Got Writer’s Block? 23 Creative Writing Activities That Don’t Involve Writing

creative writing activities

Creative writing activities – no writing required!

Writer’s block happens. And let me be clear: I don’t believe in writer’s block as an excuse for not writing. Most of the time, when a writer self-diagnoses writer’s block, it’s really a case of I-should-be-writing-but-I’d-rather-be-doing-something-else or my-muse-has-left-the-building-and-I’m-too-lazy-to-look-for-her.

There’s never an excuse for not writing, but there are times when the best course of action is to take a break and do something else. If you’ve been writing all day, then you deserve a break. If you pumped out 10,000 words this week, then you deserve to put down your notebook or step away from that work-in-progress, give your writing muscles a good rest, and engage in non-writing activities.

What you’re about to get are a bunch of writing activities that don’t require you to sit at your computer staring at a blinking cursor for hours on end.

But you’re still a writer, so here’s the catch: you tackle these activities in a way that only a writer would.

23 Writing Activities That Don’t Involve Writing (but Involve Thinking Like a Writer)

Leave your keyboard, notebook, and pen behind, but keep your writerly head on your shoulders as you scoot through these creative writing activities. The idea is to engage in actions that can shape and inform your writing, so try to look at everything through your writer’s lens.

  1. Read. This is the most obvious non-writing writerly thing you can do. Catch up on your subscriptions, pick up a good novel, or take a stab at reading a book on writing. Don’t forget to put your feet up!
  2. Observe. Do a little people-watching at your favorite café or at a park. Listen in on some interesting conversations and get ideas for dialogue. Notice people’s body language so you can bring it into your narrative.
  3. Get up and move that body. Yes, the writer’s creed in the 21st century is butt In chair, but if you want to keep that butt in shape, you’ve got to get off it every once in a while. Go for a walk, do a little dance, make a little love.
  4. Cook and/or eat. But here’s the catch — make it something special: one of your favorite dishes or restaurants or that new recipe you’ve been dying to try but just haven’t had time. Cooking and eating are sensual activities (because they engage your senses!), so think up descriptions for the food. How does it look, taste, sound (sizzle), and smell?
  5. Watch a movie. There are tons of great films about writers. Here are a few to get you started: Misery, Stranger Than Fiction, or Throw Mama from the Train.
  6. Do a crossword puzzle. This is kind of a cheat because you sort of have to write to fill it in (unless you’re using a digital crossword). Word puzzles are a great way to build your vocabulary!
  7. Play a game. I love logic games. Clue is my favorite because it’s a thinking game and you get to make a matrix (f only making a matrix was as cool as it sounds!). In any case, there are lots of brain-games that promote thinking. Play them.
  8. Take a stroll down memory lane. Have you ever set aside some time to go through your old notebooks and files? It’s enlightening on many levels. You’ll come across that poem that you always thought was so profound only to discover that now it sounds like a tween rant. You’ll stumble over a short story you thought sucked but now makes you laugh. You’ll realize how much your writing has improved, but you’ll also find treasures that showcase your raw talent. You might even find some old projects that are worth resurrecting.
  9. Remember your other hobbies? Now would be a good time to pick one of those back up, even if it’s just for the day.
  10. Fix your website. I mean it: fix your website. Log out of your site and then check it out as a visitor. I guarantee you’ll find something to add or update. Compare it against some of your favorite writers’ websites. Are you missing anything? Got too much going on?
  11. Work on your five-year plan. Some novelists spend a decade writing a single book. Surely, you can work out your writing (and non-writing) goals for the next five years.
  12. Geek out. You know that thing you used to be obsessed with (and maybe still are)? You know what I’m talking about. You bought the action figures. Yeah, go enjoy that some more.
  13. Try something new. Do something you’ve never done but have always wanted to do.
  14. Try something even newer — something you’ve never dreamt of doing. Maybe even something you’re a little scared of doing. Take a risk.
  15. Spend some time supporting fellow writers. Promote them on social media, buy their books, post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Head down to your favorite indie bookstore and buy a book.
  16. Attend an event. You know, a writing event. A poetry reading, a book signing, a lecture. Trust me, these events are a lot more fun and interesting than they sound.
  17. Watch a video on writing.
  18. Sharpen your pencils.
  19. Join a book club.
  20. Rearrange your office or writing space. Sometimes a change in your environment recharges your drive and creativity.
  21. Get some fresh air. Take that book or your iPod outside and soak up a little vitamin D.
  22. Learn a new skill. There are lots of skills you can master to give your writing career a boost: blog technology, social media strategies, query letter guidelines, copyright laws, marketing, and interview techniques.
  23. Read aloud. Let’s say you get published. You might have to do a book tour; you’ll probably do local signings. Even if you self-publish and do all your marketing online, you might have to do a phone or video interviews. So practice.

