How to get writing – Blog post from Barbara Budrich

Writer’s block can be a real pain in the proverbial. You can see that deadline approaching and you know that you have to hand in this manuscript and soon. However, all you can do is sit there and stare at that blank page. And that stupid page has nothing better to do than stare back at you, blankly.

Writer’s block comes in different forms and shapes

Like a boggart in Harry Potter, this shape-shifter takes whatever shape fits best to your writer’s personality. Perfectionists are among the easiest prey. In simply telling you that whatever you just jotted down is not good enough and will never stand up in any academic court, your inner critic makes you delete line after line faster than you could ever write anything down.

Nice to know, you say, but what do I gain from knowing my personal writer’s boggart’s shape? Well, easy: if you have an idea about what is going on, you can better prepare yourself for your boggart’s next attack. However, this is no one-cure-fits-all. Naturally, I am neither a psychiatrist nor have I fathomed every underlying reason for all your boggarts. So, you just read the following, and try and find out whether this may work for you. (Of course, there is more, but I am not going to write an entire book on it right here and now.)

Who called the boggart?

One of the main things to grasp is that your writer’s block, your personal boggart’s shape, more often than not is trying to protect you. The boggart you are up against is part of your personality, part of your so-called inner team (Schulz von Thun). Your team wants you to stay safe. And not writing a text that may be critiqued could be one specific form of staying safe. Not one that makes it easy for you to win your academic credentials, yet, highly effective. There are very many different leitmotifs particularly from childhood that feed this boggart strand.

Very many of us have issues with imposter syndrome. While there are ways to deal with this (find Amy Cuddy on the internet, she and her power poses are just brilliant!), when writing or trying to do so, you may find yourself mired in the mud of failed make-belief. Trying to fake it until you make it when you are all alone with your imposter self can become pretty hard.

So, basically, it is your feelings of not being good enough, of not fitting in, of not being able to ever belong that called your boggart, and bring your flying fingers to a screeching halt on the keyboard.

Embrace your inner critic

Remember, the inner critic is there to keep you safe. He called up the imposter syndrome to keep you from toeing the line, from moving on from wherever you are just now. Because, where you are may not be pretty, but it is a place that you know. And your critic knows, it is a safe place.

Try and talk to your inner critic, make them feel safe, and give them a sense of being understood. If you like, try the role-play for one person (Sachse): place two chairs at an angle (not quite facing each other, so you do not get into a confrontational mood). When sitting down on one chair, you are yourself, the author. Sitting on the other, you are your inner critic. Make sure the doors are locked and noone will burst in on you (next thing you may see otherwise, are those guys coming to get you with the funny jackets that button up the back…). Be curious to learn about your inner critic. Ask questions like, what is your goal? Can we achieve this together, and still write this text?

Maybe you can strike up a deal. Make an agreement that your inner critic can read the entire text once it is done and dusted. Make them hold their destructive comments, and only allow them to work on the text in a constructive way. Is this simple? Sure. Is it easy? Not so much. But give it a try. If the imposter syndrome and your inner critic give you a hard time writing, this may be a way to have your boggart wear funny clothes and look like a dreaded peer reviewer in your grandmother’s outfit. So you can keep writing, with a big smile on your face.


How to deal with writer’s block?
In our Publishing Insights on April 13, we will talk about the challenges of writing academic texts and introduce you to writing strategies.
Learn more and book our Publishing Insights here (it’s free for our authors and writing club members):


About Barbara Budrich

Barbara began working as an editor at the publishing house Leske + Budrich, which belonged to her father Edmund Budrich, in 1993. In 2004, after the sale of Leske + Budrich, Barbara founded her first own company, the publishing house Verlag Barbara Budrich. In 2007, she founded Budrich UniPress Ltd, which became Budrich Academic Press in 2019. Barbara also works as a coach, author, and translator and has published numerous books and essays.


Image Barbara Budrich: Nina Schöner Fotografie.



Header image: Nastya Dulhiier