Bust Through Writer’s Block with These Effective Exercises

The myth of “writer’s block” can be a dangerous one for self-published writers. Just using the term as a self-diagnosis for your creative block can make the challenge seem insurmountable


Writers block may seem like a harmless way to categorize the dreaded enemy of creativity that comes when you least expect it. 

But what if this horrible villain is just the collection of small, manageable challenges? 

Depression, overthinking and a lack of vision or direction for your work can all cause your mind to blank when you need your creativity the most.  

Below are 3 enemies of creativity that make up Team Writer’s Block, and writing exercises you can use to overcome them.  

The First Enemy of Creativity: Depression

Depression means more than just feeling sad in the moment. It can creep up seemingly out of nowhere, and cause you to feel numb about the things that used to excite you — including writing. 

As a creative, you may be no stranger to depression. Around 450 million people live with the ailment. And research suggests that creative minds are more prone to depression due to their high level of insight and ability to empathize. 

Luckily, the more ways we learn more about the different types of depression, more ways emerge to make it manageable so you can maintain your creative edge.

Your Weapon: A Change in Environment

The first step to treating depression is to recognize it. If you have a history of depression or suspect it’s a factor, it’s best to seek professional help to help guide you. 

When it comes to depression’s effect on writer’s block, an effective method is to change your surroundings:

  • Take inventory: Go around the room and reflect on each item in the room and the feelings it evokes. Make a list of any thoughts or feelings that come to mind. 
  • Get a second opinion: Ask a trustworthy and honest friend about their feelings on the room, and any ideas they have to help make it feel like a healthy place of refuge for you. 
  • Focus on all 5 senses: Your brain is working overtime processing little details around you. Pay attention to all 5 senses. Different sensory details, like pleasant aromas or color, can help regulate your moods. Yellows or light blues are 2 of the colors most preferred by people feeling down to help them feel more optimistic. 
  • Lighten up: Dim, unnatural light can cause eye strain and headaches, and is proven to increase negative feelings. Try to increase the amount of natural light in your workspace, and consider investing in light therapy items. 
  • Freshen up: Our noses have as many as 6 million odor-detecting cells. Certain scents can trigger these cells to cause muscle relaxation. Try out some aromatherapy with depression-busting scents like bergamot, lavender, chamomile or ylang ylang.
  • Rearrange: A new room layout can help you begin new routines and pull you out of a mental rut. 
  • Regulate the temperature: Being too cold or too hot can worsen depression. If your workspace gets too cold in the winter, be prepared with a space heater. If it gets too hot, invest in a cooling system or take your work elsewhere on hot summer days. 
  • Take it outside: Study after study has proven the benefits connecting with na-ture has on mental health. Unplug, grab your notebook, and take yourself on a mini vacation to a new nature spot, even if it’s just under a tree at the park on your city block. 

The Enemy: Analysis Paralysis

Whether you’ve set your expectations too high or you have a natural knack for over-analysis, overthinking can be detrimental to the creative process

When you feel lost in planning and evaluating every possible outcome, you’ve probably crossed into the realm of analysis paralysis. And analysis paralysis can silence words, sentences and entire paragraphs before they’ve even stepped foot on the page.

Your Weapon: Facing Your Fears

So what’s the main cause of analysis paralysis? Perfectionism and fear of failure.

If fear’s the reason you’re having trouble putting pen to paper, make that fear your muse. Try this writing prompt to help you identify and transform these fears:

  • Write to an imaginary writing mentor (dead or alive) about your fears and self-doubt. Explain exactly what you’re afraid of, and why it’s keeping you from writing. Don’t hold back — they won’t judge you!
  • Read the letter out loud to yourself. Then, write a letter back to you from your imaginary mentor, addressing these fears with compassion, vision, advice, or simply with understanding.
  • Next, write for ten minutes about what this experience was like. Do you feel more connected to yourself? Do your fears feel more manageable? Do you have more courage to write despite your fears?
  • Repeat this exercise anytime you feel analysis paralysis keeping you from your writing desk.

The Enemy: Lack of Vision

Whether you’re stuck in the middle of your story or you’re looking for inspiration for your next project, lack of vision is the final evil pillar propping up writer’s block.

Your Weapon: A Visit to Your Dream World

From the 1970’s into the 1980’s, Yale professors Jerome Singer and Michael Barrios conducted experiments to find the source of creative blocks and how one might over-come them. 

One of the more successful solutions to creative blocks they found was to guide the writer’s through a mental imagery exercise:

  • Prepare a list of 10 different subjects, whether it be a piece of music, a place in nature, or a hope for the future.
  • Sit in a dim, quiet room with no distractions.
  • Contemplate each prompt and take time to visualize it. What colors do you see? What temperatures or textures do you feel? What do you smell? What sounds do you hear? Use all five senses.
  • Now, visualize something from your current project — a setting, character, or event, and create the same dreamlike landscape you had for the other prompts. 

Now that you have the weapons to battle writer’s block, it’s time to get some advice from the pros. Gain some insight on how other writers stay inspired >

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

Flight cover

After a disappointing proof of my labor-intensive and much loved manuscript from another printer, I decided to try Steuben Press. Based on recommendations from many of my publishing team who are all members of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA), I submitted my book to Adam and his staff.

Their proof was perfect! The illustrations were crisp, the print clear, and the construction high quality. But the cover! Absolutely beautiful and softly glossed, Steuben's production added depth to the colors and popped the fine design by my cover artist. My book shimmers on the shelf!

Now I sell only Steuben's copies by hand and feel confident that my readers are receiving the best product reflecting my years of effort and passion for my subject.

– Sunny Weber, Denver, CO