Ask the Experts: How to Combat Writer’s Block

Writer’s block can even happen to the best of writers. A deadline is looming and the creative thoughts are just not coming the way that you would like. SATW members write for some of the most respected travel media outlets in the world so we “Ask the Experts” what they do to combat writer’s block when it matters most.

  • Do something to engage the senses like bake a cake for the aroma, work in the garden or sew. Digging in the dirt or pulling out colorful fabrics and working with the texture, the color and the patterns can loosen up the creative juices. Things begin to flow when your other senses are engaged in a creative activity

  • Take a walk in the woods or read some of your favorite books.

  • Write with a split screen: a word document and a photo for inspiration.

  • Take a shower. Some of the best story ideas, ledes and editing issues are resolved in the shower. It could be the warm water, or the smell of the soap, or just total solitude, but it works.

  • Read an engaging story in a magazine. Pick up the rhythm and run with it.

  • Make soup with whatever is in the fridge or pantry. Chicken soup, vegetarian soup, butternut squash with apple soup. The mindless, manual act of cleaning and cutting vegetables can clear the mind and invigorate fresh ideas.

  • Take a walk around the block.

  • Use the advantage of sleep to wake up with a clear mind. Take those first morning ideas and jump on the computer to type out ledes or outlines.

  • Go for a long swim.

  • Sit and write. It may not your best work but make yourself write something. Eventually it will get the juices flowing.

  • What would you tell a friend? Oftentimes writer’s block happens when trying to start the story. Think about how you would tell a friend about this story and the key take-away. What’s the first thing you would say?

  • Do a physical activity like a bike ride or a hike. Before you set out, compartmentalize the section of the story you are having trouble with and let it simmer. The process of placing yourself somewhere other than your usual writing location and physical activity of walking/hiking, biking, gardening pushes your brain to think in different ways.

  • Lower your standards. Write like a third grader and go back and fix it later. Just get it on paper, no matter how bad it is.

  • Work through the process and remember that you won’t be 100% all of time. The best hitter in baseball history, Ty Cobb, only had a .366 career average. The NBA record for best career field goal percentage is 67.4%, by DeAndre Jordan Jr. The best NFL QB Pass completion ratio is 67%, by Drew Bees. So why do writers think they can knock it out of the park 100% of the time? Do your best, edit, edit, edit, and then let it go.

  • Engage in distractions while the wheels turn in your head. Boil the concept down to its essence and write a summary/budget-line sentence or short paragraph or what you would pitch to an editor. Create an outline in your head or on paper. What about your experience stands out most?

  • Wait for deadline pressure to set in. Panic and write, write, write – but allow a few days for it to marinate so you can go back and polish it up before submitting.

  • If you can’t find a lede, start in the middle. It will come and the rest will fall into place.

  • Just start writing. Start typing your stream of thoughts as an exercise to get the flow of ideas going.

  • Write down everything you can think of and when you get stuck, take a break. Keep doing that until you have your article.

  • Write, write, write. Don’t think about it just do it. Edit later.

Remember that every writer has a different system and there is no single solution for everyone. Even the most experienced writers occasionally wrestle with writer’s block. The key is to experiment and find a solution that works for you.

Find out more about becoming an SATW member and connect with colleagues one-on-one as you hone your writing skills in the travel industry.