How to Overcome Writer's Block

 Empty writer's journal

How to overcome writer's block when you struggle to start writing? First, become aware of your inner critic.

A recent Put Your Power in Words Workshop participant told me that when she sits down to write, hours can go by before she gets a sentence on the page. It takes a long time before she can actually hear the sound of her own voice over the voices of judgment and doubt.

After this revelation, many others chimed in about how the inner critic stopped them in their tracks, like John*, a young aspiring addiction counselor. John shared that he gets performance anxiety when he puts pen to paper. He claimed to feel like he were speaking onstage, while critics were jeering and heckling to drown out his voice.

The truth is, I haven't met one writer—including myself—who hasn't fallen prey to the suffocating sound of the inner critic.

The inner critic is the ego's way of keeping us safe. To protect us from the risks of making a change through our writing, the inner critic gives us writer's block.

While there are many definitions of the word "ego," I define it as the part of the psyche that roots us to what we believe to be our reality in order to help us survive.

However, authentic writing threatens our egos. Authentic writing forces us to question everything we know to be real. This kind of writing challenges us to see ourselves and our lives in a new light, which means transforming our own realities to support greater well-being for ourselves and our audience.

As a result, our inner critics can sometimes choke off self-expression so we don't risk hurting ourselves by veering away from the comfort of status quo and into growth, which is an uncomfortable and risky place to be.

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Sometimes, the voice of the inner critic sounds so sane and so much like our own voice that it can be hard NOT to obey. However, when you hear a litany of thoughts like these, you know it's your inner critic talking and not your authentic voice.

"I don't know where to start."

"What would they think of me if I wrote this?"

"Do I really have anything valuable to say?"

"This is terrible!"

"Maybe I should stop writing and come back to it later."

"Maybe I should stop writing. Period." 

How to overcome writer's block when your inner critic harasses you? Set boundaries and write anyway.

Witness limiting thoughts as they arise, breathe deeply, and let them pass—as they inevitably will. Thoughts like the ones above only drain us when we identify with them. So, also notice when you find thoughts repeating or intensifying as you write; this is an indication that you believe them and may be letting them define you.

Consider enrolling in my free How to Slay Writer's Block online course, below. In it, you'll get powerful strategies that help you silence your inner critic and write with impact, joy and soul.

Remember: Only you can decide whether or not to write. No one and nothing outside of you has that power—unless you give your power away. How you give your power away is by focusing on the voice of your inner critic more than your own. Feeling resistance and writing anyway doesn't only relieve writer's block; it also strengthens your voice and your commitment to your message.

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* I have changed identifying details to protect client confidentiality.