Six Things You Could Be Doing Instead of Worrying About Writer’s Block
These strategies for dealing with writer's block are easy to implement and will make you feel like you're making steady progress even when you're not writing.
Help! How do I move past this writer's block?
Some writing coaches suggest that if you don’t feel like writing, you need to park yourself at the computer and just write. They encourage you to write whatever comes to mind. "Don’t judge your work. Ignore your inner critic. Write about anything."
But sometimes, no matter how determined you are to stare down your writer’s block and push on through, you just can’t do it.
What is short-term writer's block?
Short-term writer’s block can be described as any short period of time, such as an 8-hour work day, where you just don’t feel at your best and writing is the last thing you want to do.
Short-term writer’s block can be caused by:
- Hearing some mildly upsetting news about a friend or family member that distracts you from writing
- Having an argument with someone close to you
- Coming down with a cold or bug that zaps your energy
- Completing a long list of writing projects and then feeling like you have nothing new to say
- A lack of exercise
- An unexpected change in your daily routine (i.e.; home renovations, house guests, medical appointments)
- Waiting for something: a test result, a special delivery, an urgent phone call -- sometimes waiting for news, whether good or bad, can make it hard to focus on creative projects. Even while you're attempting to write, a part of your mind feels like it's in limbo, waiting for a knock at the door, a phone call or an e-mail
Any one of us can be challenged by minor life events that distract us from our work. Short-term writer's block isn't about whether or not you're a competent, creative writer (you are!), it's about external events that you can't control edging in on your work space.
The good news is that you can still have a productive day as a writer, even when you feel like you can't think of a single thing to say!
Hello? Creativity? Where are you?
Writing about writer's block is better than not writing at all.— Charles Bukowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poems
Are you ready to get busy?
These six projects can keep you busy while you let your distracted writer’s mind take a day off. You may decide to tackle just one project. Or you may feel like you can handle more than one. It’s up to you. The only rule is that whatever project you work on, it must be related to your writing practice. (Polishing the silverware doesn’t count.)
1. Get organized. Clean up your desk. Dust your bookcase. Wipe down your keyboard. Empty the trash. Water your plants. Vacuum under your desk. Organize your mail. There are so many little tasks you can do that will perk up your writing space and refresh your creativity.
Mindless tasks that don’t require much mental effort free your brain to run wild and sort out personal issues that are holding you back. When you're ready to write again, there’s nothing quite like sitting down to a clean and tidy desk.
2. Sort your computer files. Do you have a file folder on your computer containing multiple documents that are just random bits of information you thought would make a great article? Pull up that file folder and review each document. Cut and paste all of the titles, introductory sentences, and notes onto one single document and save it as a list of writing prompts. It’s much easier to browse a list of creative ideas on a single page than to look at a list of random files scattered all over your computer.
When you’ve finished compiling your writing prompts, delete the original files. Then, print a copy of your writing prompts page and pin it above your desk. The next time you're looking for something to write about, pick a writing prompt and start a brand new document.
3. Clean up your social media accounts. Make sure that your G+ contacts are in the appropriate circles. Update your Facebook friends to make sure that everyone is on the right list. Sometimes we get Friend requests, Twitter followers, or G+ contacts that we quickly approve, thinking we'll sort them out later. Instead of adding new contacts to a specific list (i.e., family, coworkers, clients), these new contacts end up in the miscellaneous pile. By keeping well-categorized lists of your social media contacts, you can customize the information you send to each group. This is especially important for freelancer writers who want to stay in touch with clients and editors.
4. Check your work-life ratio. Grab a pen and paper, and using only your memory, summarize all the non-work related things you did last month (i.e.; parties, spending time with family, having some alone time). Then, create a list of all the work-related things you did in that same month. Look at both lists and ask yourself if you're happy with the balance between the two. Sometimes, if your work-life ratio is too heavily weighted towards all work and no play, you can find ourselves in a stress-induced writing rut. On the other hand, if your social life is taking up too much of your time, then don't be surprised if your freelancing career isn't moving forward.
5. Create a piece of art: a painting, a doodle, a pencil sketch. Design a new logo. Create your own avatar. Draw a picture of what your next article will be about.
Using your creative left brain is a great way to relax the tense "thinking muscles" in your right brain. Don't be surprised if you experience a few writing breakthroughs while playing with your markers, pens, and colored pencils.
6. Proofread your old online material. It doesn't hurt to revisit pieces of writing from your past and proofread them for errors you might have missed. Are there any new keywords that can be added? Are all the links working? Look out for any internal linking opportunities between your website, your blog, and other web content. Reviewing your old writing projects and updating them can be time consuming and easy to brush off when you're busy, but doing so is an important part of a strong content management strategy.
How long was your worst writing block?
Five things your English teacher never told you about making money as a writer:
1. Sometimes writing for a living is not fun. Every type of job has its ups and downs, good days and bad day. Just because you love writing, there will be some days when you really don't like writing, at all.
2. People sometimes expect you to write for free.
3. Rejection happens. Get used to it. In fact, why not embrace it.
4. Writing can be lonely.
5. Recognition isn't guaranteed. People may not always understand what a big deal it is to get an article published. Learn how to be your own cheerleader.
© 2012 Sally Hayes