A Strategy for Defeating Writer’s Block and Painter’s Block

Hand of artist dipping brush into colored cups of paintWhen they are free of blocks creators are the most productive human beings on earth, capable of generating tremendous volumes of writing, painting, music, etc., the likes of which no one has ever seen. When I was in the business world lecturing on human motivation, my approach was unusual. I held up my beloved writers, artists, actors, composers, and particularly ballerinas as models of commitment, sacrifice, and inexhaustible drive and courage.

I’d say, “Study people in the arts. They will teach you more than anyone else what motivation and the quest for excellence really is, the demands it makes on you, and the heights of achievement it can take you to.”

Yet, it’s quite possible that at any given time the majority of creators–wonderfully talented though they are, with so much potential to contribute beauty to this oh-so-needy world, longing for one thing only: to create–are experiencing a block that is tying them in knots, and are at a standstill. The ability to overcome blocks is a major survival skill for creators

Some blocks last hours, and some for years. Minor blocks come and go and are nothing to worry about. For example, just not being in a mood to work for a short period. But some creators even now are being controlled by a chronic inability to create that is driving them to despair and anguish.

What could be more of a torture to a creator than to long to work, to be ready to work, and to have something urgent to say, but be unable to work?

There are many causes of creator’s blocks. Some of them are hard to diagnose and hard to cure. Exceptionally rare is the creator who is not blocked some of the time, though many puff out their chests and boast that they have never been and claim to be unable to imagine how anyone could be. That infuriates the person who is deeply mired in a block who prays night and day to know where to turn to remedy it.

A writer whose head is composed of crumpled paper uses a typewriter.

By Drew Coffman

The causes of blocks may be much more complicated than many people realize. It has been found that blocked creators are more anxious and less confident people than creators who aren’t burdened by blocks. Blocked creators tend to worry excessively, and are self-doubting, and more prone to depression. They have also been found to be less ambitious and more easily discouraged than creators who are not blocked.

So to cure a severe block, the creator’s whole unique psychology–who they are as human beings and how they differ from other people–may have to be factored in if the block is to be overcome. A creator’s mind, more than other people’s minds, is the birthplace of rich images.

No one on earth can generate mental images as skillfully and profusely as creators. That’s the role they commit themselves to–makers of vivid images in words, paints, physical gestures and movements, and sounds. I believe that a path to freedom from creator’s blocks is through those images. I’ve written extensively about that in another post.


Here is a strategy involving your creator’s abilities to make images and daydream that may begin to loosen the grip of a protracted creative block. I have designed it for writers, but it can be adapted successfully by creators of any kind:

  1. When you are caught or snagged and having difficulty writing, I want you to slow your breathing down, inhaling and exhaling smoothly, using an ancient breathing technique I’ve written about. There is no need to hurry. Just breathe comfortably for a while until there is a rhythm.
  2. Now I’d like you to project your consciousness above you into a corner of the room and see yourself in images in your mind’s eye writing smoothly and effortlessly as though you are someone else who has never had any trouble writing. There’s no strain and the words appear almost magically on the page under the direction of your creator’s mind.
  3. Think about the state of being you would be in at maximum productivity. Can you identify it? What would it entail?
  4. Think about the state you’d like to avoid—anxious, compulsive, self-doubting, and depressed. Let all your ridiculous worries and all obsessions and doubts drift away.
  5. Think of your mental state. It should be alert. It should be sharp. You should be thinking of writing words and not thinking of yourself doing this exercise.
  6. Now, daydream to your heart’s content.

Vivid mental images that can be made into creative daydreams and “mind wanderings” that writers I’ve talked to have found helpful in breaking through blocks include:

Traveling through space to get to a place of creative freedom (I often in my fantasies do the backstroke through space high above the earth. Below me are ancient cities with palaces with magnificent gold steeples and minarets.)

Going down deeper, inside and under the block

A faucet opening and the words you’ve been waiting for pouring out in a deluge

Flipping on a light switch

Going around a wall

Crossing a bridge

Enjoy the images. Go with them. Revel in them.


