Staring at Your Computer, Not Being Able to Write, Is Not Writer’s Block

We waste a lot of time trying to ‘find’ the motivation we have somehow apparently lost.


I knew exactly what I wanted to type. The ideas were somewhat jumbled in my head, but they were there. i knew the points I wanted to get across, at least. But what was in my head, I could not force my fingers to type out. It was frustrating. And I started to worry that all the ‘writer’s block’ bashing I had been doing had been all for nothing.

Then something happened.

I clicked away from that screen. Opened a new tab. I did exactly what you are not supposed to do: I jumped right into another task, writing a few paragraphs of a completely different project. I had no problems getting those paragraphs out onto the page. They came as easily as if I had not just spent five minutes trying to force myself to write something.

I saved that document, went back to my original project, and …. finished the entire thing. Without even pausing to fully comprehend what had just happened.

The problem was not me. It was not some invisible block in my brain preventing me from being creative for some unknown reason. All I needed was a few minutes away from the project that wasn’t coming together. I was still productive. Just through a different medium. Then I was able to go back and finish what I had attempted to start before, but hadn’t been able to finish at the time.

Over time we have somehow fallen for this misconception that being ‘blocked’ from doing a task means we have to drop everything and not come back until much, much later. Sometimes going for a walk or sitting still for a few minutes helps, and you’re supposed to take legitimate breaks about every hour, according to the productivity experts (of which I am not one). But not always.

We waste a lot of time trying to ‘find’ the motivation we have somehow apparently lost. Most of the time, I doubt ‘lack of motivation’ is the problem at all. When I first starting trying to write that piece, my head was not in it. I was thinking about something else I had to get done. Trying to write, and not being able to, frustrated me. Yet I knew that if I got up and started walking around my house, I would find something else to occupy me … and wouldn’t get back to work for the rest of the day. Which was, as you can probably guess, not an option.

When you are stuck, it is okay to move on to something else. It doesn’t mean you have to give up completely. Writer’s block is still a myth. There is no mental exercise, amount of time away from a screen or amount of showering that is going to suddenly inspire you. Your brain is trying to tell you that it needs to focus on something else for a few minutes – and it is okay if that something is a different assignment.

As always, the most important takeaway here is that, at some point, you get back to writing.

What do you do to help yourself regain your focus? Are you a loyal believer in the writer’s block phenomenon? I would love to hear your side of the argument.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

3 thoughts on “Staring at Your Computer, Not Being Able to Write, Is Not Writer’s Block

  1. Reblogged this on christianfictionwritersblog and commented:
    So, I can completely relate to what you have said. I do not see “writers block” as something I subscribe to, rather, I take small breaks from what I am doing to clear my thoughts.
    I already struggle with racing thoughts and a jarbled thought process, so, I have to force myself to focus anyway, but, when I just can’t focus, I find that doing exactly what you did will often help me to regain a level of focus on all projects I am working on.
    I build model cars/trucks. I will get through half of it and have to put it away for a while so I can come back to it with motivation, my writing is often the same way. I have days that I can write out several paragraphs, involving multiple levels of a chapter, but there are days where I find myself starting the next chapter, because I can’t get the ideas out of my head unless I do, then I can go back to the last one to complete it.
    Thank you for writing this, it shows me I am not alone in how I work.

    1. You are so welcome! Sometimes are minds are ‘on’ and sometimes they are ‘off’ – in the sense that it gets hard to focus, and when that happens, we have to go focus on something else for awhile. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get something done, as long as we are making slow progress, and the best progress we can at that.

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