Don’t Get Blogged Down! 13 Ways to Take on Writer’s Block (and Win)
Let me start by saying that I’m not a fan of articles about writer’s block. So I’ll spare you the find a happy space and eliminate distractions advice. When I’m staring at my screen at 7pm, 15 different research tabs open, half-empty Wix coffee cups scattered all over my desk and cashew residue on my decolletage – things are usually looking bleak. And a post on “10 Ways to Unlock Your Inner Muse” usually just amounts to another 2-3 minutes of procrastination.
So here’s the crux of it – there is no cure for writer’s block. Writing is an art, not a science. And as we are all so very different, there is no ‘one size fits all’ remedy.
However, there are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way which can help once the big fog hits. If you take away any one of these golden nuggets – then you’re one step closer to victory.
Set your creative monster free! There is a beautiful, raw creative energy within us all, waiting to be unleashed. Think of it as… your little creative monster. When you feed it, nurture it, give it all the stuff it needs to thrive - it’s on your side. Ignore it, on the other hand, and it pretty much refuses to cooperate. So make friends with your monster. Listen to it. Work with it. Trust your instinct and the rest will come.
Grab a pen and paper. "I wish I was writing this by hand instead of on my laptop/desktop computer,” said literally no one ever post-2005. Right? I mean, typing is just easier. You can go back… change stuff… delete things…it’s magical. But you know what? There’s something about a pen and a blank piece of paper that’s even more magical. And these days, many writers are reverting back to longhand when it comes to storytelling. The truth is, filling a blank page with your own handwriting creates a unique connection between thought and word. It’s slower. More considered. And it maybe the key to unleashing your monster.
Read, read, read. Hey, remember that first book/poem/article/cereal box you read and thought - finally, my calling! Read it again. Revisit your glassy-eyed, passionate, younger, former self and get inspired once more.
Write, write, write! Freewriting. Sit down, start writing and throw conventional grammar out the window. Write about your favorite sweatpants. Cupcakes. World peace. Whatever. Just let it all spill out of you. And for those of you who prefer a more structured approach, why not try out the Pomodoro technique? This method encourages us to break down work into intervals, traditionally around 25 minutes each, followed by short 3-5 minute breaks. Writing in short bursts makes everything seem more manageable and it can be especially helpful with longer pieces of text. In fact, it’s what helped me get my focus on with this post (ironically).
Do something other than sit at your computer. Your eureka moment can come from the strangest places. But it rarely comes from sitting and hopelessly staring at a screen. So get out of the house/cubicle/office. Take a ride on a train. Go for a walk. Visit your local hipster coffee shop and spend all your spare change on a fancy mocha latte. Get inspired by the world around you - and the rest will come.
Have no fear, baby. DON’T BE AFRAID. Fear is the enemy. Be brave. Be bold. Be original. Try something new, try something crazy. There is no room for feeling stupid, or awkward, or weird when it comes to your imagination. Some of the greatest masterpieces started out as nonsense ramblings. (A lot of them stayed that way…) So, if you wanna get started on that gangster movie in space script, or the sitcom with the talking poodles you’ve always dreamed of – DO IT! Get it all down and they might just love it.
Seize the (right) moment. Science tells us that our creativity tends to peak in the morning. Yep, the best time to get down and dirty with your creative thinking cap is right after waking up. This is because something amazing in our brains called the prefrontal cortex is most active at this time of day. In a nutshell: You’ve been dreaming, so your imagination is already in a good place. Seize the moment and let it run free!
Go with the flow. Yes, based on the tip above, some people are creative geniuses at 7am. Personally, I need 2-3 espresso shots to tie my shoelaces. It’s not until around 4pm when the creative tornado hits. Whichever way it is for you – go with it. Can’t seize the moment cause of a full time job? Got stuff to do? Carry a notebook and jot down all your ideas. You can easily revisit them when you have time.
Do something different. Doing something new, or for the first time, often leads to a story. For me, it usually begins with “OMG! You won’t believe what happened.” Like that time that I agreed to jump out of a plane at 15,000 ft in New Zealand in exchange for a free haircut (true story). So you know what? Live a little. Do something new, crazy – dare I say – out of character. And inspiration might just follow.
Look at stuff you've written before. Most of us have had that moment when we’ve looked back on something we once wrote and thought to ourselves: Whoa – I’m a genius! So why not inspire yourself? That’s right. Be your own muse. Look back at your favorite pieces and remind yourself what’s worked in the past (and what makes you awesome).
Hit the heavy metal music. OK, so maybe not everyone’s a born headbanger. Even I surprised myself with this one. Until, one night, in my pokey little college dorm, surrounded by half-eaten takeaways and cans of energy drinks – it came to me. A 30 minute heavy metal session was, at least that time, the answer to my creative constipation. 10,000 words later…and the rest was history. If you prefer something less hardcore though – like Mozart – that’s also cool. A brief musical interlude can’t hurt. And it might also be the key to unlocking your creative chakras.
Start in the middle, or the end. The first line is often the hardest. Don’t force it. Writing a killer first line or page is a different article entirely. If your genius opening doesn’t hit you over the head with a spade right away, that’s okay. Start from the middle. Or the end. Or somewhere in-between. Then go back to your magical intro later on, when your little monster demands it.
Have a snack. The wild card (but my personal favorite), is preparing a snack. In fact, getting creative in any way, from cooking or drawing, to making up some dance moves to your favorite 90s boy band hit, can really help get the juices flowing. Once you’ve taken a break, get back to the task at hand. All the right parts of your brain will be working on overdrive.
So there it is fellow writers – 13 ways to overcome a creative slowdown. Good luck and remember: Set your monster free!
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Abi Yitshaki, UX Writer at Wix