Use this strategy, doing the exercise once or twice a day for seven consecutive days or whenever you are blocked, and you should see results.


© 2018 David J. Rogers

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Filed under Artists, Conquering Blocks, Creativity Self-Improvement, Developing Talent, Human Potential and Achievement, Emotions of Creators, Inner Skills, Moods, Motivation, Painter's Block, Survival Skills, Work Production, Writer's Block, Writers

17 responses to “A Strategy for Defeating Writer’s Block and Painter’s Block

  1. Marilucas Casarrubias

    Hi David.
    I like your post.
    Is like a present 🎁 from you to us we follow you.
    I see you have a well educated mind to write your
    Every time I read your blogs I feel I want to write
    something, you create pretty images and are
    motivating me too.
    Have a good night.


    • davidjrogersftw

      Marilucas, Thank you for your compliments and support. I’ve been thinking about you lately and wondering if you’re keeping to the daily writing schedule we talked about. Even five minutes stolen from your mother’s duties will help keep you in the creative habit.


  2. Good morning David….such a good subject. As you say when free of any blockage, (and here I speak from personal experience) it is as if I can fly….everything seems to be in sync….and work effortless! However, when experiencing a block, be it mini or maxi…oh my goodness. Because they are so horrible I have devised a tool that seems to get me through to the other end. I simply paint anything – could be an apple a flower, anything that’s in front of me, or I doodle and release from my mind, patterns and ideas….None of these are usually finished work, but if I just keep doing them, ultimately a spark occurs, a little like when we try to rev up a car and the engine catches – and slowly but surely I am off again. An emotional and physical release occurs.
    Some of my biggest break throughs have come from a block. I remember once in Wales being in one of those dreaded moments, and so I put out large sheets of paper and literally ran up and down the studio throwing paint at it. It so happened I had some Gouache in the studio, a medium I never used….and so I picked it up and threw it down into some wet watercolour….and VOILA. I loved the way the transparent watercolour and opaque qouache blended – which lead to the creation of a new series of work. Twenty years later and I am still using this technique as part of my box of tricks!:)
    A change of scenery can also unblock. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy travelling so much to different places. I am always amazed when I arrive in a new place, or perhaps one I have visited before and loved….that immediately an excitement within occurs and I can’t wait to get my sketching stuff out.

    You are also right in saying that the same applies to writing. Although that is definitely my secondary medium, I am enjoying writing more and more. Recently I came up with something that’s working for me. I was trying to organise throughts about my own life experiences….and as it’s all rather complex – I found it somewhat difficult. Then I spied a packet of ‘post its’ on my desk…and simply began to write down each thought on a separate post it….and then I was able to put all these thoughts together on a big board and view them….rather like a jigsaw puzzle.

    As always your posts give me so much. Thank you very much and may your creative juices be flowing. Janet 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • davidjrogersftw

      Dear Janet, your comment here adds so much to the post. Your experiences and ideas shed a bright, useful light on the very real and common problem of creative blocks. Your comment is just great, and I think it will help people.

      I admit I have to belly laugh imagining you dashing around the studio tossing paint around. What an entertaining sight for me. And your athletic method worked! Last night I watched the movie Pollock about Jackson Pollock and loved so much the scene when paint dripped from the brush and made a shape he liked, which started him on his Action Painting path. Your splash-it-on method reminded me.

      Anyone reading your comments to my posts can see that you’re a true, serious, experienced artist who has given her art lots of careful thought, one who is willing to experiment in order to assure that it keeps coming out of her.

      You are multi-talented. Your writing which along with your paintings so captivates your followers is wonderful–direct, clear, sincere, lively, and immensely pleasing. I think it is impossible to see your work without being impressed. You’re just full of practical ideas here that people who stumble on this post will benefit from. Thanks so much for contributing.

