What to do when you hit the wall

Jun 9, 2020 | Better Writing

We’ve all had days when we hit the wall. That’s when you think you should be writing more, but you just don’t have any energy left. It’s not writer’s block when you can’t think of what to say next. You’re just too tired and tapped out to write. There’s no gas in the tank. Here’s what to do when that happens.

Is your objective realistic?

Some writers write slowly, and some write fast. But we all seem to have an upper limit between three and four hours a day of productive writing time. If you’ve already written that much, don’t try to push through. Quit writing and do something else. It’s OK.

Take a break

What if you checked the amount of time you’ve written, and it’s less than that three to four hours, but you don’t feel you can write anything more? What then?

Then, take a break. Make it at least 20 minutes. If you can get outside and walk, that’s great. If not, do something that doesn’t tax your mental resources. Housework is a good choice. So is a routine office task, like filing. When you’re done, try writing again.

If that doesn’t work

If you still don’t seem to have the energy to keep writing, try writing sprints. Folks who use the Pomodoro technique will recognize this.

Set a timer for 20 minutes. Write. When the timer goes off, take a break for 20 minutes. Set the timer. Then write for 20 minutes. Then take a 20-minute break. Then write some more. Then break. You get the idea.

If that still doesn’t work

If nothing seems to work, then do the following. Mutter to yourself, “I guess it’s just not a good day for that kind of work.”

When you’re done muttering, move onto something else. Do something completely different. Or do work that supports your writing, like additional research.


Every writer hits the wall sometime.

Try a variety of techniques to recharge your batteries and jumpstart your writing.

If nothing works, quit writing, and do something else for the rest of the day.

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