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4 Tips to Try When Inspiration is Absent
Written by
Kristi Rydmark
December 2017
Written by
Kristi Rydmark
December 2017

Coming out of a two-year writing famine is a tricky thing. There seems to be so many big, scary things to contend with. To be honest, this morning I found myself staring at this blank editing window with big, confused doe-eyes. Staring at it the way a startled deer stares at the headlights of a car when it finds itself paralyzed, somewhere between the knowing of fear and the wondering of what in the world that thing is. 

I feel lost, a little out of place, even with the familiar tapping of keys and the feeling of peace as the words start to flow. Something so commonplace for so long, now feels foreign, uncomfortable. 

As I'm in this place of starry eyed wonder, trying to figure out how to reconnect with this old friend, I found myself wondering how I used to overcome shorter term writers block. I must have had some source of inspiration, some way to kick myself in the pants and get moving when I was struggling to type a single word that I was willing to keep...

It certainly wasn't in endless social media scrolling, or staring at that mystery spot on the wall ("Is that another spider?"), or pouring one more cup of coffee.

I don't have a perfect, works every time formula. I'm not sure those exist, but in thinking back, I did come up with a few things that have worked for me. 

Four Tips to Try When Inspiration is Absent

  1. Free Writing: This is just writing as you think, pouring out your stream of consciousness onto the page. The key here is to commit to keeping every word, no matter how crumby, crappy, or confused. Sometimes, you happen to spit out that little nugget you needed. Most often, this only works to get you past the fear of the blank screen and the annoying persistence of the ever-blinking insertion point. 
  2. Play Pretend: What often works for me is to step away from my computer or paper, find a place to be alone, and just pretend that I'm telling a story to a friend. I use my voice, I use my hands, I use the expressions of my face and I just talk. I probably seem crazy to be talking to my living room or bathroom mirror or the steering wheel of my car as if I am talking to a friend, or an audience...but it works! I usually cut myself off at some point to run back to my laptop and furiously type out whatever it is that I was able to speak but not type. 
  3. Relax: Sometimes, I find I can't find the words, because I'm putting too much pressure on myself. All I can think about is the word count, the deadline, or pressing that publish button and it blocks out all the productive thoughts. In those moments, it helps me to do productive things that reallocate my "need to" thoughts. I need to do something with my hands. Bake, do dishes, crochet, create in another way. This lets my mind wander, but also replaces the "need to write" narrative with a productive "need to add this ingredient", "need to do this step" type of narrative.
  4. Use, or Re-Use, An Old Idea: I like to keep lists, and when I'm in my writing peak I tend to have more ideas that I can use. I like to write these ideas down. A lot of them will never get used. They might not be very good, or I might just never choose to use them, but I write them down anyways. Then, when I find myself lacking inspiration, I will go back to that list and use it as a jumping off point. If you don't have a list like that, I recommend you start one, but you're not at a loss. Go back to something you've written in the past, and put a new a twist on it. If its non-fiction, update it. Follow up. If its a piece fiction, look at it from a different POV.

There are so many other options. It depends on how your mind works. You could go to a coffee shop. You could look up writing prompts. You could listen to broadway soundtracks. You could read. You could exercise. You could drink another three cups of coffee. These are just a few of the things that work for me. 

What is your trick to breaking out of the frustrating white box of writers block?


This post is a part of a personal challenge to post every day in the month of December 2017.

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