What's your No. 1 productivity killer? The most common answers involve distractions: email, Facebook, Twitter,…
Breaking Through Writer’s Block
Writer’s block hits most writers on a periodic basis, and it often feels like a form of disorientation, lethargy, apathy, or a combination of these factors. Writers may feel like they are disconnected from the tools and/or processes that they normally used, lazy, unable to make progress, or other similar feelings that ultimately make writing difficult. Before you can solve a problem, you have to recognize that it exists. Here are some surefire ways to know if you are suffering from Writer’s Block:
- You stare endless at your keyboard and monitor.
- All of your content ends up riddled with errors when you force yourself to produce content.
- You cannot even edit your own work without daydreaming or opening the browser and looking at stuff that you really don’t care about. Wow $17 off a slide and swing combo. Don’t you wish you had kids…oh wait…weren’t you supposed to be working?!
- You are feeling anxiety about the quality and/or quantity of your work.
- Considering other lines of work over writing, or other tasks other than writing too much.
The Doctor Will See You Now
If these sound like they are similar enough to what happening you go through, then here are some ideas on how to beat it:
- Seek inspiration – If you find inspiration in art, then go to the museum. Do you find uplifting movies helpful? Then go rent a few! Some people (especially men) find that beating a challenge helps them focus, such as winning a round of their favorite first person shooter. I personally like the last option sometimes, but I find more value in trying to make my son sing happy birthday or the alphabet song. We’ve turned it into a game that involves a lot of tickling and running around the house.
- Consider seeking some help – Help comes in many forms, but do not negate the possibility of seeking professional aide if this is a recurring problem. Many people slowly develop disorders when they work in environments that are uncomfortable and/or perform tasks that they are not well suited to. Friends and family may provide temporary relief, but ongoing relief might only come with a change that could be easily spotted by an expert.
- Doze off – Sometimes taking a nap helps, but not in all cases. If you are anxious because of poor performance, then you might not want to doze off. On the other hand, if your content looks like mush because your mind feels like mush, take a nap for a few hours if it is appropriate. Sometimes even a 30 or 45 minute power-nap will be sufficient to restore mental clarity. Avoid using caffeine as a crutch, as it is not reliable. About half of the time I have tried to resolve my sleep-related issues, my writing has suffered. This can be a real challenge with a new baby in the house, but such is life.
- Resolve outside conflicts – If there are interpersonal problems or other situations that are unresolved that might be impacting your writing ability, focus on those first whenever possible. Take a day off or at least a morning and try to make some sort of progress on resolving the issues you have. Some issues are easily fixed, while other issues simply require time. If you recently experienced a loss, then consider taking a few hours off to help you resolve your feelings and maybe set a time after work for a little remembering with friends and/or family members. This might allow you to become more productive and increase the possibility of breaking through a block based on external stress.
- Exercise – I know for a fact that if my mind is clogged and I cannot focus that a little physical exercise helps. This typically works best when I’m rested and there are no discernible issues that I can resolve. Sometimes I simply have pent up energy that I need to burn, and my punching bag and weights service me well. Another writer I know loves his exercise bicycle in similar situations. The bottom line is that human beings were not meant to be sedentary, and sometimes a little physical exertion clears the mind. A nice warm shower after a short workout can be equally refreshing and help you focus on what you need to do. Remember not to work out so hard that you sap your strength and clarity.
- Change your style – Ever see the work of someone else and wish that you could emulate it to a degree? Give it a try! If you cannot do it with a new piece, then try revising an old piece. Sometimes a new challenge is needed, and you might take this as an object lesson in improving your writing skills. Analytical minds tend to enjoy this particular task, but it can also be very inspirational for creative types to see just where their current skills can take them.
- A three-minute challenge – Try free-form writing for a set period of time. For some reason, I tend to like three minutes. Find what works for you in terms of time, but the goal is simple: when the timer starts, you start writing and do not stop until a certain period of time elapses. What will you write about? Whatever comes into your head! Do not give the subject matter much thought, but rather allow your creative side to vent whatever it has pent up. Writing too much and/or too long about any subject is prone to make your mind feel number, and the result can be pent up creative energy. Let that energy go with timed free-form writing. You might even end up finding a link between your creative side and whatever it is you are writing about that gives you a new perspective that can be the subject of future texts.