You know what I hate? Trying to write, but not being able to focus.
It happens to all of us. The way to overcome it is to figure out what’s stopping you from getting your work done before you give up — or deciding what you’re going to do to snap your brain into focus mode.
There are a number of reasons why you’re not writing as productively as you’d like to be. Here’s everything you can try to fix your creative block.
It’s not the right time
Sometimes, productivity is time-dependent. I know I’m most productive very early in the morning and between the hours of 5 and 9 p.m. — so that’s when I try to tackle my most important tasks outside of my full-time job. If you’re trying to write, and it’s just not happening, you might be trying to write outside your ideal productivity window. Try writing at different times of the day for a week or so to figure out your most productive time of day.
You’re in the wrong place
Can’t write more than a sentence without checking Facebook? A change of scenery might do the trick. (Also, stop checking Facebook.) If your office isn’t doing it for you, move to a different room. Or go to a coffee shop. Don’t want to sit in your chair anymore? Move to the floor. Sometimes your brain just needs to reset, and moving around can help trigger it.
You haven’t set an end goal
I find I have the hardest time “getting into it” when I don’t know what I’m getting into. Am I about to do a few hours’ worth of research? Am I writing one article before I can call it quits for the day? Two? Three? Don’t start writing aimlessly. “I’ll write until I’m tired” is not a good way to start off. Try to write 500 words, 10 pages, or three chapters. No goal is too small — just pick something and go for it.
You don’t have an incentive
Last night, I did not want to get my work done. However, I told myself that if I finished by 11:00, I could watch an episode of Parks & Rec. I finished by eleven, and went straight to Netflix. That urge to skip the work and go right to the reward was strong, but my willpower was stronger. I knew I would not have enjoyed the reward without having done the work. It might work the same way for you. Just do it. There’s something fun waiting at the finish line — as long as you keep your promise to yourself.
You need a vacation
Burnout is a real thing. For some, it’s occasional, and hard to recognize. For others, it’s more of a chronic condition — a familiar set of symptoms with seemingly no way out. If you’re trying desperately to get some writing done, and you just can’t, exhaustion might be to blame. If you need a break, take one. If you can’t right now, schedule one. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle your assignments without quite as much struggle — even if your break only lasts one night.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.