Randall Payleitner


The Cure(s) for Writer’s Block

So, you’ve done all the “hard work”… You’ve got a killer idea, you wrote up a very impressive book proposal, you’ve got a publishing partner lined up, you sketched out some rough versions of what the cover should look like, you’ve dreamed of your book’s location at eye-level on the new releases shelf at B&N, and you even have your acknowledgments page written up.

There’s just one problem.

You still need to write your book. In fact, the sample chapter you sent along to your publisher took three months to smooth out and you’re still not entirely happy with it.

You’re an author but your book is still somewhere between an idea and a glimmer in your eye. Every author comes across this problem… the time when the ink must hit the proverbial paper, and all of a sudden doing the dishes seems a must-do, super-fun activity.

I’ve worked with over 100 authors to help make their books happen. Sometimes, the energy comes from within and all I am is a cheerleader, other times, it’s more hands-on… but the reality for every author is that writing a book is hard work. And the best way to tackle hard work is with a plan.

Here are six cures for the inevitability of writer’s block:

(1) Write up an annotated outline

This makes the roadmap crystal clear. It’s not that you can’t deviate from it as the writing progresses (I guarantee you will), but the annotated outline helps jumpstart the writing, it helps navigate the transitions between ideas, and it helps keep you on track as you’re writing. It’s kind of like setting up the boundary lines before a football game. No boundaries = chaos.

(2) Make a different document for each chapter

This might be more of a personal hack, but keeping the different chapters in different documents allows for you to build each one as a unique animal (while still staying true to the outline, see above). This strategy will help you feel like you’re making progress and it will allow you to work on different chapters simultaneously without flipping around dozens of pages.

(3) Literally block out time on your calendar to write every day—even if it’s just 30 minutes

Go into your calendar/scheduling app and block off writing time. Set a meeting with yourself. It might be over your lunch hour, it might be at 11p. I don’t care. But if you set up the time, you’ll do it. If you don’t, you won’t. Trust me.

(4) Find two spots where you like to write

I know people like to have their magical writing spot (ideally it has some shiplap, an old library chair, and a romanticized Hemingway quote caligraphied out on the wall)… but the pragmatism of writing is much more powerful than the romantic picture of it. Pick a writing spot in your house for the more limited writing windows. If you have small children, it might very well be the laundry room. And, pick a third space writing spot where you can go for those longer writing windows (e.g. the library, Starbucks, or a meeting room at your church) somewhere you can get away from the distractions, get a cup of coffee, and get after it.

(5) Find a coach

Your coach might be your editor or an experienced author or an expert in your field of writing. This is someone you can rely on for tips, tricks, and expertise. Ask for their permission/commitment ahead of time and run your ideas and writing by them as you go. For 99.998% of us, writing is not a solo activity.

(6) Find an encourager

Your encourager is someone who loves you and who won’t mind listening to you vent, complain, and nerd-out. This is often a spouse or best-friend character. They need not have any expertise in writing or in your field—in fact, it’s better if they don’t. Every writer needs an encourager otherwise they might go crazy.

There you have it. Do the above and get writing! Email me if you have any questions. What did I miss?