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10 Tips to Overcoming Writers Block

So, you’ve just brewed a cup of coffee (or tea) and you sit down to your computer, boot it up and stare at a blank page for what seems like hours. This is a common problem for so many people, called ‘writer’s block’.

I’ve been known to suffer from it, really badly in the past, and it can feel like a huge smack in the face. You want to write, but you can’t. It’s devastating, but there are some simple tips that can help to overcome the accursed block.

These are the 10 things that I either do when I have a block or have set up to try to prevent a block

1) Get outside

You have to give yourself some time to get distracted and embrace your imagination. I find that going outside, even for 10 minutes, can help my mind to start roaring with ideas again. Sometimes you are too set on the writing and trying to get words onto paper, but you need to take time to live in order for those ideas to come.

“How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Go on a short walk, go to the movies or go on a date. The smallest things can ignite your mind and create the perfect scenario for the creativity to flow.

Listening to other people’s conversations, seeing the wind blowing the leaves on a tree or watching something interesting can create the perfect environment for your mind to start churning ideas.

Exercise is another important tool to utilize – I go outside and walk or run when I’m in a bad block and it helps to clear my mind and create the perfect environment for me to write when I get home.

2) Change Your Writing Tool

Although it sounds simple, changing your writing tool could really help with writer’s block. If you usually write on a word processor, try using google docs or shutting it down and using a pen and paper.

Simple changes can even help with writer’s block. Try changing the font or changing the colour of the text. You’d be surprised with how the simplest change could change everything for your writing.

3) Change Your Environment

Changing your environment is invaluable for curing a block. Get away from the desk, or wherever you do your writing, and go elsewhere. Go to the library or a park. Try writing in a coffee shop and see if that helps – or go to a different coffee shop if you already write at one.

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”

– Hilary Mantel

Changing your environment can really help with the day by day monotony of sitting down at your desk and writing. It can help your brain to feel new creative ideas and defeat the block.

4) Create Challenges

If you feel like you’re dragging your feet day after day it might be time to challenge yourself. Try setting a deadline to complete a certain amount of words. Or even try adding fun things into your writing to make it a challenge.

Challenge yourself to create a certain situation, introduce a new metaphor into your current chapter, think of an everyday item and write it into your novel. It’s amazing how much you can get done by setting challenges for yourself and trying to meet those challenges.

Writing prompts and exercises are amazing strategies to use to challenge yourself. If I am really stuck, I look at a writing prompt and then write to that – it’s a fun challenge that helps get the creative process moving.

5) Write Something Else

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”

– Charles Bukowski

It can be hard to write the same story every day. Sometimes you need to blow off some steam and write something else. Check out a writing prompt and write a new story to that, or scribble down some simple ideas.

Think of a tv show or game you love and try your hand at fanfiction or write a short story. Getting your mind off the current story at hand can help you when you go back to it – you might have new ideas or be able to write a whole heap at once!

6) Work on Your Characters or Map Out Your Novel

“Breaking through writer’s block is like thinking out of the box: Both require an ability to imagine a world outside your four walls or rearranging them to get a better view.”

– Susan J. McIntire

If you’re stuck, sometimes it helps to map out your characters or your novel. You need clearly defined characters for a novel, and sometimes using character development exercises can help to renew your creativity.

Try mapping out who your character is or think about how they would respond to different situations.

Mapping out your novel can also help with renewing your creativity. Work on a simple outline and map out what kind of trajectory your novel will take. If you map it out, you might find that your mind starts to figure out how to continue the story and overcome the block.

7) Eliminate Distractions

Distractions are so numerous in our day and age. Phones buzz, emails appear, and YouTube always has videos of funny cats to watch. It can be hard to stay focused with the numerous distractions around.

It’s hard sometimes to summon the willpower to stay focused. Sometimes you need to unplug from the internet and turn off your phone, focusing all your attention on the writing.

Ask your friends and family to not message you for a certain period of time or write at a time that they won’t distract you.

Sometimes you may need a little helping hand, and there are so many websites and applications now that will block sites and notifications and force you to just write.

8) Do Something Else

I said previously that getting outside was a great way to break writer’s block. However, you don’t always have to leave the house. Simply doing something else can help you to overcome the block.

Make a scrapbook, paint, mess around on social media or read a book. Do something else that stops you from thinking about the novel for a time. You need to give yourself time to get distracted and take a break from writing.

