5 Reasons Why You Get Writer’s Block (+ How to Solve Them)

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been stuck in front of a blank screen, paralyzed and unable to write a single word. 🖐️

Is your hand up? Yeah, mine too.

Writer’s block is something everyone faces from time to time (even famous writers). And it can feel super discouraging when you find yourself struggling with it, too.

In this article, I’m going to break down the 5 biggest reasons you experience writer’s block and how to solve each one.

But first, I want to clear up a common misconception about writer’s block that keeps so many aspiring writers from being successful.

Table of Contents

  1. The truth about writer’s block
  2. Reason #1 – You haven’t decided what to write about
    1. How to solve it
  3. Reason #2 – You don’t know what to say about your topic
    1. How to solve it
  4. Reason #3 – You’re trying to write a perfect first draft
    1. How to solve it
  5. Reason #4 – You’re afraid of something
    1. How to solve it
  6. Reason #5 – You’re overwhelmed by your writing goal
    1. How to solve it
  7. Conclusion

The truth about writer’s block

Writer’s block is not what you think it is. It’s not a lack of words or an inability to write. It’s not something you have to sit through and hope that it goes away.

A quote by Seth Godin really changed the way I think about writer’s block. He said, “I don’t get talker’s block.” How many times have you tried to tell a friend about your day and couldn’t come up with a single word?

Most of us have so many things to say that we can talk on and on without a problem for more than an hour. So why do we clam up when we get in front of a keyboard?

Journalist Larry Kahaner has a more cynical view:

“Do doctors have ‘doctors block?’ Do plumbers have ‘plumbers’ block?” No. We all have days when we don’t feel like working, but why do writers turn that into something so [dang] special by giving it a faintly romantic name?”

The truth about writer’s block is that it comes down to 5 different factors that make it difficult to write, all of which are within your control.

Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents:

  • Reason #1 – You haven’t decided what to write about
  • Reason #2 – You don’t know what to say about your topic
  • Reason #3 – You’re trying to write a perfect first draft
  • Reason #4 – You’re afraid of something
  • Reason #5 – You’re overwhelmed by your writing goal

Reason #1 – You haven’t decided what to write about

Many writers experience writer’s block when they sit down to write without a plan.

Author David Burkus said,

“Don’t show up to the keyboard without a plan and then tell the world you have writer’s block. You’re lying to us, and to yourself.”

If you open up a blank page without a goal for your piece of writing, of course you’re gonna struggle to think of something.

Only when you have a purpose for your writing can you begin to let the words flow. That purpose can be as simple as “Getting my thoughts onto paper,” or as complicated as “Writing a 50,000-word history of French Fries in America” (something I would love to devour, pun intended 🍟).

How to solve it

Define what you want to write about and what it will look like when it’s finished.

Here are some ideas of things you could define:

  • The purpose of your writing. Do you want to educate your readers, convince them of a new viewpoint, change their minds, get more sales, record a precious memory, or something else?
  • The main points and/or conclusion. What’s the point you want to make? What are the supporting points? This is often the biggest hurdle to overcome when sitting down to write. If you don’t have some kind of outline for the piece of writing, you will inevitably struggle to know what to say. (I like to mind map my ideas first and then work them into an outline.)
  • Where it will be published or used. Is this going to be a long-form blog post, a tweet, a video, or a book chapter?
  • The length. How many pages, words, or characters does it need to be?

Once you have these details nailed down, you have something to work with, and you can now sit down and get some ideas onto paper.

Reason #2 – You don’t know what to say about your topic

Now you may have cleared the first cause of writer’s block. You may have an idea for your piece and know what it needs to look like.

If you’re still experiencing a block at this stage, then you’re likely facing the second reason for writer’s block: you haven’t figured out exactly what you want to say yet.

In the book A Writer’s Coach, Jack Hart says,

“Well-shaped ideas are one of the best antidotes to the pain so often associated with writing.”

The idea is that if you haven’t thought through what you want to say in your writing, you will struggle to put words onto paper.

