deeper personal issues. At its simplest, this might be caused by a lack of time or focus, as when a day job requires all your energy. It can then be complicated by other challenges, such as changing your living circumstances or relationship status, or dealing with the health challenges of either yourself or your loved ones. Not only are these circumstances time- and energy-intensive in their own right, they can also bring up deeper psychological issues, including fear, grief, and anger—all of which can interfere with the flow of your creative juices.

Unlike plot block, life block isn’t always something you can resolve by applying mental and physical effort. Often, it will require work that goes much deeper than simply figuring out what’s wrong with your story.

6 Lessons Learned From Long-Term Writer’s Block

I love the following insight from the essay “36 Assumptions About Playwriting” by Jose Rivera (from The American Theatre Reader), which was quoted in a recent blog comment by a reader named Patrick:

Embrace your writer’s block. It’s nature’s way of saving trees and your reputation. Listen to it and try to understand its source. Often, writer’s block happens to you because somewhere in your work you’ve lied to yourself and your subconscious won’t let you go any further until you’ve gone back, erased the lie, stated the truth and started over.

Sometimes this “lie” is as simple as a mistaken bit of logic in the plot. But sometimes, it is goes much deeper and requires the patience of much more excavation before you can return to your writing with the honesty and vulnerability necessary to access a strong creative flow.

Patrick went on to ask:

I wonder if you have any helpful thoughts on the kind of writer’s mental hygiene that Jose’s talking about here.

I like his term “mental hygiene,” because in many ways this sums up the lessons my writer’s block taught me in those four years. Looking back, I know my block resulted from a uniquely personal confluence of life challenges—a combination of plot block from a complicated story I was working on and a constellation of life challenges that required me to deeply reconsider almost all of my own personal identities, including that of “writer.”

Most of the work I did to finally overcome my writer’s block was not directly related to the craft of writing, but rather to my relationship with myself and the world around me. In that work, I learned more about creativity than I ever did when writing all of the many stories I had put into the world up to that point. The six lessons I learned during those four years of not writing were, in many ways, the most important lessons I have ever learned as a writer. Whether you currently find yourself in a season of writing or a season of not writing, perhaps you will find resonance with them as well.

1. Creativity Is Your Partner, Not Your Servant

When I was a child, I danced with my creativity. We went on so many adventures together, but I was never the one who led or commanded. If anything, I simply followed wherever my imagination led. Later, when I started writing down my stories, I began taking on the identity of “writer.” In some ways, this was an important and wonderful transition into a greater consciousness of the art form and a responsibility for my own disciplined approach to the craft. In other ways, it was the moment when I stopped treating my precious creativity as a consensual partner and began placing demands upon it, treating it as a servant who had no choice but to show up on my timeline and perform according to my bidding.

I’m not saying that applying discipline, logic, and willpower to one’s creative work is wrong or even problematic. But it can become so when we put too much emphasis on “being a writer,” rather than “following our creativity.” The former is results oriented; the latter is process oriented. Both are important. But if the process becomes subordinate to the end goal, we can lose sight of the fact that creativity is not a limitless resource. It must be cultivated in a environment of respect.

When my creativity stopped obeying my every demand—that it show up when I told it to and produce as much as I wanted it to—I found myself bemused. I seemed to have lost the ability to communicate with my creativity in the old ways. I had forgotten how to dance. For a long while, I was terrified that not only had I forgotten how to dance, but my ignorant and arrogant treatment of my creativity had perhaps even killed my dance partner.

I had to learn how to once again relate to my creativity, not as a “professional” or even an “artist,” but as a child. I read Julia Cameron’s wonderful classic The Artist’s Way, and I began to remember how to play—how to interact with the world around me with attention and expectation. I had to remember how to stop assuming the answers and to instead just ask the questions.

2. You Are More Than Your Writing (or Your Writer’s Block)

One of the scariest parts of experiencing long-term writer’s block is that, suddenly, you feel you can no longer be “a writer.” It seems as if that part of you is broken. Once upon a time, you were creative, inspired, imaginative, intelligent. You were a storyteller. Now, you are none of these things. Now, you are empty of ideas and exhausted of thinking. Either you sit in front of your computer trying to write and hating it, or you avoid the practice altogether. As a result, you feel lazy, unmotivated, and undisciplined. All of that can combine to also make you feel unworthy. Even if you experienced success as a writer previously, none of that matters now. Now, you aren’t a writer anymore.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a storyteller. And yet, during my writer’s block, not only was I not writing, but I was no longer experiencing stories. Characters weren’t visiting me in flashes of inspiration or walking beside me in my daily life. When they did sometimes flicker into view, I usually didn’t have the energy or attention span to watch them for long. Even my enthusiasm for other people’s stories (books and movies) waned. And, yes, I panicked. Not only was I losing all these experiences that had always been of central importance to my life, I was also losing my primary identities. If I wasn’t a writer and a lover of stories, I didn’t know who I was anymore.

One of the single most powerful lessons I learned during this time was that I am so much more than these identities. I had to come to the realization that I was not a Writer; I was simply someone who, sometimes, writes. Writing was not the beginning and ending of my creativity. Indeed, I began to realize the effort I was expending in simply working on myself and my own life (learning, processing, healing, building) were profound creative acts. Even when I wasn’t writing, even when I felt I was no longer creative, I was perhaps being more creative than I had ever been in my life.

