Category: Writing

How To Deal With Writer’s Block

How To Deal With Writer’s Block

Over the past few days, I have found myself struggling to write. Every night, I open up my laptop, stare at the screen for who knows how long, and type out a few sentences that ultimately lead to nowhere. Since the move, I’ve started 9 posts, all of which I have given up on for the time being.

It seems, my friends, that I have a crippling case of writer’s block.

For me, writers block isn’t so much about having a lack of things to say. It’s more like being mentally constipated. Tons of ideas crammed together in my creativity tube that just won’t come out, no matter how hard I push. My brain’s just all stopped up. It’s uncomfortable, it’s irritating, and it’s slightly painful.

Much like being constipated, the worst thing you can do is try to force it.

If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing to do is try to loosen up all those backed up words. I know, I know. Easier said than done. Here’s three methods I’ve found that can get those ideas flowing smoothly.

1)Switch gears. Try writing something different. For instance, instead of writing about the things I learned while moving, I am writing about writer’s block. Take your mind off of whatever it is you are struggling to create. If that doesn’t do the trick, try doing something unrelated to writing. Draw a picture, sing a song, rearrange the items on your desk. Stepping away from the project at hand can give you fresh perspective, and if you’re like me, once you’re focused on something else your brain will go back to whatever you were trying to do in the first place in a bid to procrastination.

2) Try free writing. Grab a sheet of paper and just write the first words that come to mind, even if it is as silly as “I am writing. Watch me write…” continue this stream of consciousness scribbling for a few minutes. Don’t worry about things like grammar or whether or not it makes sense. The point here isn’t to create great content (although it’s always a nice surprise if you do!), it’s about getting the creative juices flowing. Once you get in the writing zone, it’s hard to get back out of it!

3) Have some story juice. If all else fails, pour yourself a glass of whatever adult beverage you prefer and relax! Sometimes all it takes is a nice buzz and a peaceful setting to make those words come pouring out! Pro tip: edit sober!

Now that you’ve conquered your writer’s block, let’s look at some ways to prevent it in the future.

1) Don’t wait to write. Just like you should refrain from holding in bodily functions, the longer to put off writing the harder it will be to get the words out. Keep a small notebook in your pocket or purse to capture your ideas as they come, or jot down some quick notes in your phone’s memo pad. You never know when inspiration will strike, be prepared!

2) Flex your creativity muscles. Do you usually write romance? Try writing horror instead. Get outside of your comfort zone! Try other forms of art, do various puzzles, visit an art gallery, read something challenging, try to understand viewpoints other than your own. The key to keeping your creativity high is to keep your mind engaged. Give it the food it needs to stay active!

3) Try new things.  While it would be awesome to just pick up and visit a new country, you don’t need to do anything quite that drastic to reap the benefits of new experiences. Try a new food. Visit a nearby town you’ve never been to. Take a different route home from work. Say yes to that invitation. Pick up a new hobby. The more experiences you have, the more you have to write about!

4) Create a routine. What time of day do you feel most productive? Schedule yourself some writing time as close to that time slot as possible. If you can, write in the same place everyday. If that’s not possible, create another constant (use the same pen or drink coffee from the same cup each time). The idea is to train your brain to recognize a symbol that this is writing time and draw in your focus. Give yourself a goal. Set a timer, for example, or set a daily word count. Even if what you generate isn’t usable, just getting some practice and developing the habit is a win!

5) Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Drink enough water. Eat good food. Get some exercise. When you feel good, it’s easier to be productive. Don’t forget to tend to your emotional, mental, and spiritual needs as well. The healthier and happier you are, the better!

While I wouldn’t say that I’m an “expert”, these are the things that I’ve found help the most. Now, let’s hope I can follow my own advice and keep the writer’s block at bay for awhile!

Do you have any tips of your own for beating writer’s block? Tell us about it in the comments!

10 Things I Do When I Should Be Writing

10 Things I Do When I Should Be Writing

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer.

Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. In all honesty, I’ve wanted to be a writer for longer than I can remember.

Among the boxes of family photos and newspaper clippings, you can find stories that my grandma jotted down for me while I dictated them to her, well before I even knew what a “writer” was. I’ve always had a million stories inside me, just dying to find themselves on paper.

I was the kid that got excited to write papers and book reports. When we’d have creative writing lessons in school, I always found it hard to stop at the maximum word limit. For many years, I was selected to attend the Young Writer’s Conference. I got in trouble for “writing notes” to friends in class, only to shock the teachers when the “note” was actually some story I was messing around with. I’d sit in my room and fill up every scrap of paper with one-off scenes and outlines. When I finally got a computer, all bets were off. Now I could write as much as I wanted and have it all in one place!

Of course, this didn’t stop me from writing when I should have been taking notes in class, or from jotting down ideas on receipt tape (or any other available scrap paper) at every job I held. Writing has always been more of a reflex for me. It’s something I have to do.

When I started this blog, I figured it would be a fantastic outlet for all the words that build up in my head over the course of the day. I thought it would be a good way to keep my skills sharp and to motivate me to work on other non-blog-related pieces. Never did I imagine a scenario where I’d find myself struggling to keep up with it.

It’s never a lack of ideas. I have lists upon lists of potential post ideas, to say nothing of the endless lists of story ideas.

No, the problem is a lack of concentration. I only get the urge to write when I should be doing something else. The reverse is also true. When I should be writing, I can usually be found doing one of the following things:

  1. Reorganizing my desk. I mean, you’ve got to have a clean and functional work space, right?
  2. Writing lists of things to write and their arbitrary deadlines. You must have a plan! You just must!
  3. Scrubbing all the walls of my house. Who can concentrate with all those fingerprints staring at them?
  4. Reading. For inspiration, obviously.
  5. Refreshing my Tumblr feed. Because I might miss a really great post that makes me think of high school.
  6. Pinning a bunch of recipes I’ll never make and projects I’ll never do. Pinterest is the devil.
  7. Checking Facebook. How else am I supposed to know what my friends and family are up to? Plus, other people’s drama could inspire a great story or post.
  8. Daydreaming about all the great interviews I’ll do on morning talk shows when I’m finally a best seller. You have to be prepared for these things.
  9.  Dancing around the house like an idiot while singing at the top of my lungs. You’ve got to stay in shape somehow
  10. Complaining that I don’t have enough time to write. Clearly, that is the problem, not my complete inability to stay on task or manage my time (thanks, ADD).

So, there you have it. If you’ve noticed a significant drop in the frequency of my posts lately, that should just about sum it up.

All kidding aside, life has been busy lately. We’re in the process of buying our first home, I’ve been trying to stay on track with my new fitness goals, and focus on some other projects…all while chasing a demanding toddler around.

Life can be incredibly hectic and things can get lost in the shuffle, but in the end you always find yourself coming back to what you love.

And what I love, is putting words on the page.

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Cape Town, South Africa