Pick and choose from any of these activities, and if you have any creative writing activities to add to this list, leave a comment. And keep writing.

Adventures in Writing The Complete Collection

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


20 Responses to “Got Writer’s Block? 23 Creative Writing Activities That Don’t Involve Writing”

  1. Andrea says:

    Awesome post! I’m doing a lot of these stuff, already. But there are a few things I haven’t even thought of. I’m also attending online webinars, chats and workshops on writing. Helps a lot improving my writing, too. This way I also get to know other writers and get my name out there long before these 5 years are over 😉 Thank you so much for the tips!

  2. James Thayer says:

    A consensus exists regarding the effect of writer’s block– no production–but not regarding its cause or its cure. Literary agent Donald Maass said writer’s block “is a real and painful condition.” But Dave Barry assigns it to laziness: “People simply give up and don’t want to put forth the effort to work through the barriers. No good writing is easy.” What causes writer’s block? Orson Scott Card said it may be caused when the writer is missing an ingredient for his or her novel. “Often when you find yourself blocked—when you can’t bring yourself to start or continue a story—the reason is that you have forgotten or have not yet discovered what is extraordinary about your main character.”

    • I don’t believe writer’s block is “real and painful” in most cases. Usually, there’s a way around it if you’re willing to work at it. There are exceptions, of course, particularly when life throws you a major, emotional curveball. It’s definitely a condition that holds up production, but I think there are a variety of causes, so it’s a different experience for each writer. All we can do is try to find and share our own workarounds and help the writing community flourish.

  3. This is fantastic! I’ve forwarded it on to my middle-school creative writing class.

  4. Sarah Allen says:

    This is such a great list! And I’m reaching the dreaded middle of my WIP, so I definitely need it right now. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Chimica says:

    I love this list! My number one thing I do when I have writers block is crochet. It is so relaxing to make a washcloth or finish a blanket and let my mind wonder while I focus on the project. I recommend everyone try crocheting.

    • I crocheted a bit when I was a girl, and I tried knitting about five years ago, but neither of those crafts stuck with me. I did enjoy them, but I think it came down to time management. I have way too many hobbies and interests. I love crafts though!

  6. Jarvis says:

    Funny you ignored what all the great writers resorted to: drugs and alcohol.

    • Not all the great writers resorted to drugs and alcohol, although many did. I think most of them mixed drugs and alcohol with writing, so these were activities that did involve writing. I’m not a big fan of this approach. Some artists have used drugs and alcohol safely, but far too many became addicted and/or died. We’ve lost too many great writers to such vices.

  7. Meliss O'Dell says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. A writer has to have scheduled writing time, even if it has to be woven into work and home and whatever else. But fiction writers write about life, which means we need to have one.

  8. Brimshack says:

    Great list of tips. Thank you for posting it.

  9. Writing Fears says:

    #3 is definitely my pick, and running is the weapon of choice. Have yet to meet the block a 10k can’t fix 🙂

  10. Billie Wade says:

    Great post, Melissa, and timely for me. I’ve read the comments and agree one of the reasons for my block may be that I haven’t fully discovered my characters. I wrote 37,000 words and hit a wall. Ugh! I’m trying to incorporate more walking into my schedule and find myself thinking of my work in progress (WIP) during my strolls. I’m hoping the open, fresh air and the movement of my body will jar loose some ideas.

    • Hi Billie. You might want to try some character development exercises. Write diaries or monologues in your characters’ voices. Sometimes composing extensive backstories helps too. I try to figure out what each character wants and give them an inner struggle, which can provide a baseline for their personality and behavior. Good luck!