3. The Reason for Your Block Might Not Be Because You’ve Regressed, but Rather Because You’ve Outgrown Old Habits and Viewpoints

Writer’s block is stigmatized because we fear it. One of the main reasons we fear it so much is because we often view it as a regression. On its surface, the experience of writer’s block seems like a step back—as if we have reverted to a previous stage in our lives when we did not write and, indeed, did not know how to write.

My own experience has taught me this is rarely the case. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this kind of regression is impossible. An inability to move forward does not mean we have moved back. It just means the way is barred. Indeed, in a story, this would likely mean the intrepid hero has progressed so far down the road that he has now earned the right to face an unprecedented obstacle.

We are more likely to encounter plot block when we are educated enough to realize certain mechanics are not working within a story (rather than obliviously and blithely carrying on). The same goes for life block. The specifics of everyone’s experience will differ here, but my creative block was influenced by a near-total shift in my personal perspectives of my life in general and my art in particular. For one thing, I had grown enough to realize some of my previous work habits were unsustainable and even counter-productive (see Lesson #1). For another, I was on a profound journey of personal growth, doing deep shadow work (i.e., recognizing and working through previously ignored fears, wounds, etc.) and learning to live with myself in a much more conscious and integrated way.

Even though my writing ground to a solid halt for nearly four years, the person who came out the other side was not a regressed version of myself, but rather one who had learned and gained so many new ideas, understandings, and experiences. Learning to “listen to” my writer’s block, as Jose Rivera says, made me realize it was not an antagonist to be overcome, but rather a tremendous teacher bearing gifts.

4. The Return to Creativity Must Happen on Its Own Schedule

One of the things my four years of writer’s block taught me was the value of presence and patience. Actually, it taught me this over and over again because I was (and am) a slow student. Even as time passed and I began more and more to accept my not-writing, I still chafed. When would it be over? When would I write again? The more I fidgeted and fussed, the more blocked I felt. It was like the watched pot that never boils. Indeed, if I had learned this lesson earlier, my block might very well have ended earlier as well.

What I had to learn was that there is a season to everything and everything to a season. There are seasons for writing and creating, and there are fallow seasons for waiting. I could not rush through the fallow season. No matter how much I longed to write again and no matter how much I feared the not-writing, I couldn’t will the stories to return to me. In December 2021, my self-imposed sabbatical was ending. This sabbatical had been a year in which I simply let myself have writer’s block, instead of trying to deny it or fight it. So there I was; my year was up. But what I (terrifyingly) found myself writing in my journal was, “I don’t want to write.” Something inside of me still wasn’t ready.

So I gritted my teeth and made myself practice what I had been learning all those years. I listened to myself, and I waited. I ended up waiting eleven more months. It wasn’t until November 2022 that I felt a shift. After all the fussing and fidgeting—all the incessant internal questions about what story I might write or how I would fit a daily writing practice back into my schedule—suddenly, I was just ready. I didn’t choose the story; I just knew what I wanted to write. I didn’t choose the time; I just sat down and started. In some ways, it felt baffling. Certainly (and so very fittingly), I couldn’t take any credit for ending my writer’s block. It felt blissfully anticlimactic.

What I learned—or rather, what was shown to me—was that creativity, like life itself, is not something I control, however much I may fool myself into believing it is so. The best I can do is get out of my own way, learn to listen, and be prepared to move when (and only when) the moment is upon me. More than that, it is a lesson to me that the season of waiting is just as important and valuable as the season of doing. The right moment will never come if we cannot wait for it.

5. Learning to “Fill the Well” Is a Skill All Its Own

During those four years of writer’s block, I spoke often of needing to “fill the well” of depleted creativity. What did I even mean by that? It’s still a difficult concept to quantify. I knew I was burned out and drained and that I seemed to have no inspiration. More than that, I seemed to have no true desire for inspiration. I didn’t want to write (even though I did—it’s complicated, as I’m sure others with writer’s block can corroborate).

I had to learn what it meant to fill my well. One lesson was that burnout isn’t caused so much by depletion as it is by overload. One of my first tasks was unloading myself—getting rid of all the rubble I had let clog up my creative well. I also had to take a break from producing. Instead of talk, talk, talking all the time (literally and metaphorically), I had to start listening. The talking (the writing, the storytelling, the doing) represented an emptying of the well, in which I was literally giving away pieces of myself, however productively. Instead, I had to learn to shut my mouth and open my ears—to take in.

This meant reading and learning, but it also meant simply being. It meant listening to sounds, but it also meant listening to silence. It meant learning to be okay with the fact that I wasn’t always receiving incoming messages from my imagination—until slowly, out of the stillness, I began to catch flickers of the old magic.

In the modern society in which I grew up, we were taught to empty our wells. We were rarely taught how to fill them. Learning how to receive ideas and inspiration and to keep them, to hold them in reserve and to let them root and grow, instead of immediately packaging them, speaking them, and turning them to our advantage—this is a skill all its own. It is an art I knew instinctively as a child. I lost it as I grew older, until finally it was a gift given back to me my writer’s block.