So it’s not enough to just have an idea. You also need to think through the general argument—how you will get from the introduction to the conclusion and argue your main point.

Historian Annette Gordon-Reed says,

“When I have writer’s block, it is because I have not done enough research or I have not thought hard enough about the subject about which I’m writing. That’s a signal for me to go back to the archives or to go back into my thoughts and think through what it is I am supposed to be doing.”

It doesn’t mean that you need to have every single detail nailed down—that comes later on in the process. But you do need to understand the main flow of your argument (or the general gist of what you want to say).

How to solve it

There are 3 things you can do to help formulate your ideas:

  • Walk away and think. Step away from the computer and just think for a while. Take a walk and let your mind wander. Or talk through your ideas to yourself. Often through that thinking, you will discover exactly what you want to say.
  • Free-write to help yourself work through an idea. If you enjoy thinking through writing, you can sit down and free-write what’s on your mind until you formulate what you want to say. This is no-judgment writing that no one will ever see, so say whatever you want.
  • Do some more reading and research. If your writing piece requires research, quotes, or other information, you want to spend enough time absorbing the information until the shape of your piece of writing becomes clear in your mind.

Reason #3 – You’re trying to write a perfect first draft

Now let’s imagine you have the perfect plan for a piece of writing. You know exactly what you want to write about, and you know what you want to say from beginning to end.

So you sit down, excited to finish the draft. You type a few words. They don’t sound right. You delete them. You write a sentence, then go back. Hm, you think. How should I start this?

If this is how you usually approach your writing projects, you’re making it harder than it has to be! I’ll explain how to make it easier to get to that perfect final draft by throwing your standards out the window.

How to solve it

In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and LifeAnne Lamott writes about what she calls the “sh***y first draft” (and I’ll call the crappy first draft here).

She says,

“All good writers write [crappy first drafts]. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.” She continues, “The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.”

The idea is that you get all of your thoughts onto the page in their roughest form, and then you can take your time to go back and edit them later. The hardest part for most writers is just getting words onto the page; going back to edit and improve them is much easier.

With this method, you can draft a blog post in less than 30 minutes. And this is what I do now for everything that I write.

It used to take me a couple of hours to finish a first draft, so this has huge benefits for my workflow.

Here are my favorite tips for writing a first draft fast:

  • Read through your research, notes, or outline just before writing. When you have all of your information fresh in your mind, it’s easier to speed through a draft.
  • Use placeholders for facts and figures. You don’t have to remember stats and names and little details for the first draft. I like to include a little note to myself like [FIND QUOTE], [NAME], or [LOOK FOR STATISTIC] so I can go back later.
  • Train yourself to type without stopping. It’s really hard at first to do this, but the goal is to type all the way through without stopping. Yes, you could improve the words you’ve already written, but achieving momentum is the key to finishing the draft quickly.
  • Don’t compare. Your first draft is going to sound terrible and make you want to quit writing forever. Understanding this can help you to avoid comparing yourself to other people’s finished writing, which is a totally unfair comparison. You’ll have plenty of time to polish your draft into a finished product, just like they did.
  • Don’t worry about the introduction and conclusion. I find that once I’ve gotten the ideas onto paper, the introduction and conclusion kind of write themselves. If I’m trying to be really creative with the first paragraph, I just add a placeholder and leave it for later.

If you’re still struggling to get started, I find it helpful to imagine myself explaining my argument to a friend. When I’m sitting with a friend, I never have trouble talking or thinking of what to say. So I simply type out exactly what I would say if I were explaining my thoughts in person.

Reason #4 – You’re afraid of something

So many writers talk about fear as the underlying reason for writer’s block. It’s a big one, and I’ve faced it, too.

Author Neil Strauss says,

“If you sit there, and you think, “This piece has to be the ultimate article, the ultimate book ever written; my entire selfish being is wrapped up in this; and, this is me.” – The bigger of a story you make up about what you are doing, the bigger the block you will get. It has nothing to do with the talent of writing or the skill of writing. It’s completely performance anxiety.”

