3 Ways to Start a Writing Session When You Feel Blocked

Ever put aside time to write but found the words just wouldn’t come? Whether you write for work or for pleasure (hopefully both), it can be tough to get into the writing groove. And with writing time being so scarce, anxiety about getting your thoughts on paper asap can turn hesitation into full-blown panic.

I know this first-hand. On my way to completing four books I’ve lived every kind of writing session there is, from desert-like dystopia to tears-of-joy breakthrough. So, I thought I’d share some of techniques I’ve learned to ease into wordsmithing, even when I don’t feel like it. Here are 3 ways to start your next writing session when you feel blocked (plus bonus nudges).

1. Don’t turn off the world, delay it.

People often recommend turning off the internet and email to motivate writing—and yes, there are apps for that. In my experience though, all-or-nothing tactics can backfire, making writing feel like a punishment.

Try lowering the pressure. Don’t cut off your connections, hold off. See if it helps to follow these steps instead:

  • If you have two hours of writing time (good for you; lock the door), focus on writing for the first hour.
  • Now, give yourself 10 minutes to check in with the world. Read one news article or try one ridiculous TikTok dance. Be firm about the time but enjoy it (that usually means avoiding responding to email).
  • Then try writing again for the last 50 minutes.

A relaxed approach can make you feel positive, connected, and productive.

2. Touch completed work.

There are lots of ideas out there about what writers need to get unstuck. Some say inspiration, others, cheerleading (how else to explain the proliferation of ‘Hang in There, Baby,’ posters?). I focus on “completion.” After all, isn’t your ultimate goal to achieve a polished, complete piece of writing? At the start of your next writing session, treat yourself (10 minutes max) to someone else’s completed work.

These sites offer bite-sized, delightfully complete writing that might just spark words in you:

3. Review, then set an attainable writing goal.

If writer’s block has you dreading your next writing session, lean on what you’ve already written.

  • Pull up that half-done report, chapter or poem.
  • Re-read the last section (2-3 pages max). Don’t dwell. Don’t edit. Instead, think of that writing as a pathway. By the time you follow it to the end, you’ll be in the headspace of the project.
  • Now, add one paragraph, idea or stanza—like blazing one more bit of trail.

If you can do more, great. If not, doesn’t matter. You’ve walked the path of writing!

There’s no way around it: writer’s block is a nightmare. But like all bad dreams, it does end! I hope these tips help you get your next writing session started. Meanwhile, get more writing advice on my Carrier Communications Blog.

Bonus Nudges

Research is your friend. Still not feelin’ it? Choose one angle on your project, find a related document, and read it. Guess what? This counts as writing time (especially if you take good notes)!

Stretching is your BFF. A few stretches before your next writing session will help loosen not just your arms and back, but also your mind. A “median nerve glide” is a personal favourite—do it right in your work chair!