6. Your Writer’s Block Probably Won’t Disappear All on Its Own

Although learning to wait and be is often a crucial part of overcoming deep writer’s block, this is not to say writer’s block will necessarily disappear on its own. It is a block after all. Something has dammed the river of your creative flow, and it will probably need to be discovered and excavated. Sometimes, in the case of plot block, this inadvertent dam is simply an illogical or poorly conceived story trope that needs to be tweaked. But in the case of a more serious creative block, you may find yourself excavating deep into your own psyche and soul.

Something I learned when researching sciatica is that you need to “look upstream” for the problem. Even if you’re feeling the pain in your leg, the source is likely to be much higher up (in your butt or back in this example). Same goes for writer’s block. If you’re lucky, you may only have to paddle back upstream a short ways—perhaps just a few hours back to that ambiguous comment someone left that gave you a feeling of unease about your competence as a writer. But you may also have to paddle deep into the jungles, into the heart of your own darkness. Like me, you may even find yourself needing to spend years healing, learning, and growing.

If this is so, then I can promise you these will not be wasted years. Indeed, they may well turn out to be the most creative years of your life—and the stories you return with will be worth the wait.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Do you have any personal experience with writer’s block? Tell us in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. I find I am too much of a coward. I went to sign up to your buddy scheme and found all the entries from people with years of experience or who are self-starters. I find I need a rocket up my posterior just to write brief blog items once in a while. However I do enjoy following this blog – it is very inspirational – particularly when you document the struggles you have been through for your art.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That doesn’t mean you’re coward. It might just mean sharing your work with others isn’t a good fit right now. I’m not much for sharing my writing when it’s in process myself. I don’t like input during the actual writing of the story. I never share until the book is finished and polished. That said, when I *do* share, I have benefitted immensely, especially in the early years, from the feedback I’ve received. But you have to know what your goals are and when the timing is right. Otherwise, sharing your writing can be counter-productive. It’s good to realize that!

  2. Thank you for sharing this and for dividing plot block from writer’s block. I get plot block with every book and have to reassess aspects of the story. It usually lasts a few days to a few weeks.

    I faced a year of writer’s block after my son moved out. I fought depression a number of times during my years of writing but always worked through it. This was different. I sank into a deep trough and couldn’t write. I felt like I was no longer a parent and no longer a writer. For me, it took admitting I had a mental health problem that I had tried to bury for years and getting medical help.

    Like you, my writing life didn’t return all at once, and I filled the time growing closer to my husband and various other things. When I started writing again, I knew more about myself and what I wanted to write.

    There’s an African proverb that goes something like “the blessing lies close to the wound.”

    • Colleen F Janik says

      Sionnach, I love that African proverb! Thank you. I’m going to put that one on my wall. It won’t be cross-stitched, but it will be up there.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, for years, I didn’t even really consider plot block to be writer’s block–because I got it all the time and knew it was just part of the process. But life block is a whole ‘nother thing. Love that proverb as well!

      • Katie I’ve been following you since you were still fairly new and publishing. You’ve come a long ways. I have always loved your insights and lessons. I too have experienced writers and life block. I still struggle with creativity among life’s never ending time killing challenges. Thank you for this article. Glad your writing again. Cheers!

  3. Eric Troyer says

    Glad you got back in it! Sounds like you’ve learned a lot over the past few years. I was a newspaper reporter for several years. I used to joke then that writer’s block was cured by two possible words: “You’re fired.” And that did help to a degree. Being forced to write for a job does help you find ways around certain types of writer’s block. (As an intern, I once spent 2-3 hours trying to figure out the lead graf of a feature story. From that, I learned that if they lead doesn’t come right away, write the rest of the story first.)

    Anyway, I’ve since learned that the mind is highly complex and sometimes unpredictable. “You’re fired” is no guarantee for overcoming writer’s block. Sometimes, as you have done, you have to dig deeper.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Deadlines can be a writer’s best friend! But as you say, there are times when the problem isn’t just lack of motivation or discipline. Cracking the whip gets us nowhere in those times. That, in itself, can be a hard lesson to learn!

  4. Patience plays well with writers block, like it’s teaching Creativity new steps to dazzle us once we start up again. I had a similar issue and did my best to stay calm and not let myself get worked up about not being able to create. I watched tv and celebrated whatever little bits came out during Creativity’s hiatus. It was about a year before something came flooding back. The second time, it’s been about 2. I’ve edited the stories I had, confirming that that IS part of being a writer, that lazy days daydreaming and putting nothing on paper IS part of it, encouraging other writers, being present in a situation and allowing myself to feel – for myself and not for writing purposes. It comes back. Slowly, sometimes, but it comes back. Maybe Creativity needs a break from US, and the best dance partner we can be, is sitting out for a few songs and watching the brilliance of others’ dance.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Maybe Creativity needs a break from US, and the best dance partner we can be, is sitting out for a few songs and watching the brilliance of others’ dance.”

      Ah, I love this so much!

  5. Thank you for sharing this. This was a courageous article – I’m always impressed by your fearlessness in taking on serious questions about the writing life. Whenever this comes up, I find myself wondering why I have never experienced writer’s block, and I’ve been pecking away at it for around 20 years now. There have been days when I’ve run out of time, but I’ve never sat down to write a story and not been able to coax one out. I think its because “being a writer” is a small part of my identity. Writing is probably at best the fourth priority in my life. This is why I run out of time, but it also reduces the pressure on me to write. Truthfully, the bear I wrestle with is that writing is a little selfish for me. I put family, job and church/community all above writing. Frankly, I think that’s healthy. I also know that not everyone has all the gifts I’ve been given in my life. Gifts that keep writing in perspective, while demanding my time.
    By my own words I’ve stated that I’m unqualified to offer advise on getting away from writer’s block, but I have to wonder if community service isn’t a possible aid. We’re never going to run out of people to help, and that type of work warms your heart. You also meet people and have experiences that go into your writer’s treasure chest.

