Now that all the Writer’s Block enthusiasts have navigated away from this page (giant squids of anger? Anyone? Anyone?), let us explain ourselves.
Writer’s Block does not exist because it isn’t just writers who have trouble coaxing their ideas out of hiding. Anyone who engages in some type of creative process—musicians, designers, entrepreneurs and yes, writers—have moments when all they want to do is engage in the activity they enjoy (or do for a living, or both). Sometimes, the ideas, the motivation, just won’t come. Sometimes, there’s an invisible wall. A creative barrier. And it seems impossible to knock down with a metaphorical sledgehammer.
We know. We’ve been there. We can help.
1. Get up and move
This can mean two things: either grab your laptop and choose another temporary work station (if portions of your work station are portable, that is) or abandon your work entirely for a little while and go do something else. Physical activity can do wonders for the mind. Commanding your body to transition into a voluntary, yet mindless series of movements can leave your brain extra capacity to process thoughts. Go for a jog, if you’re into that sort of thing. Go for a walk. Step outside to grab the morning paper. Anything that does not involve sitting and staring at a screen, at least for a small segment of your day.
2. If you can’t move, move on
If you get paid to write, first of all, you’re doing something right, so kudos to you. If you’re stuck in an office or wedged in a pitiful cubicle between a wall and a co-worker who prefers headphones and eating lunch at his desk, you probably don’t have as much freedom to try step one. Deadlines are deadlines, and you can’t spend all morning putting off getting your work done because of a mental block. Your boss might not believe in the “creative barrier” enough to count it as a free pass. Do your best, but if you can, switch to another project for the time being. Take a two-minute break and watch a quick video to stimulate your mind in a different way. You might have a different perspective on the task at hand when you do come back to it.
3. Engage in productive procrastination
This is a real thing, and it’s not actually as sketchy as you might think. Sometimes—and let’s be honest, we’ve all done it—you need to put off a project in order to trick your brain into channeling its best ideas exactly where you need it to. How do you productively procrastinate, in a literary sense? Read a book. Watch a TED talk. Write a blog post about productive procrastination. Do something that still keeps the wheels in your head spinning without sitting for 10 minutes in front of a blank page, stressing about how much you’re not getting done. Probably the most important strategy of all, though, is to try not to stress about it.
Worrying about how much your brain is apparently betraying you only makes it worse. That’s why the steps above involve distraction and moving away from the stressful, doesn’t-want-to-be-written assignment in front of you. The ideas will come back. They haven’t gone away. If they come rushing back to you all at once, well, that’s another problem for another post.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.