Getting Out of a Writer’s Rut

writer's rut

Sometimes life hands you lemonade right after you’ve brushed your teeth. That’s how the last few weeks have felt for me. Dealing with a medical emergency for one of my children as well as a turn of events in my husband’s cancer, left me little time to write. That happens sometimes, doesn’t it? The problem is that writing is almost as necessary as air for a writer.  How do you get out of a writer’s rut?

Getting out of a writer’s rut can be a chore

In physics, there is a principle known as Newton’s first law of motion – sometimes referred to as the law of inertia.

“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

So here we are in a writer’s rut. We will stay in this rut without being acted upon by some unbalanced force. That requires effort.

Be willing to accept less than the best

Sometimes as writers, we feel as though we need to create something great with our words or it’s not worth the effort. This can lead to writer’s rut. We sit in front of our laptops with fingers poised to tap out a tale for the ages and nothing of consequence comes to our minds. Call it distraction or writer’s block. Whatever it is, you can get beyond it.

Because the ideas may not come easily, you might need to resort to some of my favorite tools. The first is the Jar of Ideas (click on the link to learn more about using a jar of ideas). These are pre-written writing prompts which you can pull out of a jar and use to spark creativity. Sometimes they will yield a good piece of writing. Just as often, the result is blah. That’s okay. You are creating a habit. You are moving out of the writer’s rut.

Try a different environment

Getting out of a writer’s rut sometimes requires a different location. When I struggle to stay focused, I go to my local coffee shop, buy a smoothie and write for a couple of hours. I always manage to leave feeling as though I’ve accomplished something. That feeling of accomplishment is invigorating. You remember why you chose to be a writer.

Respond to get out of a writer’s rut

Another way to get you into the writing mood is to read an article in a newspaper, blog, or magazine. Then respond. You don’t have to send your response. The exercise of processing someone else’s thoughts on a topic and then responding to them becomes a sort of conversation. Most people never have trouble talking to other people. This is very much like that. The important thing is that it gives you a little push. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

I’m in a writer’s rut

I haven’t written much in the last couple of weeks and when I do write, it feels uninspired. Yet, I need to keep going. I’m behind on my blogging schedule and I haven’t gotten any farther on my revision of Facing Cancer as a Friend.

This post is the product of what I am talking about: getting back on the horse and riding until it feels natural again.  Hopefully, it will help you get out of your writer’s rut.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.

My Family

Have any questions or comments? I would love to hear from you! By commenting, you agree to the terms of my privacy policy.

12 comments on “Getting Out of a Writer’s Rut

All good suggestions. I must admit, I don’t often get in a rut. Something about writing always seems fresh to me. But, Once, I couldn’t get a novel to work and found a new way to edit. That worked amazingly well!

Hi Jacqui, I usually have no problem writing, either, unless for some reason I take a break for a while. Rather than refreshing me, a break throws me right into Newton’s rut. Have you ever shared your new way of editing on your site? If so, feel free to share the link here. I would love to read about it.

When life hits you upside the head, sometimes it’s okay to take a step back and not write. I think this is the time to read comforting books.

But, when I want to write but have nothing to say, I go back to my Writer’s Block Workshop. It’s me writing stream of consciousness (usually about what’s bothering me) for a page or so. No editing. No set plan. Just a page (or more) of me rambling. It helps.

Hi Liz. I agree, reading comforting books is a fabulous way to deal with writer’s block, as is the stream of consciousness writing. It reminds me of Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. Have a great week!

Two years ago, I had life throw a bunch of curveballs at me. Dad had a heart attack then Mom had two cancerous tumors removed. No surprise to say I got very little writing done during that time. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t focus because of bigger worries. What helped me was understanding that I couldn’t get to writing at that moment, but it would pass and I could get back to it. Which eventually happened.

Hi Patricia. You are so right. There are times when even our love of writing needs to take a back seat so that we can deal with the things that life drops in our lap. I’m glad you’re writing again. 🙂

Hi Heather,
Rather than stopping writing, when I’m in a rut my writing focuses on my dreams and plans for the future. I used to think that was great, but lately I see it as something that keeps me embedded in the rut. I’m just in the process of rereading Natalie Goldberg’s books. In Wild Mind, she suggests dealing with a rut by stopping writing until you’re so hungry for it that you can’t help but return. A bit risky, given Newton’s First Law, but maybe worth a try?

Hi Karen. Wow! That’s an interesting idea. I don’t think I could get comfortable with that. Although I do that with fiction work. I take long breaks until I begin getting new innovative ideas. It helps. I do better if I push through it. I will have to look into Wild Mind, though. I loved The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (I got it on your recommendation).

This applies to blogging almost as much as it does to serious writing Heather. I feel like I’m in a bit of a rut atm. I seem to be slowly running out of steam/ideas and I’m not sure whether that means that I should stop (like Karen above suggests) or just take it easy and wait for inspiration to strike.
The bonus for me is that I’m a few weeks ahead of myself time wise so I have space to slow down a little and re-group.

Hi Leanne. I think blogging is serious writing. 😉 I love to work ahead so that I don’t have to panic about my blogging schedule. You are moving into springtime, right? I found this past spring that I went into a bit of a rut. We are moving into fall, here. That helps me feel more invigorated. Hopefully, this week will bring inspiration your way.

My editing method is fairly odd. I’ll have to think if I can come up with a way to explain it clearly. Hmm…

Hi Jacqui. I will be watching for your post on this. 🙂

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