Writers Blocked by Doubt, Try This Method Instead

You want to write but you feel blocked.

The block tries to justify its existence. It wants to convince you that it needs to be there. It tends to come up again and again and follow the same patterns. It’s an energy drain that leads to familiar places.

Try this freewriting method instead:

  1. Write to express the doubt.
  2. See what else comes up.

Sounds reeeeeally simple, so you probably don’t want to try it. Because your reasons are so unique, a method this simple couldn’t possibly find a way around them.

As a writing mentor, I often find it really interesting to bring into close perspective all the various ways a creative workflow can go wrong. I see myself in other people and I learn how similar we all are.

The effect of the exercise

Doubt really does a number on the coherence of thoughts. It’s actually quite interesting to look at. When I decide to write even though I am feeling doubt, I find that my thoughts are scattered.

Writing has an interesting relationship with thoughts and emotions. No matter what I am feeling before I start writing, I notice that once I begin to write, it doesn’t take very long for my thoughts to grow more coherent. Thoughts, emotions and language all sync up.

When I am stuck in an emotional pattern, I typically begin by writing what I am thinking, putting form to my doubts. In this way, it’s fair to say that the doubts have become productive. No longer are the doubts stopping me. Even though I still feel doubt, I’m writing.

And yeah, it may not seem that interesting. I’m not writing a masterpiece. Instead, I’m expressing my doubt. It doesn’t feel that awesome… yet.

[bctt tweet=”As doubts become seen, they lose their power. They can no longer grip you.”]

When you allow your feelings to become transparent to what you are writing, and you simply express your doubts, the emotions sync up with the flow of language.

No longer is your doubt running the show. You are in the driver seat. Your doubt is just the content that is there on the page. To varying degrees, you are in the creative mode.

Sometimes the flow feels more alive and sometimes it’s flat. Even if it’s flat, at least it’s moving you towards greater transparency to your own thoughts and feelings.

Greater transparency means it’s easier for you to navigate your inner landscape.

What often happens is that our underlying feeling never gets seen. Instead, what gets seen is what the feeling is carrying. The doubt, for example, might be carrying the belief that I have nothing worthwhile to say. If I can’t navigate my inner landscape, I will just end up receiving my negative beliefs. The doubt brought me the content: “I have nothing worthwhile to say.” That is a claim; it’s not true or false. It’s something being offered to me by my doubt. You want to get to a place where you recognize these patterns so that when you feel doubt you can recognize it for what it is. It doesn’t matter as much what the doubt is trying to bring you. You can take it or leave it. Maybe it’s valuable, maybe not.

Freewriting to express your doubt is not about self-therapy. It’s about moving towards doing the writing that you really want. Freewriting is definitely cathartic because you are no longer bothered by self-doubt. The doubt gets expressed, and you can let it go. When you freewrite, you cling to the clarity of the practice, not the doubt.

It pays to be forgiving and to acknowledge that these are old habits. Everybody has them. Part of you will want to get hooked by the doubt. It may catch you off guard, and you will find yourself again feeling that you have arrived at the unfortunate but real dirty truth: “I’m no good. So I should just stop, and return to my old comfortable self-doubt. I don’t like it, but it’s familiar and safe.”

The more you freewrite, the more you take advantage of your innate freedom as a creative person. The part of you that freewrites is the part that knows there is something else in there besides doubt.

You are writing for a much larger reason, not just to express doubt. The act of freewriting becomes a movement towards greater joy and refinement. The process can feel very much like unearthing something precious. No problems, just process. As you need to, you wipe away the grime or dirt or dust of whatever emotions are in the way, and beneath them there is something really wholesome and engaging. Something worth celebrating. Something worth the attention.

The doubt holds a false certainty over you. It’s making a claim. Just like any other argument, it will if given the opportunity find some justification for its claims. Better just to recognize that it is a claim, give that space, and move towards what you want. At any moment you can switch trajectories and write something else entirely. You are not locked into needing to resolve anything.

Pivot your flow by asking empowering questions

You don’t need to figure out what is wrong with you or why you have a hard time. When you feel called to, you can simply drop where you are and move towards what you want.

See what happens when you press gently through the uncertainty towards discovery.

What does the deeper part of you want?

Who do you want your writing to speak to?

When you look at similar writing are you inspired? Intimidated? Challenged? Competitive?

How can you really speak to a reader, meet their needs, bring something of yourself in a vulnerable way that touches something in them?

What part of you wants to come forward?

What is being glossed over that could be brought into the light?

What drew you to your topic in the first place? Has that changed?

What do you want to happen if your project is successful? Will your engagement with the topic change if you achieve success?

What is the part of yourself that is visible to your project and your reader? What part of you is invisible or hiding?

Is your love of your project contingent on any conditions? Is it unconditional?

Do you feel inspired or obligated?

Which time of the day is most useful for you to work on this project?

When you look at your writing, how do you feel?

What truths do you want to honor?


It is very possible that the very things which block us hold potentially empowering things for us to see. But to take advantage of this wisdom, it becomes important to unlock it from the stories and patterns that they are wrapped up in. The more you trust the process of freewriting, the better you come to understand and honor these difficult parts of yourself.