How to Beat Writer’s Block

Ranked #1,444 in Books, Poetry & Writing, #48,891 overall

This book uses the latest brain research to create effective practices writers can use to get past their writing resistance. It addresses not only the stereotypical writers block but all kinds of resistance to writing.

As I pored through Around the Writer’s Block at my local bookstore, a couple of things the author said resonated with me so powerfully that I found myself wanting to underline them so that I could easily find those passages again. That was my first clue that this book is a keeper.

Bane illustrates her findings with actual experiences of dozens of working writers who have used her techniques successfully. These stories convince me that Bane’s methods work, but more importantly, they help me to feel more like a normal writer rather than a possibly hopeless wannabe writer. She includes example after example of writers who struggle to get themselves to do the thing that is most important to them. And the stories show that, with Bane’s suggestions, they are able to achieve a consistent level of productivity.

Here is a synopsis of her three-stage process for getting the writing done:

1) Process time – this is 15 or more minutes per day where you do something that gets your creative juices flowing but doesn’t lead to any expected outcome. This phase could include journaling, collage-making, knitting, cooking, art museums, gardening, dancing, etc. You be the judge. She summarizes the effects of process time, “Process reminds us what we knew when we were kids — that’s it’s easy to create when you stop worrying about what you’re doing and just let the doing follow your being.”

Ironically, Bane observes that most writers are extremely resistant to actually implementing this step. It seems too indulgent and trivial to actually help their writing. However, experience shows that creatives who are overly focused on producing completed work without the uninhibited freedom of process time often end up stuck and stale in their writing.

2) Product Time – This is a commitment of no more than 15 minutes (4 – 6 times per week) where you commit your attention and energy towards a specific piece of work. Product time can include research, interviews, thinking about a project and writing. But it is work that is clearly related to a particular product or outcome.

Bane explains that making the time commitment deliberately short decreases the likelihood that you will start thinking, ”I am not ready to write for 30 minutes or an hour” or “I need to do more research.” By setting a very small commitment, the part of our brain that is easily threatened by a daunting task is less likely to be aroused. We don’t expect ourselves to write the great American novel in 15 minutes, so our paralyzing perfectionism recedes a little.

3) Self-care Time – Bane reminds us of the reason why airline stewards tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before you help a child or someone else. Only after you take care of yourself are you able to help someone else. Likewise, only when you take care of your whole being, body, mind and spirit, will you be in shape to maintain good writing habits.

This book offers more advice about the importance of recording your habits and rewarding yourself for keeping your commitments. There is lots of practical wisdom to help writers get unstuck.

I have already underlined numerous passages and I know I will be picking up this book again and again when I need to overcome inertia.

Author Rosanne Bane shares stats about the brain's capacity to learn new habits even as we age. Skip the 5 minute introduction....and even some of Roseanne's intro remarks. The juicy stuff starts around..20:00 minutes in.

What tips and techniques do you use to write regularly?

  Show the poll results

One of the first passages I underlined, "The highest creativity occurs when we discover the need for a creative response ourselves and choose to contribute independent of any possible external constraints."

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Comments

What solutions have you found to keep your writing flowing?