      As always I wish you the very best there across half a country and an ocean,

      Liked by 2 people

      • Good morning David; – thank you so much for this lovely response. I always find it’s easy to write about what I know well…and this topic is one close to my heart. In my teaching over the years, I can’t tell you how many times I have recommended to those who simply can’t get going on their own to PLAY – to throw the paint around, but unfortunately few seem to do it. Those who have, recognise the benefits.
        Like all creatives I need to remind myself of this often…..as it’s so easy to get into that mode of wanting things to look perfect – wanting approval from others!
        Hope you enjoy a lovely weekend – and that the creative vibes are flowing. Janet 🙂


        • davidjrogersftw

          Having followed your wonderful and unique blog for some years now, I know how playful you are in your right-there-on-the-surface enthusiasm, forthrightness, and wonderment, and can see that you never completely left childhood. You enjoy being with children for a reason.

          That quality about you has benefitted those of us who are treated to your lovely painting and writing. I think it might be the reason why when I read you some kind of almost magical spell of relief and pleasure comes over me.

          I am a child too, and swear that all my life I’ve never experienced embarrassment. What the hell. Why not be a little silly, a little moody, and not always predictable (even to myself.) I think you are the same, friend.

          Thank you so much for reminding us all out here not to crave anyone’s approval but our own. Our standards are high enough. We don’t need anyone else’s, do we?

          Much snow here today, so I’m off to go for a wintery trudge and snowball fight with Diana.

          Best always, David

          Liked by 1 person

        • Good morning David, Enjoy your snowball fight with Diana:) The thought of which brought a huge smile to my face:)
          We actually have sunshine this morning and it’s lovely.
          I do believe that holding onto childish thoughts and playfulness are vital for all aspects of our being. One of my favourite expressions when teaching is to say ‘Why Not?’ In other words, explore the possibilities, because they are vast in number. A little like my apple exercise, which shows us that we are programmed to see an apple in a few different ways…when in fact, if we really look at it and explore it. the apple would die a thousand deaths before we run out of ways to see it.!

          It means so much to me to have you as a friend through this amazing medium of cyber space. From your blog and book – I learn so much. Have a wonderful and creative day. Janet 🙂


        • davidjrogersftw

          Thank you, Janet, for the compliment and the warmth of friendship you add to my life.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Great ideas, David. TGIF hugs.


    • davidjrogersftw

      Thank you for your compliment and your follow, Teagan. Quite nice, coming from you, especially. Best wishes

      Liked by 1 person

      • It truly is a beautiful and mindful post, David. I just gave myself the treat of reading it again.
        For me, it’s very rarely a true “block”… rather it’s what I’ve started calling “the dreadful drain.” Having to work daily amid a toxic ocean of negative and incompetent people (particularly those in charge)… It drains me of everything good. Once I realized that, it helped me emotionally, even if it didn’t help a lot with “doing.”
        I think creatives are all “wired” at least a little differently than most. I know that I’m wired very differently. Enough of my babble. Time to get back to work. Hugs.


        • davidjrogersftw

          Oh, Tegan, my friend, I do remember the “dreadful drain” you describe.” Many years ago I quit my job and started my own company to avoid working with the kind of people you describe. It was risky, especially me with four children, but I never regretted that change.

          A writer’s energy is not unlimited. To have it siphoned off by fretting and brooding–especially at night, after work, and Sunday evenings– about the nonsense those incompetent, negative people put in your way is terribly unfortunate.

          Birds of a feather do flock together, so we must choose our birds with extreme care if we can–good, positive, encouraging, generous, and helpful people. Best wishes and hugs to you too.


  4. Great post. Many people who read this will get help. Thanks for sharing, dear friend. May you have more light to continue to share useful stuff through this medium!


  5. Michelle Endersby

    I am just filled with a sense of wonder and possibility reading this. Thank you so very much David.


    • Dear Michelle, you artists and your potent and unsurpassed ability to create images–that’s the basis of your art and livelihood–make me understand why this particular post is important to you. You live in a world of images of roses and gardens. don’t you? You don’t know my “regular, non-post” writing in poetry and prose, but if you did you would understand why the talent to fashion images is very important to me too. So why not apply images to overcoming blocks and solving other problems?

      So good to hear from you.


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