  6. I am currently blocked. I wrote 12 books that I self published. Got decent reviews from a few readers. I didn’t make back what I spent on editors and covers and let that, plus my unwillingness to advertise, put me on pause. Then Covid came and shook the world. The simple clean romances I wrote seemed trite, but I knew “how” to write them – with all the pacing and tropes. So I, like you said, stopped enjoying the 2 stories I had started and then lost interest in other people’s stories.
    After reading your post, I realized my avoidance is more about not wanting to learn a new genre than anything else. Thanks for your honesty.
    P.S. I love Julia Cameron’s work. Even taught a class on it once. But I still forget to fill my well at times. I let “life” get in my way.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Very sorry to hear about your current block. From what I have seen these last few years, I think you’re far from alone in having your creativity affected by the events of 2020. That year was what I call a “shatterpoint.” Everything changed; nothing will ever be quite the same. So I think we are all having to re-learn how to relate to our creativity in this new paradigm.

  7. Thea T. Kelley says

    Wise and inspirational, Katie! I relate to the part about being results-oriented (I’m an INXJ the Myers Briggs system), and getting attached to “being a writer” rather than focusing on *writing*, i.e., the process. And noticing how much ego I bring to the process, which doesn’t help!

  8. I’ve definitely had “life block.” With my son’s diagnosis of a rare neurodegenerative disease and death last April after a 6 1/2 battle and my husband’s car accident and subsequent medical issues a little over 3 years ago, things have been rough! I found it hard to sit down and write. I couldn’t concentrate and felt like I needed to breathe in a brown paper bag. I still feel that ways sometimes but I’m beginning to feel that yearning to write again.

    Thank you so much for this timely article. I know my time has come!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I can only imagine how difficult that must all have been. It’s wonderful to hear you’re starting to feel a little bit of yearning to write again. I hope it returns for you in perfect timing and offers you much support and nurturing.

  9. I finally finished a novel that I started almost fifty years ago. I like to say now that I was pregnant for fifty years and have finally delivered a whopping big baby (116K).
    Sadly, my “block” was both external and internal. I vividly remember sitting on the floor some fifty years ago sobbing as I tore page after page from all my collected spiral bound notebooks and tearing those pages to shreds. This radical pagectomy was the result of a running battle with my controlling husband who was determined to make me believe that by taking the time to write, I was neglecting both him and my new-born baby.
    Looking back on that experience, I think my husband was gas-lighting me and the only way I could protect myself was by destroying the physical evidence. I still “wrote” but it was all internal as I built and lived out stories in my mind. Unfortunately, the safest time for me to do that was at night, when I should have been sleeping. And that developed into a lifelong battle with insomnia.
    When I finally wised up and ditched the husband, I had to turn my attention to earning a living and supporting my two children. Now they’re grown, I’m retired, and finally I have time to write.

    • Colleen F Janik says

      Sara Dillinger, I sure understand about husbands lack of support in our writing, especially when there are also children involved. Many of them don’t see it as being profitable or productive. I’m so glad that you finally are able to write to your heart’s content and the world will at long last be able to read what you’ve been saving for us.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Very sorry to hear you had to endure such challenging circumstances. But the light of your spirit shining out fifty years later, unbroken, is inspiring!

  10. Thanks for the piece on writers’ block, Katie, which I have never experienced, but which I will read shortly. I sympathize and hope things will go well now. You probably know this idea (not a trick!). When you finish writing for the day, complete (or NOT!) the next sentence that can act as a prompt . The next day, return to the MS and you may be astonished at how easily the writing begins. I’m not saying it will be a great sentence but it will get you back swiftly to where you left off. (The website below is my nonfiction site. The fiction site is under reconstruction.)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes! I’ve done that many times. Sometimes it’s very helpful. Other times, I forget what I was going to say. 😉

  11. S.J. HopKirk says

    Woo hoo !! Glad you got to WRITE this and also share such an incredible list of notes. While you “were” already amazing – coming out of this even more amazing – is simply amazing! Caring for the child inside of us – the natural creator, question asker, fearless explorer…that’s something hard to hold onto in almost every aspect of our various cultures as it is…glad to be here with you and the word players.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks, S.J.! It’s been quite a journey–often difficult, but also ultimately full of so many treasures.

  12. Thank you for such timely and wise words. Stuck with editing and learning the indie road, preparing for publishing two books, I’m suffering overload. I love what you write about connecting with myself, my relationship with me. Very happy for you to be out of your block. Wish you a deliciously creative 2023.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I didn’t talk about it too much in this post, but burnout played a significant role in what eventually became writer’s block. Once your books are published (congrats!), I hope you’re able to take enough time to rest and rejuvenate.

