Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Advice When We Can't Write—Take a Breath

by Sarah Sally Hamer @SarahSallyHamer

One thing I hear most from my students and clients is that they don’t have time to write. Or that they don’t have anything to say. Or that they stare at a blank page until, finally, they force words onto it. But is that really the prose we want to share with the world? Or is it something we can only hope resonates with our readers?

But all too often, deadlines and expectations put us into the position of have to. One of my friends firmly believes that she’s procrastinating when she doesn’t write every day—and I’m sure she’s not the only one—but is always surprised when she not only gets things done on time, but how easily the words come, once her mind is clear.

Creativity isn’t something we can easily switch on and off, careening from one end of the spectrum to the other. 

Instead, it’s a deeply-felt and often elusive zephyr that can tease us from afar. What can we do to gently entice it to join us?

Remember that creativity flows from a place inside of us that can’t be forced or beaten into submission. Yes, we absolutely need to create at certain times under certain circumstances. But scheduling creativity, like a dentist appointment, only chases it away. Maybe finding a time of day when concentration can be developed would work better. I’m not an early riser, so I often create time in the evening when everyone else is busy with their own interests, and sneak away to my office for an hour or two. That may not work for writers with small people in their family, but creating a time when disruptions are few and infrequent will help.

Interruptions can kill creativity. 

Since we have to drag our imagination away from another world. But, it’s possible to create even in those circumstances, if you can find small pieces of work. Divide the items you are working on into sections, with items that need a lot of concentration separated from those which need less. We spend so much time waiting on things in this world that a notebook where ideas can be jotted down is a wonderful thing. Some famous authors even talk about writing on a book in a grocery line by taking notes.

Patience is a virtue, they say. 

Creativity seems to agree. Often, when we push ourselves into a corner by the demand of “NOW!” instead of allowing the ideas to flow, inventiveness disappears. Maybe find some sort of ritual to prepare your mind and resourcefulness to know that this is the time to focus. A cup of tea, a meditation, a walk—all of these can be signals to your brain that the writing time is approaching.

But my best advice is to TAKE A BREATH. 

There are few people in the world who don’t experience at least some amount of stress when something isn’t working properly. Which is, of course, the worst thing to convince your creativity to stick around. When we’re stressed, the right side of the brain, where imagination lives, usually finds a good place to hide. We can even allow the craziness of stress to take away the joy that writing brings to us. 

Which makes us even more stressed, right? Because now we’re stressing about being stressed? On a personal note, I’m writing this article two days past my deadline, because I’ve been away from my home in an extremely stressful family situation. I’ve had no time to even take a breath this week and it will be several days before everything calms down. So, I had to make a decision about allowing the stress to stop me from something that gives me much joy—sharing my writing experience with those of you who read my blogs on Edie’s amazing website. 

In so many words, I took a breath and drank a cup of tea and allowed the anxiety to drain away. I hope you can too, the next time you want to entice your creativity to your side.


Sarah (Sally) Hamer, BS, MLA, is a lover of books, a teacher of writers, and a believer in a good story. Most of all, she is eternally fascinated by people and how they 'tick'. She’s passionate about helping people tell their own stories, whether through fiction or through memoir. Writing in many genres—mystery, science fiction, fantasy, romance, medieval history, non-fiction—she has won awards at both local and national levels, including two Golden Heart finals.

A teacher of memoir, beginning and advanced creative fiction writing, and screenwriting at Louisiana State University in Shreveport for almost twenty years, she also teaches online for Margie Lawson at WWW.MARGIELAWSON.COM. Sally is a freelance editor and book coach at Touch Not the Cat Books, with many of her students and clients becoming successful, award-winning authors. 

You can find her at or WWW.SALLYHAMER.BLOGSPOT.COM

From Sally: I wish to express gratitude to the giants upon whose shoulders I stand and who taught me so much about the writing craft. I would list every one, if it were only possible.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. I've gone through a string of stressful months since December with family illnesses and have felt like I've failed at the one thing I love the most - my writing. Just a reminder to breathe when life gets crazy is important for someone running at full steam like me. Thanks again for taking time to share!

    1. It does get crazy, doesn't it? yes, just breathe. It's going to get better.

      Thanks for the post.

  2. Great, helpful words this morning. Thank you, Sally, for writing and sharing them. I will put them to good use - I hope!

    1. Even if you don't, it will be all right. :) Just keep breathing!!