I’ve felt this before, too. Each time I had to write a blog post for a client, I would think, “Are they going to hate this?” “What if it’s terrible?” “Did I have the absolute best possible idea for this piece, or could I make it better?”

Thinking about these things only kept me from the most important work I could do—the actual writing.

I learned over time that I could reliably pull an article together each and every time. Not every single thing I wrote was going to win an award, but they would be good enough, and no one was going to notice the little tiny things I could have fixed.

I’ve learned not to stress so much about the end result. Instead, I break my work down into little tasks and just focus on doing the very next thing.

How to solve it

The truth is, there are people out there with half your writing skill that are making tons of money from their work. And that’s because they got up, wrote something, and published it. And then they kept doing it and made it into something valuable.

You’re already more skilled than those people, so all you need to do is start writing and publishing your work. As you publish, turn in projects, and get feedback, you’ll see that your fears about being rejected or having people hate your writing don’t actually come true.

Here are some more ways to overcome your fear as a writer:

  • Research other writers who were afraid to publish. You’ll find that some of your favorite authors and bloggers were once just as afraid as you are. If they can do it, so can you!
  • Commit to publishing each week. Don’t focus on what will happen after you publish; just focus on putting something out at the same time each week. You’ll start to realize that writing and publishing aren’t that scary after all.
  • Journal your fears. Spend some time writing down how you feel, and then ask yourself, is this rational? Is thought serving me? What else might be true? You can journal yourself into more positive and truth-based thinking.

Reason #5 – You’re overwhelmed by your writing goal

Writers who can consistently pump out thousands of words a day or a week have one thing in common: They write regularly.

Journalist John Avlon said,

“It seems to me that writing is a muscle: it gets stronger the more you use it. If you let yourself fall out of the habit, it can be hard to get back in form. Writing a regular column keeps you limber and sharp and guarantees that any fear of writer’s block is kept at bay.”

For him, having a steady publishing schedule meant that he was always writing. I have the same experience as a freelance writer with projects due all the time.

If you’re not writing regularly, then trying to push out a long piece of writing (or even something short) out of the blue, your atrophied writing muscle can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

You wouldn’t go into the gym on day one and try to lift 200 pounds. Neither should you fire up Google Docs after a dry spell and try writing 3,000 words in one day.

How to solve it

The best way to get more writing done (and stop feeling resistance every time you sit down to write) is to make it a regular habit.

And while it’d feel so good to start writing an hour a day from tomorrow, that’s way too much to start out with.

In Atomic Habitsauthor James Clear explains that the best way to create a sustainable habit that actually sticks is to start so small that you absolutely can’t mess up.

That could look like writing for just 2 minutes or 100 words a day. After it becomes a habit (over a month or so), you can add on more words. Over time, you can become that person who writes an hour a day. But it all starts with those 2 minutes.

If you find yourself overwhelmed with the thought of writing a 1,000-word article or a 50,000-word book, try breaking it down into pieces so small that they no longer feel overwhelming.

Here’s my personal process for writing articles over an entire week:

  • Monday – Choose a topic and mind map some ideas for 15 minutes (research if I need to)
  • Tuesday – Take my mind map and turn it into an outline. Type up the outline in Google Docs
  • Wednesday – Type out the entire draft off the top of my head (30 or so minutes, can be broken down into chunks)
  • Thursday – Read through the draft and do big edits (moving things around, rewriting sections, adding in facts and details)
  • Friday – Do one more edit with Grammarly or other tools, read through one last time, and publish


Writer’s block isn’t a one-size-fits-all problem.

In this article, I broke down the 5 biggest reasons you’re experiencing a block and suggested some ways to overcome them.

To sum this article up, I love this quote from Jack Hart in A Writer’s Coach:

“Beautiful writing is built one step at a time, just like a house. Take the steps slowly, break them down into pieces small enough to handle easily, and the agony will disappear.”

Did this article help you break through a block? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

*Links in this article may be affiliate links, which means I get a small kickback if you decide to make a purchase. If you don’t want to use an affiliate link, you can use Google to search for the products I’ve listed here instead.

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