Stumped? Banish writer’s block with books, lots of books


It has felt like a long time since I have experienced writer’s block. My years in the online news industry have kept me hopping with no time to linger on a word or a phrase or an idea.

Banish writer's block (Flickr: Drew Coffman)

Banish writer’s block (Flickr: Drew Coffman)

Honestly, I have reached a point where it doesn’t matter the subject, the hour, or the location (crime scene or concert review), I can craft an opening sentence in mere seconds.

Read: Reject perfection and just write

Car careens into a lake? No problem. School district officials respond to a bomb threat? Got it. Local artist speaks out on claims of city-led censorship? Done.

But, today. Today I struggled to find words. Not sure why or how this happens.

We can debate the issue certainly. But I would imagine this phenomenon has all sorts of causes for all sorts of writers.

Fatigue. Distraction. Boredom.

And while some may describe the experience of looking at a blank page as frightening, I have always found it simply … annoying.

Why won’t the words come? Where are they? Why are they not ready to be called up and out from the dark and into the light of my computer screen?

When I get here, I tend to look at the writing process as something of a bank account. The more words I pull from my account; the fewer that remain. As we all know, the banking system only works if you continue to make a steady deposit of funds.

Books and more books (Flickr: Klearchos Kapoutsis)

Books and more books (Flickr: Klearchos Kapoutsis)

Writing is much the same way. Without a consistent effort to replenish your “creative” account, you will certainly exhaust your resources.

Best way to replenish your stash? Read. Read. Read some more.

And not just any old words. Pick up a new book. Re-visit an old favorite. Choose an unusual author, someone you would not typically read. Immerse yourself in that author’s story, mark with a pencil the passages or phrases that inspire you or make you see the world differently and allow yourself to be drawn into the narrative.

Short stories will do. So will poetry.

The idea is to spend some time filling up that empty well and making a healthy deposit of ideas and insights.

Author Kirsten Imani Kasai offers these tips:

“Keep writing, even when it feels like you’re churning out dross. Enter a quiet space–mentally, spiritually and physically–and let all of the accumulated noise in your head die down. Long walks, silence, stillness, lots of sleep. Working with your hands is good, too (gardening, painting, building, baking, crocheting or cleaning). Dreaming can be a healing and inspirational tool to help move beyond temporary blocks in a particular work or just in life.

Usually, if the story isn’t flowing easily, it’s because I’m forcing my own agenda on the characters. If I relax, watch the story unfold in my head, the course of the narrative will correct itself.”

Kerri S. Mabee is editor at Learn more about her at


Kerri S. Mabee

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