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  • ottoblotto Jun 11, 2014 @ 8:00 pm
    It's a discipline that's hard sometimes.
  • tribesearcher May 22, 2014 @ 7:11 pm
    My solution is to put on some energetic music, sing along with it, prior to that drink lots of water (1 liter at least) in a period of half an hour and then just start. I make sure I write in a space i which the temperaturen is noot higher than 19 degens Celsius. great temperaturen for the mind. I always write without looking at the screen eagerly watching the words appear on it. I just look on the keyboard, pushing the keys. After I emptied my brain, I start editing and adjusting. For me, it always works. Oh, last remark. It also helpes me the say out loud my Statement including; My Life Purpose, My Plan to realize my desires, My four words on how to behave every day. I do this in the morning, evening and before I go to bed I have a conversation with God evaluating the Day. Through this I stimulatie my subconscious mind and creative imagination. I hope this helps. Keep up the good work. You're awesome. (by the way; you can also see God as a manifestation of an universal force guiding and supporting you)
  • holisticwriter May 23, 2014 @ 7:49 am
    Sounds like you have a lot of routines already in place. Many writers say having pre-writing routines is helpful.
  • Body_Hair_Removal_for_Men May 19, 2014 @ 3:50 pm
    A writers block is very frustrating to suffer from.
  • holisticwriter May 19, 2014 @ 4:39 pm
    Yes. But there are a lot of great tools out there. We can learn from one another's experiences. I imagine in decades past, writers felt mostly isolated in their writer's block. Now you can look for help on writing blogs or Amazon!
  • Arachnea May 11, 2014 @ 6:30 pm
    Excellent lens. Writer's block is such a tricky little fellow and it comes in multiple forms.
  • holisticwriter May 11, 2014 @ 8:27 pm
    Tricky for sure. But with a little observation, we can often outwit it. Thanks for popping in!
  • JaguarJulie May 10, 2014 @ 10:11 am
    You know, I don't think I've ever suffered from "writer's block" but perhaps more of exhaustion. But what is interesting, when I was working in my professional marketing career, I often found that I wrote very creatively when I was dead-tired.
  • holisticwriter May 10, 2014 @ 10:24 am
    Interesting, JaguarJulie. I find it is easier to write when I am doing something I am excited about....and when I am the only editor :-) I often find that writing before bed makes me ready to drop off to sleep quickly. It's like writing eats up my excess mental energy and then I can just collapse.
  • Kittycheer Apr 25, 2014 @ 12:10 pm
    Very helpful suggestions here. I am totally guilty of expecting a "Best Seller" when I sit down to write. When I just let the creative juices flow, I fight the judgment about the result rather than just calling it process time. I'll look into this book.
  • Colin323 Apr 20, 2014 @ 10:03 am
    It is a struggle to write sometimes; easier to just watch tv. But it is important, particularly as you get older, to do something creative each day to stop your mind rusting over - so the 'Process Time' period of the day is very good advice, I think. Great review of a book I had not previously heard of, but will certainly seek out.
  • holisticwriter Apr 20, 2014 @ 10:09 am
    Thanks, Colin.
  • holisticwriter Apr 20, 2014 @ 10:36 am
    re: watching tv. Luckily I developed a habit of watching very little tv many years ago. Plus, the remote control that changes the channels is really hard to operate....so even if I am tempted, it is too much work. I manage to find other ways to procrastinate though :-)
  • DebMartin Apr 19, 2014 @ 11:31 am
    These tips are good no matter what you're trying to accomplish. Even if it's not specifically a writing project.
  • holisticwriter Apr 19, 2014 @ 12:30 pm
    I agree, Deb. Sometimes with a big project or something that you have made out to be big in your own mind....getting started with a little chunk will break through the inertia.
  • sema Apr 16, 2014 @ 6:02 am
    Congrats on your LOTD! Great tips to make one break the writer's block.
  • holisticwriter Apr 16, 2014 @ 11:03 am
    Thank you, sema. I hope you found it helpful. I certainly do.
  • TMI_PR Apr 15, 2014 @ 5:28 am
    Good tips! I often struggle to find good topics an write and thats bad for me in my career. I've always wanted to find out about writing classes in my area or library for writing classes. Perhaps I should host my own. Definitely need to get hold of this book first though
  • holisticwriter Apr 15, 2014 @ 6:05 am
    I would love to hear how you like it. Thank you!
  • debop Apr 14, 2014 @ 8:48 am
