Writing When You Just Can’t Write Anymore

The wall. The block. It exists for all of us, and in my tired brain it seems to be hitting harder than it used to. Normally I don’t run out of things to say when I hit writer’s block – I run out of energy to say them. How can I get fired up to write something amusing or brilliant when I’d much rather be curled up with a mind-numbing novel or perhaps laying in bed staring at the ceiling fan going around and around.

Never in my lifetime prior to becoming a parent did I realize just how exhausted I could become. Sure, I stayed up all night in high school and maybe a few times in college. I worked hard for a few days, but then there came that day when I got to crash and just sleep and relax and rest for hours and hours and hours.

Now, when I get tired, I don’t get to have fifteen hour sleep marathons. I get to have deadlines instead. Like all of us slogging through lives with responsibilities and adorable little alarm clocks that demand to be fed and cared for every morning at 6 am, it hurts sometimes.

So what do you do when you’re facing a brick wall of writer's block armed with nothing but another Diet Dr. Pepper and some stale almonds? (Hey – we’re down the pantry basics over here – don’t judge.) Why, you take a big slug of caffeine, shake off the doldrums and you take care of your business.

Get moving.

If you’re looking at the clock and realizing that all of the sane people are sleeping or preparing to sleep right now, you’ve got to get over that mindset if you’re hoping to be even a tiny bit productive. Try some yoga. Run in place. Do some jumping jacks. Try a few push-ups. You can’t sleep and feel lazy if the blood is moving. (It helps burn off those almonds, too.)

Use a list.

Staring at a blank document is disheartening. Instead, pull up your calendar or organizer that lists all of the things you’re going to do today. Get started with the easiest one on the list so you can feel you’re making progress. This is a psychological game, after all.

Jam out.

Remember how you used to rock out while you worked on those high school or college essays? And that was before anyone was paying for your brilliance. Put on the channel where you know the most words (Try Love Stinks or Glee on Pandora - I’m a sucker for both) and start singing. Turn it up, jam out, get motivated – just don’t wake up the kids.

Organize for tomorrow.

If you just can’t do it – you’ve tried, but you’re drooling caffeine and almond juice on the keyboard – don’t create something that will be junk. Instead, update your list of things to do tomorrow (that’s code for make it longer), but ease your burden by organizing a bit before you crash.

You can save the documents to the right folders, pull up your notes or find quick resources you can use. Even if it only saves you fifteen minutes, it’s a start. Besides, after you get more sleep tonight, you’ll be better rested and ready to produce tomorrow.

Profile image for Rebecca Garland
Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

Get More Content Like This in Your Inbox

Did you enjoy this post? If so, please subscribe to the All Freelance Writing newsletter where you'll be notified of new blog articles and receive subscribers-only content.

Subscribe now.

12 thoughts on “Writing When You Just Can’t Write Anymore”

  1. I’m not a parent, but I can definitely relate. I’ve been getting a lot more writing hangovers recently and, unlike college, can’t just sleep them off.

  2. I remember those days with my back against the wall, occasionally just having too much work to handle and maintain my sanity.

    I am now delighted as I have a full-time staff starting April 2, and my business is going to run under my management, not under my slavings…

    Outsourcing isn’t for everyone, but if you want to grow your business or at least spend less time on it, you can wisely adapt your business to having staff or contractors. Just my two cents.

  3. Happens to me all the time. Often, I can get back into the groove if I change the scenery. Go write in another room, especially one where I don’t usually write. If it’s during normal hours, I’ll go to the park or the library.

    Or, I’ll put on some episodes of Sex and the City – basically your version of jamming out. I’ve seen them all dozens of times, but they’re still entertaining and I know enough of the storyline that I don’t really have to pay attention. Days of Our Lives is another show that I can have playing in the background and not be distracted.

  4. Nice ideas, I would add getting out for a walk, maybe take care of any errands that need to be done. Lots of times can spark new ideas from a few different perspectives, maybe similar to the Get Moving idea.

  5. YES!! Glee on Pandora! Haha! I’m glad I’m not the only one 😉 (Plus it plays Disney toons sometimes, which keeps the kids happy!)
    I’m quite familiar with the “I’m tired but this mess is due tomorrow.” I’m currently wrapping up a huge project that’s due Monday. I will be so glad to see it done, but first I have to go back and make all my fixes. While everyone is doing fun things, I’m rereading and revising. I’m giving myself a break tonight, but I know it’s going to consume most of my weekend.

  6. I can relate. When I feel like I can’t write anymore, I get up and stretch. I’ll do yoga or go for a walk or run. Music also helps me to unwind and relax. I used to hike and meditate on South Mountain in Phoenix, AZ. The hot temps loosened me up. 🙂

  7. Unfortunately I have tried all of these and end up with the same result: Nothing but a blank sheet. I am starting to think writing is not my thing.

    • Honestly, that’s a possibility. Nothing, including writing, is for everyone. But I wouldn’t give up on it unless you’re absolutely sure. It’s one thing to have a down period. It’s something else to not be cut out for this kind of work. And writing is absolutely work, no matter how much you might love it.

      Why not try taking a break from it? If you feel like you absolutely must get back to writing, then you know it’s still for you and it was a motivation issue. Sometimes we just need to recharge. Or maybe take a different approach, or try a different form of writing to stretch your creative muscles. Maybe you’re just stuck in a rut. Fortunately, we can always find a way out of those, even if it takes a bit of time. 🙂

  8. Thank you for this! Done jumping jacks & about to put some music on now (I’m thinking some Kings of Leon will do the trick!). I am relating to you on such a deep level BTW! Full time mummy, freelance writing and proofreading all week long while teaching on weekends. Crazy but hey doable with a lot of positive thinking and tricks to keeping our sanity.

    Lot of love,
    Just another sleep deprived mum

    • My goodness. Rebecca is such a champ. And you ladies make my life sound like a breeze. I don’t know how you manage it all, but I hope you keep on pulling through and that it gets a little less crazy in time. 🙂


Leave a Comment