Over the last few days, I developed a blog post for a fellow writer’s blog. I spent more time on it than I do for my own blog, which is funny to me, but I wanted to make sure it was appropriate for her audience and essentially didn’t let her down. I also have been listening to webinars in the afternoon (every afternoon, yikes!) about developing online courses, which I’m very excited about. Consequently, though, my creative juices were waning, and when I sat down to write this week’s blog, I was greeted with crickets.
Far from a relaxing symphony, this induced panic. What am I going to talk about? I have lots of topic ideas, but none of them are getting any traction right now. Would I succumb to writer’s block? Would I find something inspiring to write about?
Because every writer experiences this problem, I thought it was time to tackle writer’s block. What better time to talk about how I combat this problem than when I’m suffering from it myself?
Let’s start out with some don’ts:
Don’t force yourself to write just any words—even if you have to write “Mickey Mouse” over and over—until you come up with something say. — Why do people even suggest this (especially the Mickey Mouse part)? If I used expletives in my blogs, I would use it here to emphasize that this is a horrible smurfing idea. Are you seriously considering wasting your time like this? Do you think that typing nonsense is going to generate ideas? You have so many more constructive options to stimulate your brain.
Don’t panic. — Have you ever been forced to make a snap decision at a restaurant when everyone else has told the server their order, and you’re still trying to decide between the salmon and the fried shrimp? Don’t be filled with regret from quickly choosing a topic or slamming the keys down to make the word count.
Don’t remain inactive till the last possible minute. — The deadline is coming. You’re sweating. Writer’s block is marching toward you, ready to devour your career, and there you sit with a title and nothing else. Good grief, when has putting something off ever lead to stellar verbiage? Let’s nip this thing in the bud, shall we?
When you find yourself trying to combat writer’s block, you have options, really. You aren’t washed up. You aren’t out of ideas. You are normal, just like the rest of us.
Hopefully, you have some lead-time to ponder your topic or verbiage. If not, you can still follow these ideas, just with a tighter timeline.
If I find myself unable to write a specific piece, first, I move on to another piece that I do feel like writing, especially if I have something that is already partway done. This really isn’t a cop-out. It’s a good way to get myself into the creative mindset.
I have found that the best way for me to be creative is to read my own work. It’s already written the way my mind thinks, using my own voice. Especially my partially completed pieces can get me into the right mindset because I typically have an outline or notes for how to finish the piece. Once I start working on another piece, I feel ready to at least complete it, if not get rolling on the next. And I might be inspired for a topic by something in the other piece.
If I don’t have another piece to work on, then I try to immerse myself in what I typically find inspiring for the type of writing I’m doing.
When I work on my books, I read a little bit in the same genre, read something related to the work, or watch a movie or show in the genre, depending on the amount of time I have. If I watch a show, I keep paper nearby so I can jot down any thoughts that it shakes loose. For business writing, I try to read a couple blogs or do research related to the topic I’m writing about. The research usually needs to be done regardless, so that tends to be the best use of my time anyway.
I find that the best way to combat writer’s block, though, is to avoid it to begin with. First of all, reduce your stress by not procrastinating. Also, make sure that you have a set space and time to do your writing. Keep distractions there to a minimum so your brain can generate brilliance. Ensure the ideal environment, depending on your preferences. For me, I like dim lighting and absolute silence. I try to work when someone is available to watch my kids or when they are sleeping (best!).
I also find that getting enough sleep (laughable right now with a toddler and a pre-schooler), exercising, taking a shower, talking to others about my project, and driving on the interstate can stimulate my mind. Some people also enjoy meditating, creating word maps for their topic, going to a museum, having a new experience, or doing something in the arts (singing, playing an instrument, painting, etc.).
Basically, if you find yourself stuck, don’t be. Move around and find something to stimulate your mind. The worst thing you can do is stare at a blank page and hope that the writing fairies will grant your wishes. It’s not going to happen!
What do you do to mitigate writer’s block? Tell me in the comments! Also, I would love to hear suggestions for blog topics and questions you have about writing and editing!