RSS Feed

When the Words Won’t Come – How to Write Again

June 12, 2016 by Diane

hand opening red curtain on white.

Writing can bring us pain at times. But not as much as the pain of not writing. Not-writing is a pain that bores into your psyche, drills into your bones, your soul. You can’t just not write. Yet when you sit at the task behind the writer’s curtain, nothing comes.

What do you do? What do we all do, we who call ourselves writers even when we can’t write, when all we have to offer is this pain? Our wallet of ideas, words, images, characters, plots, metaphors, similes…empty.

We need a writer’s bank account to draw on.

During the fat times, when we’re bursting with ideas, when the energy of writing is flowing like an eager river, tumbling, rushing over boulders and dirt, gathering up everything in its path—during those times when we have more writerly goodies than time, we need to bank them. Save them.

I call these write-aheads.

Then, when the lean times come, and they do come, we have something to draw on. We open that folder of write-aheads and read a few documents, and find one that sparks something, and we tweak it. Noodle it. Expand, revise, mold it.

Invest in some good story prompts. 

Write a list of them yourself, or buy, borrow, or steal a book of them. Here’s one: The Writer’s Idea Book. Grab a prompt and write fast for five minutes. Grab three and link them together, quick, quick, for fifteen minutes. Sprint to the finish line, then take a breath.

Whew! Fifteen minutes of writing. Better than none.

Borrow words.

Read. Other writers have provided words. Take them in. Absorb them. Let them entice you, excite you, stimulate your thinking. You’re filling the account with juice. Take their words, write them down, let them be a springboard to rebuild your own account. You’re not claiming the words as your own, you’re borrowing, so you have something to work with. See what avenues they lead you down. See what they collect. See what grows.

Ask for a loan of support.

Tell your tribe of writers that you’re flat broke and you need some advice. They’ll be eager to expand their experience by sharing it with you.

“Yes, I’ve been there, too. Here’s what I did…”

Do your writerly banking elsewhere

Sometimes it takes going off the beaten track. Writing something foreign to you. A song lyric. A radio drama. A haiku. Doesn’t matter if it’s good or if it’s something not even a blind man would want to see. Doesn’t matter. The important thing is to throw some words on the page and fire up new neurons in the brain. The old ones need a rest.

You’re not alone!

Above all, know you’re not alone in this pain. We’ve all been down that road, kicked the dust with our round-toed sneakers hoping for a little rain, a little somethin’ somethin’ to unbreak the dam.

It’s not a mirage ahead. There’s a real well full-up with ideas. You’ll stumble into it again. Have faith!


  1. Bun Karyudo says:

    These are all good suggestions, Diane. Because I try to keep to a regular blogging schedule, I do struggle sometimes when a deadline is approaching and I have nothing in particular to write about.

    The “write-aheads” idea is the only one of these that I have been doing up to now. I have a notebook with me most of the time, so if I have half a notion about something, I’ll pop it in there for future consideration. I haven’t tried the other techniques yet, though.

    • Diane says:

      Having a notebook handy is a great idea. I tend to write on my laptop, and it’s not so handy carrying that around! I do have a notebook in my purse, but rarely think about using it to jot down ideas. Being aware, through the day, of ideas to write about–that’s key. The awareness.

  2. Riley says:

    These are very helpful suggestions. As a newbie to the blogging world I’m finding it to be a challenge to settle on a niche and topic ideas.

    • Diane says:

      Yes, homing in your niche is a challenge unless you’re blogging about something obvious, like gluten-free desserts, or writing, or animal husbandry (does anyone blog about that?). You might try brainstorming a list of ideas and see what resonates with you. Once you settle on the niche, then you can brainstorm a list of twenty-five or fifty topics relating to it. Anticipate questions your reader might have about your subject, and answer them, one at a time. I’ll pop over to your blog and have a look. Welcome to the blogisphere!

      If you haven’t read it, I recommend “How to Blog a Book” by Nina Amir. Even if you don’t plan to turn your blog into a book, it has a lot of useful tips for bloggers.

  3. mydangblog says:

    I keep notes on my phone all week of weird random stuff and snippets of conversation to give me a springboard. I find that really helps, although sometimes I reread them and can’t remember what the hell I was thinking about:-)

    • Diane says:

      At least you can read them! When I write notes by hand, I can’t figure out what the heck I wrote. Huh? Is that an “r” or an “n” or…

  4. Sarah says:

    I’m not short on ideas. I’m overwhelmed with too many. I have to keep notes but then the problem is finishing them. O_o

    • Diane says:

      Ah yes, finishing. Another hurdle in the writer’s obstacle course.

      What helps me is a deadline. And respecting the deadline. How do I know it’s finished? I reached the deadline. Finished. Set it aside.

      So, I’ll assign you a deadline because hey, what are writer-friends for?

      Choose the one that really vibrates for you, and finish it in one week. Post it on your site. Report back and let us know how you did, and include a link. Ready, set, go!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *