Cure Writer’s Block Once And For All

    cure writer's block - frustrated writer

    Do you want to know how to cure writer’s block? The one thing that can shake any writer’s sense of cool is writer’s block. It is one of those little secrets that no writer wants to think about – let alone acknowledge suffering from it. It is like a deadly disease that writers are afraid to catch. Actors are afraid that saying “Macbeth” before a performance will bring bad luck. Writers feel the same way about the phrase “writer’s block”.

    When Ernest Hemingway Crossed My Path

    As a person who has been writing professionally  for nineteen years, I have had my battles with writer’s block. But that all stopped when Ernest Hemingway crossed my path.

    Yes, Ernest Hemingway is dead and no, I did not have a run in with his ghost. Here is the story of how Hemingway helped me to finally conquer writer’s block:

    I was in Paris sitting in a cafe reading a book about his life. I figured nothing would be cooler than sitting in an actual Parisian café and reading about one of my literary heroes. I then came across a passage that changed my life. Here is the passage:


    The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.


    Just Be Your Work

    I realize that this advice, at first glance, seems appropriate for fiction writers. However, it can be used by a writer of any genre. The key ingredient in fighting writer’s block is to be inspired. The root of the word “inspiration” means to be in spirit or in breath. Inspiration is the force behind creativity. Inspiration can come in any form. The key to inspiration is to be in communication with it at all times. Inspiration, basically, is a way of life.

    Due to my work as a writer, I have been fortunate to meet very successful people and the one thing I have noticed with all of them is that they are their work. They talk about their work with such ease, it’s impressive. You can always tell who is an expert by how they talk about their field. The people who love what they do, can just talk without needing notes or props or anything. They just talk. The same holds true for writers…just be your work.

    The Outside World Is A Never Ending Source of Material

    It is important to realize that every day when you step out of your home and go about your day, you are surrounded with inspiration. A lot can happen on the drive or walk to work. You may notice something that inspires you to write a blog post or a story or a newspaper article. I once saw a dog enter a subway station, get on the train and get off three stops later. I used that material as a blog post. I was on my way to a meeting when this happened and if I was not paying attention to my surroundings, I may not have noticed it.

    The same holds true with anything that you encounter during the day. Be aware of your surroundings and receptive to what you see. It is said that in the course of the day, the human brain perceives millions of pieces of information. Sources for stories, articles, blog posts, etc., can all come from one or more of those millions of pieces of observation. (By the way, Hemingway also suggested that writers carry a small notebook with them at all times because you may see something that interests you and that way you can write it down immediately, so you will not forget. I would highly recommend following this advice, too.)

    Cure Writer’s Block – Never Ever Indulge In Worrying

    It is also important to note that when it comes to writing; never ever worry about what to write. By being in a state of worry you will block any sources of inspiration. Water cannot pass through a closed fist…the same is true for inspiration. Inspiration cannot come to a closed mind. So keep your mind open and be aware of what happens around you whether it is on the train or in a café or simply walking down the street – you will be inspired and your battle with writer’s block will be a work of fiction.

    About the author

      Nadia Ballas-Ruta

      Nadia Ballas-Ruta blogs at Note from Nadia: For those who are interested in learning more about Hemingway's advice to writers, please read his book Ernest Hemingway on Writing

    • Hilary says:

      Hi Nadia .. I’m glad you posted re your one year old! Congratulations you can write .. and even write in two places at once – oneyear is a milestone!

      It looks a really great blog and I’ll be back to look around .. though I love Happy Lotus too.

      Don’t stop writing! All the best
      Hilary Melton-Butcher
      Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

    • I wonder if the same technique can be used for programming; I often find it hard to get to work.

    • nXqd says:

      I think inspirations are needed for every works around us. Like the article talks about, When I started learning maths, I worry about the maths exam I did bad. But when my brain is free, it does well.
      Thanks. this article helps me a lot to refining my way of studying 🙂

      I learned hard with worrying and I got nothing from it. Now just little time for free mind, i do good.

      Sorry for my bad English.

    • Thank you Nadia for this article as it helped me to open up my mind to new writing possibilities!

      You are an inspiration!

    • Solomon says:

      Hi Nadia,
      Very inspiring post! I admire your curiosity to life which makes you a good writer. Worry – is a great deterrent to writing – the criticism we may face puts us all off.
      I felt so sad at what happened to Mona here. I have had the experience of facing severe criticism. But, luckily, not so damaging criticism as she speaks here in the comment.
      I think we need to give a lending hand to all writers… especially, those who have just begun their journeys.

    • Mona says:

      Writer’s block is when you suddenly cannot put something into words..isn’t that correct? The writers block I have encountered is from FEAR. Fear of being attacked, of the anger out there just waiting to find fault with something you write that they can interject their own interpretation onto. Hmm…did that make sense? No matter. I love to write..would write 24/7 except I let ONE bitter old woman back me off of what I love to do. She attacked my family, my character..and anything else she could manage. Now I think and am fearful of speaking …and I hate a coward. I am upset with ME..more than with ‘bitter old woman.”

    • meredith says:

      My favorite quote is “The cure for writer’s block is writer’s cramp.”

      Also, Hemingway said something to the effect that, “I only write when I’m inspired. And I’m inspired every morning at 9 o’clock.”

    • @ Dave – You definitely are inspired! 🙂

    • Dave Irland says:

      what the hell IS writer’s block? I’m a writer–I have no idea what it is. Does there exist a situation where it is not possible for me to write a word on a piece of paper? “He.” Is there a situation where it is not possible for me to write another word? “stood.” Is there a situation where it is not possible for me to complete the thought? “in the dreary light of the railway station, and thought about his horrible life.”

      Somebody tell me what the hell writer’s block is. I have never once been so bored, depressed, anxious, or lacking in inspiration that I can’t just sit there and pound out sentences. Once it rolls, it rolls. The only “block” I can conceive of is a complete failure of the ability to construct sentences. Throw out the first five or ten or twenty pages until you DO feel something–voila, block gone.

    • @ Sunny – Paris is one of those places that just has an artistic aura so it is easy to feel inspired there.

      @ Julie – Inspiration is definitely essential and worrying just seems to block it. Yay for creative juices flowing! Good for you!

      @ Vikum – Have no worries, we have all faced the issue of having writer’s block. However, it can be conquered and I hope that what I wrote here will work for you as it has worked for me.

    • Vikum says:

      HI Nadia,

      I just felt like it’s said to me exactly.I’ve experienced problem you’ve mentioned personally. I have been sticking without not knowing how to going further or finish the thing and have been running out of ideas too. So I think there’s no need to say how useful this post to anyone who love to write.

      Nadia, Thank you very much for this wonderful post.I’m gonna try these things 🙂

    • Julie M says:

      I always love reading posts about writer’s block because we all get it! But, somehow, as you said, when you stop worrying and thinking about it, the block seems to melt eventually, every time. Inspiration is key! This was a big reason I names by blog: Inspired to Write. Inspiration, wherever it comes from, gets my creative, writing juices flowing! Good post!!

    • Nadia,

      Lovely post and a lovely image of reading while in Paris. That is enough to break many blocks already. 🙂

    • @ Writer Dad – Nothing better than going with the muse! I think many people want to write something perfect right away and sometimes it is better to just what ever comes to mind and editing can always be done later.

      @ Bamboo Forest – Worry is one of the worst things a person can do. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      @ Alison – Please do read the book if you can because it is a great book. I think writer’s usually do embody their work, how can you not if you want to be a great writer?

      @ Karen – Inspiration surrounds us all the time, we just need to look. I am happy that the advice resonated with you. And of course, Hemingway rocks! 🙂

      @ Paisley – You can do it! Taking the first step usually seems much more overwhelming than the reality.

      @ P.P. – Good for you for writing a novel. Inspiration surrounds us all and it is understandable not to pay attention when your mind is flooded with thoughts. However, it really makes a difference when you go out into the world and just look around you. There is material everywhere.