    Good tips to start the day. Thanks. Seems essential to maintain a playful attitude. I'm a multimedia artist. I have a lense about a performance I made in collaboration with Argentinean composer Oscar Edelstein (see squidoo.com/oscaredelstein) and a beautiful dancer Sandra Grinberg who was part of the Trisha Brown Dance Company in New York. Somehow I managed to remain very playful on this project and the results surprise and delight me to this day. Looking back I realise that I used the idea of Process Time by looking at hundreds of pictures of rivers on the internet. Then what I made was an imaginary leap of faith from that platform. Hope you enjoy my lenses. I've enjoyed yours and it has helped me begin my morning creatively! Check out if you have a moment see squidoo.com/riversandmirrors
  • holisticwriter Apr 14, 2014 @ 10:08 am
    Hi, thanks for stopping by. I will take a look at your lenses later today.
  • FreshStart7 Apr 13, 2014 @ 11:06 pm
    Great review holisticwriter and congratulations on winning a well-deserved LOTD! I really believe in and give myself process time and self-time.
  • holisticwriter Apr 14, 2014 @ 12:31 am
    I am impressed that you already figured this out. Maybe you are a Julia Cameron fan? She stresses the importance of artist dates to refill the well of ideas and creativity.
  • bobnolley Apr 13, 2014 @ 11:02 pm
    Congrats on your LOTD! A great treatment of a great topic...at least for writers!
  • leahjsongs Apr 13, 2014 @ 10:54 pm
    Great resource! I just bought it, thanks for alerting me to this.
  • miriamyentraccm Apr 13, 2014 @ 9:57 pm
    Thanks for the tips! The poll is nice, too.
  • MonkeyGirl18 Apr 13, 2014 @ 9:51 pm
    I wanna read that book now and try to see if that works for me...
    This was an interesting lens ^^
  • di4444 Apr 13, 2014 @ 9:50 pm
    Great Lens!! Good tips..thanks for the useful advice!! I try to write every night. I really enjoy writing!!
  • Steve_Kaye Apr 13, 2014 @ 9:37 pm
    Little by little we can accomplish big things.
  • holisticwriter Apr 14, 2014 @ 12:29 am
    Or as someone once said, "Yard by yard, life is hard. Inch by inch, it's a cinch."
  • rauspitz Apr 13, 2014 @ 4:20 pm
    Interesting approach. Congratulations on getting LotD!
  • RinchenChodron Apr 13, 2014 @ 2:33 pm
    Congrats on your Lens of the Day1
  • holisticwriter Apr 14, 2014 @ 12:29 am
    Thank you! I wasn't expecting such a treat!
  • nedumedia Apr 13, 2014 @ 2:18 pm
    Holisticwriter, thanks a million for this lens which for me is so timely! This is my major problem in writing; Procrastination..... Thank you once again, I can use this...
  • holisticwriter Apr 14, 2014 @ 12:28 am
    I hope it helps!
  • RubyHRose Apr 13, 2014 @ 1:30 pm
    I like the 15 minutes at a time and using brain science. Intriguing review.
  • partybuzz Apr 13, 2014 @ 1:02 pm
    Thanks for the great book suggestion and review.
  • thatgrrl Apr 13, 2014 @ 11:28 am
    You wrote a very good review. Thanks for including some of the basic advice too. There are a lot of books about writing, I've got two shelves of them myself. A lot of them just go over the same stuff in different ways.
  • d-artist Apr 13, 2014 @ 10:44 am
    Congratulations on LOTD! Interesting reading, nicely written. I'm not a writer, just a story teller of my memories...and that doesn't work on a regular basis... ;-)
  • katiesnow Apr 13, 2014 @ 10:27 am
    Good info, and great lens but for me who writes daily now on Squidoo and currently writing two books, I simply put my writing down and go do something else for a bit. I never use techniques to force myself to write. It must come naturally for me or the story will not flow. However, many of my writer friends swear by books like these and say they work great!
  • Merrci Apr 13, 2014 @ 10:07 am
    Congratulations on Lens of the day!!! I really enjoyed your review. The book does sound excellent. We are so easily distracted from writing, whether it's an excuse or real. I like the small chunks of time, more easy to manage. Great job!
  • holisticwriter Apr 14, 2014 @ 12:27 am
    Baby steps, baby steps....That is my mantra for writing and so many other things too!
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Apr 13, 2014 @ 9:09 am
    Congrats on Lens of the Day! Thanks for sharing a resource that can help every writer. We all have our moments when we need a process to move us forward. Appreciated!
  • StephenJParkin Apr 13, 2014 @ 9:02 am
    I find that the best work is usually that which I do when I am not pressuring myself by any guidelines. Strangely it is often also the material that I produce quickest. Freed from the pressure of schedules and must do I am way more creative. There is a lesson in there somewhere.
  • holisticwriter Apr 14, 2014 @ 12:26 am
    Yes, I have noticed the same thing. I think it is cuz a spirit of enthusiasm and passion is driving us at these times.
  • Susan52 Apr 13, 2014 @ 8:45 am
    I love what you wrote about the book making you feel like a normal writer. That really resonated with me. I really needed this today. Thanks for the great review and congratulations on your Lens of the Day!
