5 Innovative Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block
How do you feel when you sit down to write: Afraid? Joyful? Ecstatic? Nervous? Judgemental?
I rarely sit down to journal and write a blog post and not know what to write about. I am lucky that the words just seem to flow, most of the time. That’s not as true when I am writing a book or working on a bigger project. I find that I need more distrations and more input from other sources to keep me motivated. I think one of the reasons that I love to journal is because it doesn’t require the structure or grammatical neatness of a blog post or book. I can just open to a blank page and start pouring out whatever in me needs to spill onto the page.
I am so excited today, I have almost filled another journal, just two or three blank pages waiting for me to write, color, doodle or plan. I love starting a new journal. I usually take the time to decorate the cover. My favorite journal is plain black and spiral bound at the top so it opens flat. There is something special about a new journal, all those pages waiting for innovation, creativity and the touch of pen, paint, pastel, pencil, glue… the possibilities are endless. Journaling is a great way to stretch your writing muscles and to create a habit. Creating a writing habit is the most important part of becoming a “Writer.”
Although I am not someone who struggles when faced with the blank page today, it hasn’t always been that way. I used to worry, fret, study and think for long periods of time before I actually started to write. In fact, much of my creative process still happens OFF the page. I find myself ruminating on a topic for days, letting it roll around in my consciousness before I sit down and put pen to paper.
No more writer’s block!
Here are a couple of suggestions for overcoming writer’s block. I begin by approaching the blank white page with curiosity and innovation, here’s how I do it:
- Read what others have written about your topic. No, this does not lead to plagiarism (at least it shouldn’t.) Reading what other experts have to say can help us clarify our thoughts, ideas and opinions. We can write a response to their ideas or add to them in innovative ways.
- Are you a fiction writer? Read other books in your genre, pay attention to storylines, character development, use of language. Be inspired and not intimidated by what you find.
- Read something totally random and unrelated! Take notes or pick a single quote from an article, book or poem and use that as a writing prompt. Just getting started is the hardest part of meeting the that scary white page.
In fact, this post was inspired by a poem by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver called Forty Years.
2. Set time limits!
- J.K. Rowling’s story of how she wrote the first book in the Harry Potter series has always inspired me. She wrote when she could, often sitting at a coffee shop with her child sleeping in the stroller beside her. Rowling was committed to writing in a deep and passionate way. You can find that commitment through focus and by scheduling time to write into your calendar.
- “I am too busy to write” is an excuse we tell ourselves when we are afraid of the blank white page. Schedule time to write in short bursts, 15 minutes here and there.
- As a busy working mom, I don’t have days, weekends or month-long retreats where I have the luxury of holing away to write. I sneak it in when I can but I have to be intentional about it or it doesn’t happen. I think about writing all of the time. I make an effort to capture thoughts as they appear.
- How serious are you? If you say you are a writer, you have to write. Stop trying to be a writer, write! As Yoda says, there is no try.
3. Quit worrying about getting it right and get it going!
- No one writes a perfect first draft. Or even a second or third draft. I remember listening to my cousin Rick Riordan talk to kids about his writing process and how the editing is one of the biggest challenges. Writing is a craft that takes time to hone. Be patient with yourself!
- As my co-author and I wrote our book on relationships over the past year, we found ourselves going back again and again, tweaking, changing, adding and subtracting. At one point, we finally had to say, “It’s done.” Could it be better? Certainly! But we are more committed to sharing our message with the world than with having a “spotless” book.
- Allow yourself the freedom to play with words, to enjoy the process, to say what you want to say. Especially if you are a blogger, stop thinking about keywords and SEO, your biggest success will come from authentic expression. Writing can be fun if you allow it to be. I guarantee you that the more you write, the more you will want to write. It will become your new favorite cup of coffee and those t.v. shows will lose the allure as that white page calls to you.
4. Get organized to write!
- Schedule your time. Honor your commitment to write. What are you willing to give up to be a writer?
- Schedule your content. I recently taught a blogging class about creating consistent, focused content. Using an editorial calendar can help keep you focused and on task. When you show up at the blank page knowing what to write about, the fear dissipates.
- Chunk it down. Writing a book? Pick a section, chapter or even a paragraph to focus on. Don’t write from beginning to end, pick a place and start there. You will rarely write a book in one sitting so don’t place that expectation on yourself.
5. Figure out when and where your best ideas are showing up!
- Read this post on 10 ways to get the inspiration flowing.
- Here’s a fun post my husband wrote based on some very silly things we saw on a beach walk one morning.
- Do your ideas show up in the shower, first thing in the morning, while cooking, working out? Whatever the case, the key to success is always having something available to record your ideas with – pen and paper, smart phone, digital voice recorder. As soon as you have the idea, write it down! Keep a journal, spiral notebook or Word .doc on your computer with ideas for articles, blog posts or books. Then you will never show up a the blank white page and experience the daunting fear of writer’s block.