Writing Stress? Try Visualization

Have you ever experienced writing stress? Writing stress occurs when the pressure of having to produce so many words a day builds to incapacitating levels. Sometimes writing halts to a standstill, which only exacerbates the stress. Writing stress has the effect of pulling in negative energy, which in turn decreases your enjoyment in writing, which then pulls in more negative energy. Some may call the result of this snowball effect a “block,” but I personally don’t like this term because it provides an image of a solid barrier that you have to leap over or squeeze around to bypass. Instead, there may be better ways to remove that barrier once and for all. 

When you find yourself in that negative cycle, yes, by all means take a break. But you can do it in a way that can harness some positive energy to help you more directly with your writing. 

Darci Cole had an excellent post last week about writing exercises that help keep your writing mind sharp. The following is a visualization exercise that I’ve adapted for writers who are down in the proverbial pit of despair and can’t envision a way out. I have a close friend who had a bona fide nervous breakdown because of an impending deadline, and after several counseling visits, she tried this visualization technique with success.

Visualization techniques may be used to harness positive energy to achieve your goals. They also help with your overall sense of well-being. These techniques are are sometimes called controlled/directed visualization or receptive visualization.

What you need:

  • A quiet, comfortable place
  • A block of uninterrupted time (20-30 minutes)
  • Ambient music or a writing playlist (whatever you choose, it shouldn’t be distracting but used to set the mood).

How to visualize:

  1. Select a single scene in your MS that you want to work on.
  2. Lie back, close your eyes, and breathe. Spend a few minutes listening to the ambient sounds or music.
  3. Imagine the physical scene unfolding in front of your mind’s eye first. Imagine the details as though you were there. What are your physical surroundings? Can you feel textures and pick up smells? Are there cues that you can use to pinpoint the time of day? Is it warm or cold? etc.
  4. Add your characters to the scene, but don’t let them run amuck in their physical surroundings — you are the silent director of this scene. If you’re writing from first-person, focus on the character who owns the POV in this scene. If not, view it as though you are watching a movie. Pay attention to how your character(s) is/are oriented within the scene. How are they interacting with their physical surroundings?  Listen to their trains of thought. Hear their dialogue. See if you can carry out the scene all the way through. This may take more than one sitting, but that’s okay! If you can vividly imagine any portion of your scene, you are doing great 🙂
  5. Don’t forget to breathe. Relax but stay focused. You got this.

After you’re done with the visualization, try sitting down and drafting some of what you just visualized. First focus on the aspects of the scene that were most vivid and real to you. Maybe it’s the scenery, or it could be the dialogue. Maybe it’s the thought process of your character. Whatever is most vivid and real in your head will probably be easiest to draft first.

Keep breathing and feel the positive energy and words flow. You can do it!


Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL, and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. Find out more about Helen at www.helenboswell.com.