  • holisticwriter Apr 14, 2014 @ 12:25 am
    The more I read about other writers' processes for getting over obstacles, the more it seems we are all kind of the same. A small percentage of writers get right down to work without trouble, but many, many writers, even 'successful' writers have issues (read: junk) to work through and have to come up with some kind of system to achieve productivity in writing.
  • bloomingrose Apr 13, 2014 @ 8:36 am
    I am so busy working, creating my eBay store, etc that I forget about my own writing. I liked this: "This is a commitment of no more than 15 minutes (4 - 6 times per week) where you commit your attention and energy towards a specific piece of work. " - We all have a story to tell. Could we write a book in a year of 5 minute segments?
  • holisticwriter Apr 14, 2014 @ 12:23 am
    I heard a story not long ago about a man who wrote a book in 15 minute chunks. He wrote every day religiously.
  • LynnKK Apr 13, 2014 @ 8:04 am
    Sounds like an interesting read. Congratulations on LotD.
  • esmonaco Apr 13, 2014 @ 7:15 am
    Just back to say Congratulations on your LOTD!!!!!
  • holisticwriter Apr 14, 2014 @ 12:21 am
    Thanks! It is certainly a nice surprise!!
  • hungryformovies Apr 13, 2014 @ 2:21 am
    This has been very helpful especially for aspiring writers like me.
  • nikahexplorer Apr 09, 2014 @ 12:55 am
    Indeed interesting, holisticwriter i like the way you create lens.
  • carol-nobleboshnack Apr 13, 2014 @ 11:33 am
    Like this book.makes sense.
  • artyfax Apr 05, 2014 @ 3:03 pm
    THis could be so useful to me, I try to write regularly but find myself procrastinating
  • holisticwriter Apr 05, 2014 @ 3:18 pm
    I know exactly how you feel. Isn't it helpful though to know you can just inch your way into to a writing practice. That is what I am doing today. By just starting and doing what I can for 15 minutes, I am making progress on something I have been procrastinating on all week.
  • bloomingrose Mar 23, 2014 @ 6:01 pm
    I can use this! Bookmarked to several sites to help frustrated writers.
  • holisticwriter Mar 23, 2014 @ 9:33 pm
    Awesome! Thanks for spreading it around!!
  • kajohu Mar 10, 2014 @ 1:06 pm
    This sounds like it would be a very useful book for me to read!
  • holisticwriter Mar 10, 2014 @ 2:04 pm
    I certainly found it helpful, if only to find out that a published book author sometimes has to ease herself into writing with a 15 minute commitment.
  • Charito1962 Feb 25, 2014 @ 10:11 am
    Writer's block can really be a disease! The only way I cure it is to read regularly, and this stimulates my mind. Then, my creative juices start to flow..and I just have to write!
  • tonyleather Feb 24, 2014 @ 7:12 am
    I like the sound of this!
  • QuizSquid Feb 23, 2014 @ 7:09 pm
    Thanks for the review!
  • ViBeMo Feb 22, 2014 @ 3:38 pm
    Thank you for providing information on how to get writing done!
  • esmonaco Feb 21, 2014 @ 11:52 am
    Thanks for sharing this, I think about the subject, develop a couple of different thoughts on how I'm going to start, and then I just strat to write.
  • bestwebfinds Feb 06, 2014 @ 12:03 pm
    Enjoyed the video. Thanks.
  • holisticwriter Feb 06, 2014 @ 2:18 pm
    Glad you liked it!
  • goldenrulecomics Feb 05, 2014 @ 11:37 am
    I never had writer's block -- I just never have enough time!
  • holisticwriter Feb 05, 2014 @ 12:12 pm
    I guess I have both problems. Not enough time but also resistance to sitting down and working on the most important projects. I think having a regular writing habit, even if it is only a few minutes a day, is a really useful thing.
  • YogaAngel Dec 20, 2013 @ 3:04 am
    This sounds like a good book. I feel periodically inspired to write, but have a hard time when I have to write about something. Especially when writing something for college, there is nothing I dread more. LOL
  • holisticwriter Dec 20, 2013 @ 12:26 pm
    Hi YogaAngel,

    Yes, the writing we have to do but dread...that is exactly the kind of thing this book could be helpful for. She encourages you to set aside just 15 minutes to work on your project, then keep going if you want to, or take a break and come back the next day for at least 15 minutes. Large projects get written this way....at least that is what I hear.
  • PaigSr Dec 16, 2013 @ 6:35 am
    When it comes to writing I have a pencil and paper with me. Never sure when a thought will hit. I have pulled over more than once while driving because of this.
  • holisticwriter Dec 16, 2013 @ 10:32 am
    Thanks for stopping by. I also always have paper and pen with me. I will even bring paper and pen if going for a walk. Sometimes though I think I get more and better ideas if I just let myself be completely free of paper and pen. Ideas are not enough though. Sitting down to do something with them is the harder part :-)