  13. Dear KM,
    Don’t be so hard on yourself. Let the words flow out of your arm (or fingers). After all, both are an extension of your mind. And if nothing is flowing out maybe it’s because you’ve been writing for some time, and your well of ideas needs to replenish itself. From this post alone it looks like you have a tendency to analyze thing. Sometimes if you over-analyze things it makes matters worse. Relax, do something you’ve never done before, and try to enjoy it. Writing about not writing *is* writing. Looking at your entire body of work, even the stuff that didn’t get published. You’ve entertained and taught more people in your short life-span, than a lot of people do in an entire lifetime. And when the words don’t flow out as they should, consider it might this way on purpose, that something is trying to tell you “fix me”, and read this post. Because of all the things you’ve written, I consider this post the most important.


    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks for the kind words. And I’m happy to report, as I talk about in the post, that I am writing once again.

  14. I think that “life block” is the ultimate source of the drying up of the well of creativity that makes fiction writers able to put compelling stories down on paper.

    Yes, we can get stuck on the plot (and I have personally abandoned a few projects because of this–not because I was ‘blocked’ in terms of plot but because the original premise and hence the story’s arc was flawed from the word go. I should have been more diligent in thinking through (some might say ‘plotting’) the story before I started tapping on the keys. But, hey, enthusiasm for one’s latest creative brainwave just takes over…

    The French have a great quotation about success. “Reculler pour mieux sauter.” which roughly translated means, pull back to achieve success (or to overcome obstacles).

    As you rightly say, you need strategies for overcoming blocks. One is simply to keep on pushing, and one can get past these in some way.

    Another is to switch to something else pro tem until the initial block dissolves or a solution appears.

    Finding the source of the block is an interesting idea, but can be elusive. I think that accepting one’s lack of creativity / writing is critical to overcoming it.

    My writing “speed” has dropped to a crawl of late. While I managed a first draft in 8-9 weeks, this currently seems an impossible task. So, a major block and one that is frustrating. I can therefore fully empathise with your own struggles here. Maybe I should take a sabbatical like you did; but creative writing is a part-time activity and I’m not under pressure to produce for economic reasons, so I have the luxury of taking the slow road. If writing is your crust, you don’t have such a luxury unless the dollars are rolling in. But then, maybe that is the problem?

    May I say here that I admire your courage and honesty in writing (yes!) about your own struggles with creative writing block. It is a huge help to others–and I count myself foremost in that category.

    I enjoy these weekly posts and the thoughts they provoke. So, thank you for this and all your other posts over the years.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      For me, choosing to take a conscious sabbatical from my fiction was a huge decision. It took me a long time to be certain it was the right choice, but ultimately I just “knew.” And my knowing turned out to be right, even though the sabbatical ended up lasting longer than I thought it would. I hope you find your way back to your own writing in exactly the right timing.

      • Hi,

        Thanks for your thoughts on this. My take is that we are at times very fruitful yet at others, we need to rest and recuperate to re-energise our creativity. All artists do this in fact, have prolific periods and periods of drought.

        For my part, I am reluctant to stop scribbling as I fear I may never go back. But the idea of taking an organised break is a very good one and I haven’t definitely ruled it out if my current malaise continues.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          ” I am reluctant to stop scribbling as I fear I may never go back.”

          This was a great fear for me as well in deciding whether or not to *consciously* take a writing break. I already wasn’t writing, so nothing changed except my mindset. But making that jump was very scary and required a lot of trust and surrender.

  15. Excellent article. As a former licensed mental health counselor I can tell you how difficult it is for each of us to dig deeper inside ourselves to find the answers we need. This requires courage, honesty and a willingness to grow and it has amazing results. Thanks for sharing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It is. I have come to believe it is perhaps the most important work any of us can do–and all the more important for those of us who are aware of it and willing to do, because not everyone is.

  16. Thank you

  17. Glad to hear you’ve slain the dragon of doubt and fear. And having done it once you can write knowing you can do it again.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Exactly! Although I also know that just as every story is its own adventure, so too will be whatever writing challenge emerges next.

  18. Colleen F Janik says

    Thank you for the wonderful, thought provoking post. I especially like point #3. That gives us all a lot to think about and work on even when we’re not dealing with a full blown case of writer’s block.
    Fortunately the only time I’ve actually dealt with that issue was years ago when, strangely enough, things in my world were too easy and perfect and I was sadly unaware of the pain and conflict in the world around me.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s interesting. I do think sometimes angst can drive our creativity, since creativity can be an outlet for processing and integrating those feelings. When all is well, we don’t always feel the same need for that.

  19. Currently in a season of writer’s block, although not completely. What’s most helpful is celebrating the small steps of progress: little quarterly work-for-hire assignments after 20 years in educational publishing (writing as a day job). Many books partially written sitting around, and the thought of which to tackle first can paralyze creativity into doing nothing. Plot block (how to make current WIP story compelling) and Life block (recent death in the family and ongoing things that will take time away from writing) both at work, but not insurmountable. I did spend the past two years blogging about listening, but am not sure I’ve fully learned this valuable practice yet. Thanks for reminder to balance “filling the well” with writing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I hear you. When you’re hit with a hundred different things, even if some of them are comparatively small, that can be so energy-intensive. One thing I had to realize was that one of the reasons I wasn’t motivated to write like I had in years past was that so much of my emotional, mental, and creative energy was being taken up just in processing the events of my life. Not until things calmed down did I finally have the time and energy to bring something back to my creative work.