Pick a random movie on Netflix and watch it the whole way through. Talk to a friend on the phone or chat with your family members. Cook a meal or take a shower – the simplest activities will give your mind a break and time to rejuvenate.

9) Create a Routine

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

– Jack London

I am a big lover of routine. I set my alarm at a certain time every morning, I map out each of my days and I have a time block to write. I find you need to set habits in order to become as creative as possible.

Find a time that works for you, whether it be night like me, morning or even during the day. Find when your creativity is highest and set that as your writing time.

If you make writing a habit, you will eventually be successful with your writing. Writing takes practice and you need to ensure that you write each and every day in order to improve and continue writing.

“Discipline allows magic. To be a writer is to be the very best of assassins. You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.”

– Lili St. Crow

10) Just Write

It might sound simple, but it really is a fantastic way to break a block. You may be staring at a blank page for some time but remember this tip and just start writing. Whatever comes to your mind, write it down.

It can be hard to write through a block, but it works. If you have a muscle cramp, you stretch it. If your brain is cramping, you need to stretch it and just start writing. Put one word after another and just write.

“Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.”

– H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Is there anything you do to break writer's block?
author, Short Story, writing

At The End: A Short Story

It’s strange how quickly life seems to fly by. One moment you’re a child, innocent and playing in the dirt, and then suddenly you’re an adult with responsibilities and obligations. In the blink of an eye, you’re old, waiting for your grandchildren to visit you. It’s strange how in my final days my mind continually wanders to my mother.

I remember being little and having my heart broken for the first time. I was six and my crush had told me I wasn’t invited to his party. “Boys only,” he said. Something about cooties may have been mentioned. I was sobbing as you picked me up, unable to contain my feelings. I don’t know how you understood my words through the sobs, but you did. You took me straight for ice cream, telling me that little boys just don’t understand girls yet. You held me in your arms, and I fell asleep in your embrace. I felt so loved and warm. You were my tower, keeping me safe within your loving arms.

I remember being a teenager. Oh, how those teenage hormones run wild. I remember slamming doors and storming around the house like having pasta for dinner was the worst thing in the world. It was my favourite, and you cooked it because you knew it was. I was ungrateful and rude. The teenage mind is confusing, even to me years later. I was thankful for you always caring for me and cooking my favourites. I could see the pain in your eyes when I would scream “I hate you!” but you never retaliated. You just continued to surround me with love.

Years later my boyfriend asked you if he could marry me. I was never close with my father, so you were the obvious choice to ask. I remember you telling me, telling me to not let him know but you were so excited. You loved him and you were so happy for me. I knew you were sad to see me go, but you never showed it for a second. You loved me so much you wanted to see me soar on my own. To marry my love and start my own family.

You looked so proud as you saw me walk down the aisle. You tried to hide it, but I saw those tears. I had my grandfather walk me down, more of a father to me than my own. He wasn’t able to walk you down the aisle and he was ecstatic at walking me down. You were so happy to see that day. Happy for me and everyone else. You hugged me tighter than I have ever been hugged in my life on that day.

I remember your face when I told you I was pregnant. I tried to surprise you, but you saw straight through me. You were overjoyed, excited for this next chapter for me and you. A new dynamic was coming. You were going to be a mother and a grandmother.

The first time you laid eyes on my son I saw so much love and joy. Your little grandson was perfect. Healthy and happy. You held him with tears in your eyes. I remember you kissing his little head and then cuddling me. “Great job mama,” you whispered. Those words sunk into my heart and happy tears flooded the room.

Years later you were babysitting, keeping an eye on the little ones while I had to duck to some appointments. You loved every second of it, playing with them in the backyard, showing them how to collect eggs from the chickens and how to water the veggies right. When I got back, you told me I was a great mum. I never told you how much I appreciated hearing you say that, but it was a marvellous feeling.

I remember visiting you in hospital. You were still young, only in your 60s. You weren’t supposed to be leaving us yet. You were sick, so very sick. I hugged you so tightly and cried so hard. Losing my mum was never a thought on my radar, and now I was facing it head on. You told me to be strong and that you would always be looking over me. You told me you loved me, and that was the last thing I ever heard you say.

