What’s Really Happening When You Think You’re ‘Running Out of Ideas’

I’ve always said Writer’s Block doesn’t exist. It doesn’t. But there’s an explanation for those moments you feel like your brain just isn’t working right.

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It’s happened to very single one of us at least a dozen times.

You’re sitting in front of your computer, with all the time and motivation and energy in the world to write. But no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to come up with anything you actually want to work on.

The ideas just won’t come.

The words refuse to come out of hiding.

Have you run out of ideas? Is this the end of the writing life as you know it?

Should you even keep trying?

Suddenly, you don’t feel like writing anymore. Not because you don’t want to, but because the fact that you can’t come up with one simple idea has brought you down to a place you know you’re going to have a hard time crawling out of.

Call it what you want. But it happens. And it’s one of the most common reasons brand-new writers quit before their stories have a chance to be enjoyed.

I’ve always said Writer’s Block doesn’t exist. It doesn’t — as an excuse for not writing when you “don’t feel like it.” But there’s an explanation for those moments you feel like your brain just isn’t working right.

If you haven’t guessed already, you’re not really “running out of ideas” when you feel stuck or blocked. There’s something much simpler — and far less terrifying — going on.

The truth: You’re probably just having “a day.”

Or a week. Or a month. Whatever fits your particular circumstance.

Maybe you’ve been working too hard lately, and you’re just feeling burned out.

Maybe you’re dealing with some personal stuff, and there’s just not enough room for “extras.”

Hey, maybe you’re just trying to decide if this whole writing thing is even YOUR thing. That’s OK.

It’s all OK.

Because life happens, things fall apart, stuff goes wrong, everyone goes through valleys, and coming up with things to write about can’t always be your top priority. It doesn’t have to be. A writer isn’t a writer because they spend every waking moment on their craft.

A writer tries. They do their best. They persist when things get tough and pick themselves back up when they crash.

These things have nothing to do with your abilities as a writer. There might be things hindering your progress or performance, but they don’t mean you’re somehow “failing” or that you’re being lazy. Writing is hard. Sometimes, your brain is just too tired to exert the energy required to come up with new ideas — especially when you’re sitting around begging it to do just that.

You’re not a bad writer because you’re having a bad day. (Week. Month. Year.)

You’re going to get through this. Just when you think you should give up, inspiration is going to strike. And you’re going to write something amazing.

I promise.

Check out these posts if you're a writer who's feeling stuck.

Changing Up Your Writing Routine Could Solve Your Biggest Creative Problem

11 Common Reasons Writers Quit

This Is Why You're Stuck In a Rut

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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14 thoughts on “What’s Really Happening When You Think You’re ‘Running Out of Ideas’

  1. Meg, I once surprised myself by just showing up to the blank page without “the ideas.” Even though I didn’t write my best work I wrote something. I now like showing up to the blank page and just wait a little bit for those words that want to be written.

    1. I follow the same strategy. But those new to this can’t always do this unfortunately. It takes time to learn. In the meantime some may need encouragement like this to keep going.

  2. Thanks for the words of encouragement. No ideas in my head for the past two weeks now. I get disturbed when it has to do with my blog site because regular visitors must have certain level of quality content to read and its hard to achieve this when ideas hide. So, what I do normally is never stress myself much but wait for the ideas to come back. Giving up is not an option for any gifted writer because when the ideas come back you’re forced to keep writing.

    1. This is such a great mindset to have! Especially since blogging especially makes it frustrating when you’re trying to go and create content consistently. I’m so glad you’ve found something that works for you and that you’re learning to stress less. That’s something many writers don’t learn until later — or they never do.

  3. Great post – everyone needs a little encouragement. Isn’t it funny how, even with things that are not writing, but things we have to do but don’t know how to accomplish them, that when we step away for a bit, the ideas or solutions pop up? And then everything is clear. Patience and acceptance, right?

  4. ..there are times, specially when I’m doing house chores – ideas come pouring in! But at the end of the day, when I sit in front of my laptop – boom! A writer’s block and a blinking cursor is all that I’ve got.. What I do lately is, when an idea comes to mind – I have to write it down on a notepad or preferably my journal (even, if it’s just one word 😂) or type it onto my cellphone. So when I write, I read my journal first; then that word(s) trigger my memory – just so, I won’t end up with a blank space and a blinking cursor. 😉

    “A writer tries. They do their best. They persist when things get tough and pick themselves back up when they crash.”

    Thank you for inspiring me thru your blog, to focus and continue writing. 😘

    1. And thank YOU for reading and sharing your thoughts with me. :) This is such a great strategy! I’m so glad you’ve found a method that works for you. Write on!

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