How To Beat Writer’s Block in 30 Minutes

Nat RussoBasics, How-To, Process, Writing 4 Comments

Have you ever reached a point where the thought of opening Scrivener (or your document editor of choice) filled you with not only dread, but disgust? Have you ever stared at your laptop and silently uttered the words, “I just can’t even…”? It may not have had anything to do with lack of inspiration! It’s just that you couldn’t bring yourself to take another slog through your work-in-progress. If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, I’m going to show you how to beat writer’s block in 30 minutes.

Big Ben

The Problem

It’s not unusual for our works-in-progress to consume multiple years of our lives. For example, I spent four years honing Necromancer Awakening, a book that went on to become an international Amazon bestseller in 2014 and again in 2016. When I sit down to start a new project, it’s not ideas I’m lacking. It’s not even motivation. In fact, the more I think on it, I’m not really lacking anything at all. It’s not what I’m missing. It’s what I’m overwhelmed by. 

I’m overwhelmed by the sheer economy of the effort involved.

For most of us authors, the reward (monetary) vs. effort ratio is completely out-of-whack and always will be. Even with the great success of my Mukhtaar Chronicles books, when I compare the labor against the monetary reward, I earned pennies per hour.

And yeah…that gets me down sometimes. Because, I’m a human being. 

Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how rewarding the process itself is, eventually this might be enough to get to you. Even if it’s only temporary…and it most likely will be…that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a real problem for some period of time in your life. A real problem you need to deal with somehow.

Well, I’m here to tell you how.

How To Beat Writer’s Block in 30 minutes (aka “The Nat Russo 30-Minute Challenge”)

This is going to sound overly simplistic at first. Just humor me for now. At least until you’ve tried it.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it relatively simple to make a firm commitment to spend 30 minutes doing something. Even some drudgery like exercising for exercise’s sake (I find fewer things more boring than that).

So, try this. On those days that you just can’t bring yourself to open your text editor, promise yourself that you’ll spend at least 30 minutes pushing forward. Somehow. Some way. Even if much of that time is spent re-reading what you’ve already written (and, this will probably be a necessity. Because, if you’ve reached this point, you probably haven’t written in a while, so you will have lost a LOT of momentum on your work-in-progress).

Just 30 minutes. It’s like sitting down on the couch and watching The Big Bang Theory or some other sitcom. By the time the show is over, your 30 minutes will be up.

I’ve used this technique many times in the past, and it always pushes me forward. No, it doesn’t always get me back “on track” to where I’m writing a thousand words or more per session.

But, 30 minutes of work is 30 minutes more than you would have otherwise accomplished. And word counts have a curious property: they obey the laws of mathematics. Every word you add gets you closer to your goal. If you eek out 100 words in that 30 minutes…hell, that’s a couple paragraphs…that’s 100 words closer to the end of your manuscript than you would have been if you’d just sat there self-flagellating. 

So, what are you doing reading this? Fire up your text editor and set a timer for 30 minutes.


Do it!

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About Nat Russo

Nat Russo is the Amazon #1 Bestselling Fantasy author of Necromancer Awakening and Necromancer Falling. Nat was born in New York, raised in Arizona, and has lived just about everywhere in-between. He’s gone from pizza maker, to radio DJ, to Catholic seminarian (in a Benedictine monastery, of all places), to police officer, to software engineer. His career has taken him from central Texas to central Germany, where he worked as a defense contractor for Northrop Grumman. He's spent most of his adult life developing software, playing video games, running a Cub Scout den, gaining/losing weight, and listening to every kind of music under the sun. Along the way he managed to earn a degree in Philosophy and a black belt in Tang Soo Do. He currently makes his home in central Texas with his wife, teenager, mischievous beagle, and goofy boxador.

Comments 4

  1. Thirty minutes. One sitcom’s worth of time. Simple as that.

    Nat, one thing I’d add to readers is that writing’s what I call the Scary Bicycle: it can be intimidating to sit down to each time, but after that it’s easier. And it’s a learned skill, so just being able to start the next session will bring back most of the skills we’ve built up in the past. Being “out of the zone” might make writing slower and less fun, but pros find again and again that the *writing* that comes from those times is just as good as from the best moments.

    And even if it never gets past a hundred words in those thirty minutes… it means we watch one less sitcom, and in two weeks we have a 1400-word scene. In a year, by the time that sitcom’s next season is rolling, that’s a 36,500 novella. Or probably more, because by that time our pace *has* to pick up!

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      Excellent points, Ken! It’s all about moving forward and reserving judgement on your work for later. I guess it all goes back to “just finish the damned thing!”

  2. We’ve had a death in our family and I’ve had WB for four months now. When I get home I am going to think of you while I am following your suggestion. Can’t hurt. Thank you.




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