Dealing with Writer’s Block

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”
-Margaret Atwood

As a friend and fellow student of mine observed, writer’s block is like having the flu.  Let’s do a symptom checker:

  • Loss of appetite (or, in some cases, an enormous appetite)
  • Drowsiness and disorientation
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • General feeling of malaise
  • High temperature (this occurs in some cases of writer’s block, perhaps after locking yourself in a poorly ventilated room for several hours)


Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine for writer’s block.  You simply have to wait it out.  However, there are a few remedies that can help a writer overcome their illness a little quicker.  Here is a few (in no particular order):

  • Since you likely haven’t been outside for awhile, go outside.  Breathe the fresh air.  Or, if in a urban environment, find a green space/nature area and enjoy the (relatively) fresh air.
  • Have zero tolerance for people (other than your professors) who give you more writing tasks.  Avoid them like the plague, pun intended.
  • Watch TV – lots of TV (like, around 5-10 hours of it).  After watching lots of television, your mind will be dumbed down enough by commercials, bad news, weather reports, and courtroom dramas, that it will be aching to do something constructive.
  • Scroll through blogs like this and realize that, even though your writer’s block is bad, it certainly could be worse.
  • If you have writer’s anxiety, try drinking some whisky (some, not a lot.  Whisky will make you a lot more drowsier)
  • Seek compassion from a hipster.  Since part of the hipster aesthetic is to be in a perpetual state of writer’s block, they will likely be able to sympathize with your ailment.  So, go to your local night café and find a hipster.
  • Party with friends till dawn and sleep the rest of the day.
  • Go on a cross-country road trip (Kerouac, anyone?).  Although this tip is only possible if you have the time and willingness to drop everything and just go anywhere.  Then again, you may never come back.
  • Try constructing a sentence.  It may be a little hard at first, but once you start to string those sentences together you might be able to get a whole paragraph going.  Good for you.   Working slow isn’t always the worst option, perhaps better than whisky and road trips.
  • (and now for a legitimate point) Read something good.  I have many literary idols that I can only wish to write like and I read them when I feel like my writing has lost direction.  Whatever type of piece you are trying to write (blog post, essay, short story, or poem), it is best to know the best, or who wrote the best.  Writing is practice.  The more practice, the  better.  This point will not work if your writer’s block is coupled with the following:

Reader’s Block?  Reader’s block is another common illness in grad school.  Similar to writer’s block, it causes several marked symptoms, such as drowsiness, eye strain, and disorientation.  Some authors’ works (for instance,Jurgen Habermas’s The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere) can cause more severe symptoms than others.  In fact, some authors actually help to cure reader’s block.  For instance, J.K Rowling’s wildly popular wizard series, Harry Potter, helped cure children (and some adults) all over the world of this terrible affliction.  If you find yourself scared of reading, of books, book-shaped objects, or Chapters, there is a good chance that you have reader’s block.  Apply the above remedies listed and all should be well in a few days.

About dontpanictrent

DON'T PANIC: A Trent Graduate Student Blog

One Response to “Dealing with Writer’s Block”

  1. Haha! Facebook is rather distracting.

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