  20. Krista M Lambert says

    This post was so comforting to me. I’ve been in a block for the past 2 years and it’s been difficult to say the least. Like you I am questioning my identity. I found a lot of encouragement here, so thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Very sorry to hear about your block. But very glad you resonated with the post and found it helpful!

  21. What an eye-opening post. I’ve never seen anyone describe writer’s block this way.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Well, I wouldn’t have described it this way either a few years ago. 😉 Experience is the great teacher. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  22. Hi Katie,
    Thank you for sharing with us your story from the last four years.
    I once read a book titled “On Writers Block” by Victoria Nelson.
    Each of the fourteen chapters presents a potential difficulty that my arise in a writer’s life and how it leads to writer’s block in the unconscious.
    I wanted to pass along the title to you and your readers.

  23. 3 and 4 are ones I wish the writing world talked about more. It radically changes the whole idea of writer’s block. The way we talk about it, for the most part, doesn’t reflect reality for most writers. None of the discussions I’ve seen about it have in any way included my reality, or the reality of my writer/author friends. That doesn’t help anyone in the long run.

    As for #5, it’s something I’ve always jealously guarded. I deal with multiple chronic illnesses and learned at an early age to guard my energy levels, my time, and most importantly my sleep. I see so many writers sacrificing these three things for the sake of a career and all it gets them is epic burnout in every aspect of life. I’m from a long line of seamstresses and crafters on both sides of my family and started learning needle arts when I was six. Complicated cross stitch is how I relax and let my brain just be in the moment. It’s an almost meditative process too, with soothing rhythmic movements. As I’ve been on my journey through my own block and reevaluating who I am as a writer, my stitching time has become as precious to me as writing time. It helps me function.

    I see writers sacrificing hobbies and things they know refill their creativity in pursuit of money or fame. I know they’ll eventually crash so hard they may never rise again. The only way I can make my current published novels pay for themselves is to sacrifice all my hobby time and money on the altar of social media ads. I refuse to do it. Willingly cutting out such an important part of who I am will eventually show in my writing. I won’t be that author, even if it means I never make more than peanuts.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Wise words.

      Early on in my burnout, someone gifted me an adult coloring book full of patterns and a marker kit. I appreciated the gift, but inwardly kind of shook my head and thought, “Never using that.” But I picked it up at some point and couldn’t believe how well it grounded my energy. I was having a hard time sitting still and concentrating long enough to even read, so I was listening to audio books instead. I would listen while I colored and found the same sort of meditative quality you describe here.

  24. When I get writer’s block or just feel uninterested in life in general, I just pretend the creative muse flew away with my project to work on it, and when she gets tired of it, she hands it back to me. Plus, I think brains just get bored and a block is a good time to explore something new, and that new stuff you learn will turn up in your writing. It’s actually kind of a plus, unless, of course, you depend on writing for your bread and butter!

  25. Malcolm Senersen says

    I enjoy reading your blogs very much, Katie, and rarely miss one – even if sometimes reading takes place a few weeks after being published on your site. This one was excellent, as usual, but I found myself wondering if you see a qualitative difference between writing fiction, and having writer’s block when writing fiction, and writing other material, for example non-fiction blogs, and having or not having writer’s block on that?
    It might be an incorrect perception, simply because you haven’t had any significant stoppage in the blog production (except for a couple of weeks fairly recently) so I assume that the writer’s block didn’t affect your blog writing? Any thoughts on why, if the assumption is correct? (Fiction v non-fiction perhaps? We don’t need to make up the novel world and characters to write non-fiction, we simply (!) write from our own direct knowledge and experience; does that make the difference?)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, the writer’s block I experienced was in relation to my fiction. For me, fiction and non-fiction come from different “places.” Although some non-fiction, such as this post, can be very personal, most of the non-fiction I write does not come from the same deep intuitive place as my fiction. It was that deep place that I had to re-learn how to relate to and create from.

  26. Whew! I needed this. I’ve been blocked for a couple of years now too, and I finally decided to just lean into it this year. (I suspect this is a wide and deep problem for many writers as the last few years have been…eventful.) I haven’t called my break an official “sabbatical,” but I have given myself permission to “not be a writer” for now.

    And likewise it’s not just a block on a story, it’s that deeper personal block. I think I’m completely overhauling what it means to be a human (much less a writer) and therefore what kind of stories I value and would like to produce someday. I’m finding that my ideas are vastly different than they were when I was younger, which of course makes sense. I’ve grown and evolved substantially as a person, why wouldn’t my story taste also change drastically? I had to leave the writing rut entirely to sort all of that out.

    I really like how you reframed it. Not a Writer, but someone who sometimes writes. That’s where I am at.

    The one difficult thing is when well-meaning family and friends ask how the writing is going. I still haven’t figured out how to navigate that conversation gracefully!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “And likewise it’s not just a block on a story, it’s that deeper personal block. I think I’m completely overhauling what it means to be a human (much less a writer) and therefore what kind of stories I value and would like to produce someday. I’m finding that my ideas are vastly different than they were when I was younger, which of course makes sense. I’ve grown and evolved substantially as a person, why wouldn’t my story taste also change drastically? I had to leave the writing rut entirely to sort all of that out.”

