We all dread that moment. You know the one. You’re staring at the empty page or screen, painfully aware of an impending deadline, ie: a commitment to publish a blog post on a certain day every week (Oops, sorry again), but you have absolutely nothing to say. Aarg! What do you do about that?!
I’ve noticed a trend when this happens to me. There’s almost always something in the way. I’m hungry or tired or angry or stressed out. Often there’s just too many thoughts rattling around in my head.
So the first I do is address my needs. I eat or take a power nap or go for a walk to calm myself. If there’s too much going on inside my head, I take a minute and write down all the thoughts that demand attention. Once my needs are addressed, and my mind is cleared, I am almost always able to write.
Of course more often than not, I cannot meet all my needs before beginning. So in that case I turn to a few exercises to get me going:
- If I have any great lines I want to include or points I want to make, I get those down first. For example, I wrote the last paragraph of this post right after I wrote the second paragraph of this post. Who says anything has to be written in order? I’m rarely able to think in order, so I rarely write that way.
- I make an outline. Even if I’ve already done that. When there’s a few parts written out, I start fitting those into place and summarizing what needs to go in between. Once the in between parts are labeled and identified, it gets easier to write those parts.
- My husband gave me a brilliant suggestion last night. He said if worse comes to worse, start writing alterations (the healthy, hungry hippo has to hijack a houseboat) or rhymes or work on some other literary trick. Write an elaborate description of an event or place. The point is to get the wheels turning in your mind. I haven’t tried this yet, but it makes sense to me. I bet it works.
- John August suggests setting a time limit. He pledges to attempt writing for 20 minutes and then gives himself 10 minutes of freedom. I think it would be wise to use that 10 minutes of freedom to do something very non-mental. I would listen to music and stare out the window or at the ceiling for 10 minutes. I’d be ready to mentally engage after that.
- David Hunter of The Writer’s Den suggests shuffling through discarded ideas and removing distractions like internet, phone, and TV.
- And while reading David’s post from The Writer’s Den (don’t visit if you hate colorful language, sheesh!) I thought of another good idea: switch mediums! If you always type, try good ‘ole pen and paper for a bit, ect. Ask someone to take dictation. It might just be enough of a change to refresh.
- Brian Clark of Copyblogger warns that writer’s block may be a sign of fear. (fear of rejection, fear of mediocrity, fear of success) He says don’t allow yourself to be your own worst enemy. Work past your fears.
- Melissa Karnaze, also of Copyblogger actually believes a block can be a “secret weapon.” In her post she gives some great steps to reach clarity, find what it is you want to say, and most importantly, remember why you wanted to write that piece in the first place.
Well that’s it for me. Of course if none of this works, and the words still won’t come, listen inward. Maybe you shouldn’t write your story or paper. Maybe the timing is off, or your heart’s not in it. Trust your instincts. Put the thing aside. But good luck explaining that to your boss or professor! Now there’s a real problem!