Mum, I never told you this… thank you. For everything. I’m one of the lucky ones who had an amazing, loving mother. I’ve missed you ever since you left this world. I can’t wait to see you on the other side.

author, writing

Submitting A Book For Publication

This feels absolutely surreal! I didn’t know if I was going to make my goal, but I did! It’s not exactly submitted for publication but it’s definitely a big step! I entered my novel into a novel competition, a huge one run by Allen & Unwin.

I don’t know how it will go, but I feel so much pride and joy over the fact that I finally edited my book to completion and was able to feel confident enough about it to send it in! It’s definitely intimidating, but so very worth it!

I won’t know about the results of the competition for quite a long time. I’m going to start cracking on a new book while waiting! Even if I don’t win the competition, I’m happy that I finished my novel and I can always send it in to publishing companies if I don’t win!

Finally finishing my novel is just so crazy. I was beginning to think it wouldn’t happen! But I was able to crack through everything and I got it done! I really needed a push to get it done, and once I got that push I smashed through the rest of the editing and here we are!

Fingers crossed I hear back and double fingers grossed that I win!!

author, poetry, writing

Her King: A Poem

The darkness was everywhere,
Hiding her from view.
No one could see her,
Not that she wanted them too.

She walked the lonely road alone,
Not a soul was around.
Her feet kicked the rubble,
That layered the ground.

The world she once knew,
Now lay at her feet.
Her evil plan,
Was now complete.

But this was not what she wanted,
It was all wrong.
He was meant to be here,
Ruling beside her as King.

author, mental health, writing

Life Update

Life has been hectic so far this year! Time goes past so fast when you are busy and throw a child into the mix! I’m not working at the moment, but I’ve found so many ways to fill my time. Not to mention its hard to do anything when you have a loud, energetic, moving 8 month old!

I’ve made a huge decision regarding my University studies in recent months. I decided to drop my psychology course and focus on my true passion of writing. I do love psychology and it is so interesting, but a future as a psychologist is not my priority anymore and I do really want to do what I’m passionate about!

On that note, I have enrolled in a Masters of Creative Writing. It’s going to be hard, but I really wanted to focus on my passions and by pursuing the Masters I can always work at a University as a teacher. I think it opens up several opportunities in the future, when my son is older, and I’m eager to follow these opportunities.

I definitely did enjoy psychology, but not as much as I love writing. A friend of mine recently said, essentially, ‘just do it’ and it references a lot of things in my life. I tend to stay back in fear of failure or being noticed (which, as an introvert, is not ideal). But I need to just move forward and do what I feel to do!

Writing is my passion. I have been blessed with a talent for writing so I’m going to pursue this passion fully. I’m looking forward to see where this degree leads me! I also get to study at home, since it’s fully online, and I am definitely happy to stay home with my little boy and study while he naps!

author, Short Story, writing

The End: A Short Story

Rachel squinted as she looked up at the sky. It was painfully bright. People bustled around her, panic in the air. She stood still amongst the chaos; she knew she was safe. She knew she wouldn’t be left behind on this dying planet. Her brown hair blew across her face in the hot breeze, and she glanced around the crowd, eyes focusing on what they were all here to see. A spaceship was several meters ahead of her. It looked like something out of the old sci-fi movies. Sleek and clean, but capable of leaving this galaxy behind.

A man stepped up on the podium and the crowd fell silent. He cleared his throat and started to speak, his voice echoing around the entire area. “This galaxy is dying,” he stated. “Soon the sun will die, and humanity will no longer survive on this planet. Space-Tech has spent the last several years perfecting our spaceships and we can now escape this planet and galaxy before the sun dies.”

The crowd murmured around Rachel, fear evident in their hushed tones. She wasn’t afraid though. She already knew what was happening.

The man cleared his throat again. “Unfortunately, we were only able to create one spaceship in the time given. This means that there is a limited amount of space for people.”

The hushed tones grew louder, panic setting in.

“We have devised a system to choose who will accompany us on this trip. A select few have been chosen due to abilities, such as scientific or agricultural knowledge.” Rachel smirked, her hand caressing the token in her pocket. “However, there are still 20 seats left on the ship.”

“Only 20?” yelled a woman in the crowd. “That’s not fair!”

People started screaming and crying. Rachel slowly backed away from the crowd, she could feel that chaos was about to reign. A man shoved several people to the ground as he raced up to the stage. “I’m not dying on this planet!” he yelled as he tried to climb the stage.