      @ Teri – Yay for turning points. May the journey with your thesis be wonderful. 🙂

    • Teri says:

      ok – I am not a writer per se – I am an engineer.
      I am working on my thesis, “Utilizing a Taxonomy of Educational Objectives in Developing a Process for LEED Certification” and am needing inspiration. I appreciate your desire to help others.

      All my life I have procrastinated, but I am determined to use my master’s thesis as a turning point in this new theme of my life. I have researched procrastination to the max so I understand the fear theme.

      This site is great – I just found it and already, I feel inspired 🙂

      Does anyone have any suggestions on writing a thesis?

      Thanks for reading,

    • Wonderful post, Nadia! I love the ideas you’ve put down here, especially about not indulging in worry. Worry can be a SERIOUS writer’s block and a lot of people don’t address this. I also love the idea of being your work and really observing the world around you. As a writer, I really try to do this to gain inspiration but sometimes the world (and life) can be so crazy that I forget to really open my eyes and look around. Thanks for inspiring to get back to work on my novel!

    • paisley says:

      I personally adore Hemingway’s work. It inspired me to write a short story for Collective Inkwell’s competition. I’ve been seeing quite a lot of Hemingway popping up and how he inspires and influences other writers. I love reading and writing (and food). Your advice is solid and simply put so it’s easy to remember. Sigh, now all I have to do is do it.

    • …and Hemingway would know. His advice, and yours, is priceless. There is an abundance of inspiration in the life teeming around us each day. I like his idea of quitting when you know what is going to happen next.

    • Thank goodness for writers, because I love reading! : ) I have never read this Hemingway book, but I think I’ll put it on my list. Thanks for the recommendation. The phrase “BE your work” really resonates with me right now. I think this is one of the keys to being happy in life. Cheers, Nadia, and keep on writing!

    • You presented this very well.

      I agree about worry – it clogs the mind! One should be as at peace as possible and then one will allow the mind to come up with all kinds of ideas.

    • @ Roger – May you never have writer’s block!

      @ Charles – Thank you so much for the kind words. I really appreciate it. It is always nice to get such positive feedback. Hemingway was one of those writers who made it look so simple but yet he worked so hard to be able to make it look so simple. Enjoy your meditations on Hemingway. I will have to check out your tweets and blog posts on him. 🙂

    • This post is the best one on writing I’ve read lately. So smooth, flowing and full of vibrant truth. Very nice.

      I’ve suffered from severe writer’s block in the past. Still do. It requires so much emotional and intellectual integrity, and sometimes I’m either distracted or drained. I wish I had the choice to stop when it gets too good!

      Funny thing, too, Nadia, because today I wrote in my notebook (the little one I carry everywhere with me): “Inspiration is all around you.”

      I’ve been meditating heavily on Hemingway this week. Dusted off my Finca Vigia collection on Sunday just to read and enjoy snippets of his writing style. Been tweeting and blogging about him, too.

    • Nadia,

      Fortunately, I haven’t suffered writers block, probably because I’ve been writing for only a short time. But I’ll remember this post if it ever happens. Thanks!

    • @ Jay – I know what you mean about the joys of writing when you are in the flow. I have noticed that when you follow Hemingway’s advice, you somehow remain in the flow. So give it a shot and see what happens. No harm in trying! 🙂

      @ Jennifer – I totally agree with you about not believing in procrastination. It never occurred to me but Hemingway’s advice not only beats writer’s block but procrastination too. Awesome! 🙂

      @ Lisis – Yay!!!! I am so happy that you are full of ideas. Writer’s block is definitely a work of fiction for you!

      @ Janice – You are absolutely right about having a life that you love. It truly does make a difference and enables you to be your work. Of course, you know that you are a perfect example of this, right? 🙂

      @ David – Good for you for not having writer’s block when writing for your blog. That shows how much you love what you are doing and btw, Hemingway rocks!!! 🙂

    • David Cain says:

      Hey, great post Nadia.

      Back when I tried to write fiction I struggled a lot. But I haven’t experienced writer’s block since I began my blog. When I’m working on it, I am my work, like you say. I don’t have to put on the writer’s hat; I’m always wearing it. I know it’s what I’m supposed to do.