      This. Just this. 🙂

  27. Karen Barnes says

    Thank you, Katie, for this amazing post. Reading it made me cry as I recognised I had gone through something similar; I just couldn’t (or didn’t want to) name it.
    In mid-2020, I quit my job and moved countries, thinking it would be easy once I had time to do what I love, but it wasn’t the case. I found myself looking for excuses not to write – ok, there were a few thrust upon me. The pandemic was still wreaking havoc, and French admin is notoriously and famously bureaucratic! However, once all that was over and things settled down, I still struggled. I know now, too, that I also had plot block (thank you). I literally lost the plot. I felt so frustrated and started to question myself. Am I really a writer? Or am I just someone who sometimes writes and shouldn’t have given up the day job? I was offered a job here in France and was tempted. But I stuck to my guiding principles and waited, as I’m fortunate enough that I don’t need to earn money from writing (although I am aiming for the day someone likes it enough to want to publish it). I had to make a conscious effort to avoid distractions and get out of my own way. Then, something clicked. The plot started to fall into place. I was on a role and actually wanted to keep going. I think this must have been the point where (without realising it) I’d let Creativity take the lead instead of trying to force her out of bed every morning.
    By the end of 2022, I finally had a story that I liked and beta readers who liked it too. I still fear that once I’ve finished the edits and my MS is on submission I might have another ‘wobble’. That said, the joy of getting this far has given me confidence. As have your posts. Thank you. 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s wonderful! And kudos to you for listening to your gut/heart and waiting until the time was ripe.

  28. K. M. Thanks for writing all those articles about writing while you were bogged down in writer’s block. I found them interesting and helpful. While I seldom have writer’s block, I am sometimes guilty of pushing ahead with a plot that doesn’t make sense logically as my critique partners will say. I’m glad your well is filling up again. Happy writing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, well, every time I think I’ll run out of things to blog about, life teaches me something new. 😉

  29. I love to hear this encouraging news… And from a purely selfish perspective, I look forward to reading your next story!

  30. Christina D says

    Well look at that! I’ve read two blog posts in a row and mostly on time. 🙂

    One way I’m working on freeing my creativity while away traveling is to be ruthless in pruning away some things that just add needless stress – like a multitude of email subscriptions that seemed intrguing at the time, but became so overwhelming that I spend my morning deleting them all and reading none of them. It’s a bit hard, but unearthing my favorites (like this blog!) is great motivation. 🙂

    Now… the point about writer’s block sometimes occuring because we have outgrown something. I felt a primal resistance to that one. I’ve been giving myself time. But did I lose out on an earlier idea because of poor time management or life circumstances? Am I hiding from growth I could have? I *like* the village, the familiar. I like adventure also… yet I find I desperately want to have them all at the same time, and to not leave anyone behind.

    Time to get back to clearing space… Space that I probably ought to fill with special times for self-discovery as well as learning to dance with creativity.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I hear you. One of the major themes of my thirties was dealing with regret and grief for all the things that “could have been” in my twenties. I still struggle with this sometimes, but I always come back to the conviction that a) there are no wrong choices and b) everything is meaningful in its own perfect timing. Had I done things differently earlier on, I would not have learned the lessons or been given the gifts that I was. I value all of those gifts tremendously and would not trade them for a different experience, however much my perfectionist brain insists that my life “should” have looked more like it does in the commercials.

  31. This article was really wonderful and came at just the right time for me. Feeling the creative well running dry isn’t fun, and knowing that it’s not just that I’m a talentless hack is encouraging. I might even use this article as a reason to give myself a break. So thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, be as kind to yourself as you can. 🙂 This is a profound thing you’re living through right now.

  32. I like the way you separated plot block from life block. While I’ve been simmering about why I haven’t produced more work by now, a larger (and wiser) part of me is taking the time to look at and understand deeper blocks. Your points are spot on. This article tells me I’m where I need to be. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  33. Thank you for this. As someone who also suffered a years-long writers block, the most hurtful thing to hear was people claiming that it didn’t exist. It’s good to have voices acknowledging that it does, along with offering support to get through it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I will admit that prior to my own experience, I tended to dismiss it as something that could be cured with a little bit of discipline and willpower. But deep blocks are just that… deep. And they can require deep work and time to overcome.

  34. Thank you for this episode it is exactly what I needed to hear right now. The past few years have been rough and while I had been working on revisions for contracted books. I can’t or more like don’t want to write new stuff. I’ve been so focused on getting an agent, book deals, etc for the past 12 years such that it became a part of my identity and now that my first book is out with the next 2 coming out this year. I’m like now what do I do? I seriously question if I’m a writer anymore since I’m not willing to put in the time.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The business of writing can be exhausting. It is so different from the introverted work of writing a novel. It is necessary and often unavoidable, but learning how to balance the two can be challenging for sure.

  35. It’s funny (not ha ha but strange/mystifying) how some things come into your life at the right moment in time. The time meant. Like now, your words. Thank you. Brilliantly written and eaten hungrily 😊

  36. Your statement, “I’m not a Writer, I’m someone who sometimes writes.” That landed. I mean, I am afraid of it, yet the part of you that needed to hear it, I have that too.

    Your story helps me understand why I don’t need to jump out a window, neither to escape a world even if it could never understand me (though the confusion wasn’t that dire), nor metaphorically in my writing, in the attempt to fly creatively.