A single gunshot rang out and the man dropped to the ground, dead. A solider appeared beside the man, aiming his gun at the crowd. “If anyone tries to force their way up here, they will die long before the sun does.”

The crowd fell silent, too afraid to move. A sly grin appeared on the man’s face as the soldier disappeared behind him again. “As I was saying, we have devised a… competition of sorts. We have the brains to create a life away from this system but… unfortunately there is a large percentage of men on the ship. Thus, all men are disqualified from leaving this system.”

A loud roar echoed through the crowd but before anything could happen soldiers swooped through the crowd, pushing all the men out of the arena. Several wives and children followed as their husbands and fathers were forcibly escorted out of the area. Soon only a handful of women remained behind. More than twenty, but not by much.

The man at the front motioned to the soldiers and the young and elderly were quickly taken away. They only wanted younger women, fertile women. How were we going to populate a new planet without women after all? It felt barbaric. Rachel gently touched the ring on her left hand, immensely grateful that both her and her husband were among the first to be chosen. Both engineers, thank goodness.

Several men appeared on the stage beside the leader. The twenty men chose a woman in the small crowd, and those women were taken to the man and away from the area. Soon, the twenty women had been chosen and no places were left. The remaining women were pushed out of the area and large barricades swiftly appeared, placed well before the selection process took place. Rachel sighed as she glanced out of the clear barricades across the barren land. Those people would be left to die. The choice of who lives and dies left to one power-hungry man. She didn’t know if it was better to stay and die or leave with this lunatic, but she had no choice. She had to go with her husband, no matter the cost.

author, tips, writing

10 Tips to Writing at Home

“Everything you can imagine is real.”

Pablo Picasso

Most writers usually work at home, or in a corner of a café. It’s just what we do! It is, however, difficult to work from home when you have others around you or, like me, you have a 7 month old at home to take care of.

It can be difficult to write when you have distractions, such as a child (or children) or a partner who now has work from home options. It’s important to maintain motivation as you can and try to stay productive! Here’s my tips in 2022 to staying productive with numerous distractions at home!

1. Noise Cancelling Headphones

These are honestly the best thing I have invested in. I find it’s easier to focus and do my work more effectively when I can’t hear what’s going on around me. I usually put some music on, from my specific writing playlist, and focus on the task at hand. Not being able to hear things around me lets me get into the zone and get writing! Now, I don’t use these during the day when my husband is at work, or working, since I obviously need to be able to hear my child! However, they are really useful in the evenings to block out noises and focus.

2. Set Up Rules With Others at Home

“I love rules and I love following them, unless that rule is stupid.”

Anna Kendrick

You need to set time for work, and work is writing. You need to let others know when you’re disappearing to do your writing, and when you need to be left alone.

I needed to set this up with my husband and tell him when I was doing something that I needed to focus on. Working at home together than be tough when it comes to distractions, but it helps to set those boundaries and let others know when you need to step away and focus on work.

3. Have a Morning Routine

It is so important to have a healthy morning routine and stick to it. Not only does it help your mental health, it also helps your productivity. Try to get up around the same time each morning, get out of your pyjamas and eat a healthy breakfast. Include whatever you want into your morning routine, but try to stick to it each day and push yourself to have that healthy morning routine.

My morning routine is drastically different now than it was a year ago. Now, when I get up I have to entertain a child! I try to set the same kind of routine for each morning, even with my son. I get up around the same time, feed him, we both get changed and then it’s play time until he goes down for a nap. I have breakfast and exercise when he goes down to make sure I start the day right!

4. Exercise Every Day

Following on from the last sentence, I usually incorporate exercise into my morning routine, but sometimes I just go for a simple walk in the afternoon. Exercise really helps your mental health, and you need to take extra care of that mental health in the current world.

Whether it be a high intensity workout, going for a run, doing some yoga or going for a walk, it really helps to take the time out during the day to get your endorphins up and stretch your muscles. It helps your mind muscles to strengthen and improves your mental health, which positively impacts your writing ability.

5. Make a To-Do List Each Morning

I find this helps me to stay focused and know what I need to do each day. Since I do University and take care of a 7-month-old, I include things like time to study, when my classes are each day and when my boy needs to nap or eat. It helps to have this planned out in the morning and know what I need to do during the day. I can plan my writing around other things and it helps keep my focused towards my study goals and my writing goals.