      Hemingway was a real cool cat, I’ll check out his book on writing.

    • janice says:

      Thanks,Nadia (and Mary). I enjoyed this, especially the bits about being your work and being inspired. If you share yourself in your writing, it’s really important to nourish yourself by living a life you love. I don’t tend to get writer’s block – too many details in the world to love and be inspired by, too many people and things to be grateful for – but blogging’s been an eye opener for me. Exhaustion, spiritual, mental and physical, causes writer’s block for a lot of folk. The cure? If a complete break’s not a option, have a change of scene. Read books, take quotes, write in a different place, watch the world, take photos, cook more, gut a room, read different blogs that are completely unconnected to your genre. See what passions bloggers do share. Find more to love than to worry about.

    • Well this IS good news for me! I never suffer from writer’s block. In fact, I have the opposite problem: a ton of ideas that I get started on and then have to stop because my son needs something that cannot wait: like, for me to find a certain LEGO piece his the pile.

      At least now I won’t feel like the constant stopping of my flow of ideas is a huge limitation. I can view it as the prevention of writer’s block.

      Thanks, Nadia!

    • As a professional writer (and a writer by hobby), I can honestly say I don’t believe in “writer’s block.” (I know, I know, I can’t believe I said that!) In my opinion, “writer’s block” is just another excuse to procrastinate. If you keep telling yourself “I have writer’s block; I can’t think of anything to write about,” you can keep procrastinating on your writing without having to feel guilty.

      As you mentioned, Hemmingway suggested always stopping when you know what’s going to happen next. I think that’s brilliant! By stopping in mid-sentence or mid-paragraph, you will keep your story (or article or whatever you’re working on) at the front of your mind. And when you’re constantly thinking about it, it’s less likely you’re going to procrastinate because you want to get all these new thoughts down before you lose them.

      Would ya look at that?! A cure for writer’s block AND procrastination!

    • Hi Nadia!

      This is very intriguing. Like Sherri said, I’ve always been one to “get on a roll and go with it.” I don’t know if I can stop that mindset or not. I love writing, and when it flows, I just love it more and more. But this is certainly an interesting idea, and I want to try it.

    • @ Writer’s Coin – There is something about Paris that makes a writer productive. It is probably the water! I read “A Moveable Feast” while there and it was so great to see the places he mentioned. I even went to Cafe de la Paix, shelled out a hefty sum just so I could sit in the cafe where some of the great writers hung out. Worth every cent. Now I want to go back to Paris! 🙂

      @ Sherri – Inspiration is every where. It truly is around you at all times, you just have to look. As for the passage from Hemingway, it changed my life in terms of writing. It made the whole process easier because the stress of worrying what to write next is eliminated. When I first read it, I knew on some level that it was right even though I was doing the complete opposite. So I figured I would give it a shot and I have never looked back.

    • Writer Dad says:

      I wrote a piece yesterday called, “Rolling Through the Rough Draft.” The premise was exactly this. You have to keep going in the rough draft. If you stop to think about editing your work, you are only stifling your muse. You can always clean up later, writing is just about emptying what’s in your brain.

    • Hi Nadia,
      Lovely post and great bits of advice! I am quite familiar with writers block and I’ll admit when I read the passage from Hemingway here I got a bit tense. I’ve always been of the mindset that once you’re on a roll just go with it…but what he says makes sense and it’s worked for you so I will definitely give it a shot.

      A notebook is a must! Inspiration truly is everywhere and to be able to capture an idea on paper is great! I’m inspired by music and nature mostly but people watching at the mall or in a park is right up there. Thanks for this Nadia and congrats on your guest post here! 🙂

    • Ahh, reading Hemingway in Paris—what an experience! I believe the book you quote is A Moveable Feast, which is one of my favorites. I spent some time in Paris and all I did was read (Hemingway included), walked around, and wrote.

      It was the most productive I ever was in my life.

      Now you’ve gone and gotten me all reminiscent….

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