If you have ever had to write something, chances are good that you've experienced writer's block. That moment when you're staring at a blank page and all of your great ideas, your careful outline, and stunning openers fly out the window. What do you do in the face of all that stark, whiteness?
Well, I won't pretend that my ideas are anything new. If you're worth your salt as a writer you already know them anyway. I'm just giving you my perspective on how they can work to unravel your frozen thoughts and get your fingers flying over the keyboard again.
I think we underestimate the power of this one. As 'professional' writers, you might see it as a way to journal rather than actually write, but a good deal of fantastic information can come forth once you get the junk out of the way. You may have to go a few pages into things, but keep typing whatever comes-up and get all of the nonsense flushed from your brain.
A friend of mine calls this her daily 'brain-dump', and she does it religiously. She claims it not only frees up her brain for writing, but also makes her entire day flow more smoothly because she's taken the 'to do' list out of her head.
What you will find after 3 or so pages is that the great ideas start pouring forth again and you're gaining insight into why you were blocked. If you feel compelled to censor your spelling and grammar (and who among us doesn't?) remind yourself that no one else will ever see what you're writing and keep going.
Even if all you do with this is jot down words that come to you, you're putting something on the page. This happens with visual art too, and the cure for getting over it is to just toss some color on the page. The same technique can apply to writing, just toss some words on the page.
Call a Friend
To me, there is nothing like a good conversation with a friend to get my mind moving in another direction. I don't see this as procrasination, because we typically end up discussing so many topics that I come away with ideas for even more articles and posts.
Those sessions so closely border on brain-storming that I think employers should pay for the time spent on the phone with friends as a standard benefit of employment. If you work from home, as I do, there simply isn't a way to do without this kind of contact. It destresses you, and once the conversation is over, you find yourself reconnected to your muse.
I do entirely too little of this. I like to make the excuse and claim that because I live in New England, yada yada, you know, the weather and all. Honestly though, I genuinely love the outdoors at all times of the year. The only reason that I don't go outside every day is because I don't force myself to do so. I get so comfortable just staying indoors, doing my mom stuff, my writing stuff, my art stuff, that by the time I realize I didn't set foot outside at all, the sun is going down. Fresh air has a way of recharging our batteries though and even a dismal day can give us an abundance of new perspectives to bring back to our blank pages.
Do Something Unusual
This will sound strange but breaking your routine is often the fastest way to get your brain thinking in a different direction. When the brain is on auto-pilot, you're disconnected from your creative source. There are many kinds of brain rewiring exercises that take a few minutes to do and can be effective. Kundalini yoga works like this, but any break in your routine-mind will give you the push you need to start writing again. Jump up and down for a few minutes, run around your house or dance to a great song, alphabetize your music collection, anything to get your habitual behavior to jolt free and push you off your usual track.
Ah, endorphins, is there anything better to really get a good rosy glowing view of the world? When you're stuck on something that has to do with your intellectual side, there is nothing better than taking physical action. Your body will take over, your heart will pump, and you'll feel so good you won't be able to help yourself from being excited to sit down and write again.
I'm a breather. What that means is that when something happens to throw off my day or get me frustrated, I spend a good 10 to 15 minutes breathing. I prefer not to label this, though I do sometimes also use a mantra; which I believe places this in the transcendental meditation group, but I just as frequently use visualizations. The main point is the breathing and clearing of your mind. Giving your mind a chance to unwind like this is probably one of the healthiest favors you can do for yourself, and not just as a jumpstart for your writing, but for your day to day experience of life.
Take a Shower
Some of my best ideas come to me under that wondrous hot spray of mana from heaven. I am a huge shower fan, the hotter the better. Call it the symbolic cleansing of etheric junk from my pores or just a good solid moment of solitude in a steamy room, but I come out of there completely refreshed and ready to tackle just about anything. Not to mention the fact that typically time spent in the shower reveals major gems of wisdom and insight.
Do something creative for a little while - play an instrument, start learning a new language, do some art, sew something, learn a new craft of some kind. You may find that while you're in the middle of the new thing, ideas begin to flood you for writing. Jot them down as you go, and then when you're ready, go back and get busy writing again.
Listen to Music
Music can be a real gateway to all kinds of fresh emotion and perspective. Challenge yourself to listen to music that you wouldn't normally listen to - remember, the idea here is to break yourself out of your habits, so you'll need something different than what you're used to. You don't have to listen to the entire song after all, but at least give it a try. You never know, you might find a new genre that really gets your writing flowing.
Just Start Writing
For those times when you're on a deadline, or you absolutely just have to write something for someone else, push yourself through it. Get at least one idea on the page and then do a little research. When I can't write very much about a topic, it's for one of two reasons - a. I've exhausted it (rare, but plausible) or b. I don't have enough information to speak from authority about it. Unless you're writing fiction, from professional knowledge, or from your heart, you're going to need to do research on your topic, and even then there's plenty that can be researched for background and character development.
The ultimate point here is that fresh eyes see things more clearly. Anything that will take you away from your desk for a short period of time will be beneficial to your writing practice. With time, you may find that on some days just the thought of doing something different will bring about the needed change in perspective and get your writing moving again. For now, give yourself some credit, take a break and then come back and get writing.
Copyright © 2013 Patricia Ross. All rights reserved.