6. Set Deadlines

“If you work on something a little bit every day, you end up with something that is massive.”

Kenneth Goldsmith

It really helps to set your own deadlines and try to stick to them. Things like ‘write 500 words a day’ or ‘finish 2 chapters this week’. It really helps to have deadlines to meet each day, or each week. It helps keep you focused and fighting towards your end goals.

7. Have a Dedicated Workspace

I never saw this as overly necessary pre-COVID, but once the pandemic hit and we were home bound, I came to the realisation that a dedicated workspace is so crucial. I still have my desk completely set up even as the world moves past COVID and it really helps me to focus.

It is important to take that specific time during the day to write and focus on work at a dedicated working spot. Occasionally I will change positions and write on the couch or outside, but I find the dedicated workspace works really well for me.

8. Minimise Distractions

“You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

Winston S. Churchill

It can be hard to stay focused at home with animals, family, food or social media. I can’t get much done when my son is awake, but even once he’s down for his nap I still get distracted and can often find myself having accomplished nothing by the time he is waking up!

It’s important to minimise distractions as you can, using things like social media lockouts and noise cancelling headphones. By doing this, you can stay focused on your task and be done sooner than you would while being distracted.

9. Have FUN

Don’t forget to have fun! Writing is always a fun activity, even if sometimes it’s tedious or exhausting. Try to have fun while writing or break up your writing day with some fun activities! Play a game, go for a walk, write something different! Just try to have fun because writing shouldn’t become a chore!

10. Be Kind to Yourself

You need to take a step back and remember that we’re all human and days can be hard! It’s okay to have off days and it’s okay to spend a day bludging and accomplishing nothing. The important thing is to not let this be every day, and to keep pushing on where you can. You feel bad, so take a day off. But get cracking back into the next day. Try to not push yourself too much, we’re going through a lot right now and it is okay to feel horrible and have a day, or a few, off. Just take it one step at a time!

“Believe in yourself, take on your challenges, dig deep within yourself to conquer fears. Never let anyone bring you down. You got to keep going.”

Chantal Sutherland
author, Short Story, writing

The Night: A Poem

The stars shine so bright
And the moon is high in the sky
On this cold winters night.

My room has a nightlight
Coming in from outside
The stars shine so bright.

I hold onto my blanket tight
Trying to stay warm
On this cold winters night.

The sky is a beautiful sight
And even when clouds roll in
The stars shine so bright.

My window looks white
As snow falls to the ground
On this cold winters night.

I can’t sleep tonight
I just stare out the window
The stars shine so bright
On this cold winters night.

author, mental health, pandemic, writing

Busy Month of April + COVID

“Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.

Saint Francis de Sales

It has been a busy month! April usually is busy every year, except when Easter falls in March. We’ve had COVID outbreaks here, my husband turned 30 and Easter happened! It has been a bit crazy.

Easter is always a great time of year, a time I really love. I love spending time with my family and Church throughout Easter. Unfortunately, Australia has been having some major COVID outbreaks and my family got hit. Right before Easter.

I was hit first, followed by my little boy and then by my husband. It was a rough week. Australia still has quarantine laws so we had to quarantine for a week after the positive test. Not that that was a bother considering how sick we were. The only frustrating thing has been missing out on family gatherings and Church.

My little boy ended up coming down with COVID too. He was hit hard and ended up in hospital for a while, which was terrifying. Thankfully he is all recovered now and doesn’t seem any worse for wear!

I’m glad that we’re through COVID now. We’re both still feeling some lingering symptoms, like a persistent cough and fatigue, but the worst is long gone. I’m looking forward to catching up with family now for belated Easter celebrations and working on my writing once again! It wasn’t happening while the fam was sick, and I’m glad I’m feeling well enough now to get back on it!

author, poetry, writing

Starlight: A Poem

It is very quiet this night
Too quiet for me.
There are no people in sight
No one that I can see.

I usually enjoy the stillness
I find peace in the calm.
But today silence means illness
Disease has come to our farm.

I’m too afraid to leave my room
Afraid of what I’ll find.
In the morning, chaos will resume
But for now, I’m safe inside my mind.

It is very quiet this night
In the glow of the starlight.