Tag Archives: overcoming writer’s block

Staying Creative When Life’s Pulling You in 27 Directions

 

Whether work, school, kids, exercising, a sick grandmother, or something else, it’s challenging to juggle so many responsibilities and move writing goals forward. Writing takes a lot of brain power, and after a long day at the office, it’s tempting to push writing off one more day.

5741700549_087e05aa3c_bHow do you avoid that “one more day” turning into a rut? I’ll share some of my methods for staying creative. Feel free to put yours in the comments.

  1. say no

Socializing is fun. Volunteering is fun. Getting lost in the Web is fun. Helping that friend or coworker out, for the sixteenth time, may not be fun, but you do it anyway. After a while, you’ve got too much on your plate. There’s no time to write!

Make writing a priority. Say no to some of your other activities. There’s only so much time in a day. If you want to get that short story or novel finished, you have to weed out some of your other undertakings.

  1. go outside

If you’re creatively blocked, get out of the house. Go for a walk. Play soccer. Do something outside. You’d be surprised at how many ideas may come to you after you’ve spent some time in the great outdoors.

  1. read

Reading helps stir imagination. Fiction, non-fiction, a magazine article, a graphic novel, get out of your head for a while and enter someone else’s imagination. You never know what creative ideas will spark in you.

If you have plenty of ideas, but not the energy to expand them onto paper, reading can help here too. Read something fantastic. Read a work that fires you up, that stirs your emotions. Take those feelings—that power—and write.

  1. talk it out

Sometimes a different method of communication will revive your creative engines. Call up a friend, family member, or someone else you trust. Talk to them about your ideas. Often, their feedback will get you excited, and help flesh out your ideas.

Or, talk out loud to yourself. Walk around your house and talk, use hand gestures, get in the heads of your characters, pretend you’re being interviewed about your writing on TV. This may sound silly, or slightly crazy, but it works.

  1. eat well

What you put into your body direct impacts how you feel. Eat whole grains, veggies, fruits, healthy sources of protein. Eating well makes you feel good, and when you feel good, you’re more creative.

  1. don’t stress

Stress is the bane of everyone’s lives. While some stress is good, too much is harmful. When you feel overwhelming pressure to write, your creativity drops. Practice stress reduction techniques, whichever ones work for you, so when you start getting too stressed, you’ll be able to calm yourself, or guide your stress into something useful.

What tips do you have for staying creative?

(Photo courtesy of Leszek Lesczynski.)

When There’s Nothing Left to Say

2209664070_045c1d57dd_zSometimes it’s just hard to get started. Whether it’s reading, writing, or doing housework, some days your mind seems to want to remain off. Going back to bed feels like the perfect option, because, on occasion, you just seem to be unable to get yourself motivated.

Why am I talking about this?

To be honest, today was one of those days . I rolled out of bed and started my Monday, getting ready for work, feeding the dog, etc. However, the entire time I was in a trance. Not really present. Which isn’t the best state of mind. But for some reason, everything felt heavy today, even the air.

So, by the time I sat down at my computer to work on my thesis…well, you probably already guessed what happened.

Nothing.

After staring at my computer screen, re-reading words that felt like they were sand slipping through my fingers, I shut my computer and decided that I had to somehow get out of this funk.

What did I do?

I made an edamame chickpea salad with an avocado-lime dressing, which to some may sound disgusting, but it was delicious. And, best of all, easy to make.

Still, after such a tasty dinner, my mind was blank. Even reading a book I’d found enjoyable yesterday held no satisfaction for me today. Playing with my dog, going for a walk (it’s about twenty degrees with snow where I live), doing some yoga, researching for my upcoming trip…nothing pulled me free from the haze I was in.

Which, I realized, was okay. Some days are cloudy. No matter what you do you’re stuck. The important thing to remember is that the daze you’re in is temporary. So, if you have moments, like me, where you find no inspiration coming to you, whether it’s that the main character of your story is refusing to come to life or that you can’t remember what you were doing five minutes ago, this feeling of being unfocused will pass. When it does, you’ll discover a backlog of creativity.

What do you do when you’re in a funk?

(Photo courtesy of tetsu-k.)

Kicking Writer’s Block to the Curb

Many writers have experienced writer’s block at some point. Whether it’s not being able to come up with an idea or having a ton of ideas but not being able to commit to any of them. Getting stuck on a specific part of an outline or chapter, hitting a dead end and not knowing where your story took a wrong turn, not being able to find the right words, or having your inner critic shoot you down.

Many think that writer’s block can be overcome through sheer willpower. We want it to go away enough, then it will. However, sheer willpower doesn’t work all the time because there is usually something internal going on that we may be missing.

This internal conflict may be fear. We may have a voice in our head that says we’re not good enough, that we’re never going to get published, that everyone will think our writing is rubbish, or it could be the opposite.

Veronica Roth has dealt with anxiety issues due to caring a lot about what other people think. When she got famous, her anxiety spiked because she was in the public’s eye, and every person that read her work, and some that didn’t, were weighing in their opinions.

Some of those opinions weren’t pretty, especially when it came to Allegiant, the final book in Roth’s Divergent trilogy. Commenters said she destroyed her career, they gave her book one star reviews, and there were even some death threats. Talk about being negative, and wanting someone to conform to what people believe an ending should be.

But before I go too far down that bunny trail, let’s get back to writer’s block.

How do people get unstuck?

First off, understand what’s going on in your head when you get blocked. To do this, you need to become aware, to consider alternatives. It doesn’t help to use trial and error, to wait for inspiration, or to insist on a perfect draft.

Heads up: Perfectionism is a very good way to develop writer’s block.

Work on separating your inner voice from the daily world. If you’re worrying about what to get at the grocery store, whether or not you got an A on your biostatistics test, if your boss was happy with your latest article, if your boyfriend is still mad at you for not calling him back, and the fact that you haven’t had time to workout for three days in a row, you’re going to have a difficult time delving into your creative side.

Some ways to help connect with your inner voice:

  • Take a break from whatever you’re writing and do anything that’s creative. Paint, take pictures, make a scrapbook, woodwork, work on your website or blog.
  • Exercise. Doesn’t have to be strenuous. Get up and dance, practice yoga, go on hike or a walk around the neighborhood. Go for a bike ride. Find something that brings you to a peaceful state.
  • Free write. Take fifteen-twenty minutes to write whatever comes to you. It can be completely random, grammatically incorrect, and with a ton of punctuation errors. Just write.
  • Eliminate distractions. Put the phone away. Log off Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and whatever else you use for social media. Clean up your workspace. Find a quiet place to work. Let your family know that solitude is important to staying focused.

Most importantly, let go of your insecurities. That’s a lot easier said than done. But once you work through your fears and not worry about what others think, you’ll find the creative side of you is readily available.

Two quotes for overcoming writer’s block:

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day…you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” – Ernest Hemingway

“I haven’t had trouble with writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly. My first drafts are filled with lurching, clichéd writing, outright flailing around. Writing that doesn’t have a good voice or any voice. But then there will be good moments. It seems writer’s block is often a dislike of writing badly and waiting for writing better to happen.” – Jennifer Egan

Have you ever had writer’s block? How did you overcome it?