    Knowing that I am more than my creative dreams gives me reason to understand. If I am “who sometimes writes” then I can be the one who sometimes leaves messages that nobody will receive. And if I am to soar–if I even can–then I can allow myself the dignity of taking off from solid ground.

    I am crying as I finish this. Thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally. Really focusing in on our own personal motivations for writing can be so helpful in moving past blocks–either in realizing we don’t have to do certain things we don’t want to (e.g., publish) or realizing that we want certain things badly enough to take risks.

  37. Andrew Park says

    Thanks for being willing to put yourself out there, and for your ability to analyze your own situation in a way that can be useful to others.

    I wouldn’t say I have writer’s block but I think I do have writer’s grind, as in I’m grinding slowly through the third draft of a novel which began as a flash of inspiration in (appropriately enough) a bookstore almost six years ago.

    Slow forward to the present day, and after two drafts and a professional manuscript evaluation, I’m working on draft number three. My self-imposed tasks are 1) reduce the wordcount by about 20–30,000 words, 2) flesh out certain characters, especially my POV character, who ought to be but isn’t always the protag, and 3) integrate a bunch of replotting and rearrangement into the story.

    I actually do have available time to write, but the writing itself is is going s-o-o-o-o s-l-o-o-o-w-w-l-y. Part of it is obsessing over sentence-level craft decisions. But part is also the nagging internal question of how much hard work can I put into this thing before I’m deeemed to have done enough or so sick of my characters that I just kill them off in an avalanche or soemthing.

    So, short story long: Writer’s Grind; is it like a writer’s blockette — i.e. not big enough to be full on writer’s block?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hah, “writer’s blockette.” I like that. I think there are *so many* parts of the writing process that are dreadfully boring and tedious. We need discipline to get through them, but we also have to learn ways to keep ourselves from burning out to getting *too* bored.

  38. A colleague once told me “A writer doesn’t procrastinate; a writer gathers life experience.” This felt (and still feels) like the worst possible advice someone could give me. I was certainly not gathering life experience by watching a Project Runway marathon last night! I was just procrastinating. But the premise does fit here. Being blocked is rough, but the life experience and personal insights we get during the block can be so valuable to our writing when we can get back to it. I’m sure your fiction will be all the richer for the lessons you learned these past five years. I certainly couldn’t have written the book I’m working on now without having done a lot of difficult and painful personal work before I started. Thanks for sharing your insights!

  39. This is great, I love that Jose Rivera quote. Also dividing block into plot block or a problem in the work and life block, personal problems diverting energy/disrupting creative flow. Will definitely share this. I think play as you say is such a vital part of creativity – and play includes the allowance of mistakes. That’s how we learn the most.

  40. “Life-block” is a real thing and I understand it better now that I’ve been making writing a regular practice. But the “feeding” of creativity comes in so many forms and requires constant attention. It’s like a growing baby. Warm milk used to be enough but just doesn’t cut it anymore. Now my hungry teenage-creativity requires a full course meal and someday maybe multiple courses. When starved not only can it be derailed by some of life’s minor problems, when things get harder it can come to a complete halt. Then we have to learn how to dance all over again. Thank you for this post, I love it!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “The “feeding” of creativity comes in so many forms and requires constant attention. It’s like a growing baby. Warm milk used to be enough but just doesn’t cut it anymore. Now my hungry teenage-creativity requires a full course meal and someday maybe multiple courses.”

      Such a great metaphor!

  41. To me this seems silly, though I can easily understand the reasons some become blocked. I; as a concious choice, once gave up writing in the nineties when my computer and back up crashed sending my almost complete novel into cyberspace. Three years of work gone. So, I decided, in my frustration, that I was never going to write again and at the time meant it. Even then I was composing novels in my head whilst not writing them. Everyone is, of course, different but I never understand writer’s block. For me, the whole thing is always so many ideas, so many stories, and so little time. I already have the ideas in my head for three lifetimes, but I am no Michael Moorcock I need time to write. Lol I keep trying to give ideas away to other writers and thankfully many accept them. Lol. I suppose I am the opposite, The ideas come easy, the writing also but where then do you take a stand on a book when so many other ideas are worming their way into your consciousness. A difficult decision. Great article. K.M.

  42. Hey, K.M.
    I’ve been having a plot block for about 8 months or so, on a book I’ve been working on for about 10 years (part of an earlier project that’s been going on for about 26 years now).
    After a frustrating morning, I just went to google and typed “Can Writer’s craft books help you overcome writer’s block?” and, to my great surprise, your article popped up.
    I am a longtime reader/viewer/listener of yours, and my book is in a very niche genre I know you’re a fan of, as well.
    I always wondered what happened to you, and assumed that life had just gotten in the way, or that you had given up, in frustration.
    Very good to know you are working to overcome your block and that you’re still in the game, although there’s no reason anyone has to keep writing if they don’t want to.
    Something around the end of my book isn’t working, but I just can’t figure it out for the life of me. If I just filmed it as a movie, it would work, but it sounds ridiculous/boring when written out in prose form. Unfortunately, I am very stubborn about shoehorning things in that shouldn’t work, but the “everything and the kitchen sink” adventure story is what I set out to do. Through time and massive effort, I have made a lot of things work that shouldn’t have, but I am stuck trying to make the absolute wackiest part fly.

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