Writer’s block is the single most frustrating event in the life of a writer. It halts productivity and can cause us to second-guess ourselves if we put too much emphasis on it. I want to share with you 14 ways that I have used to keep my mind fresh and my pen moving.
Walking. I get out of my front door and stroll around the neighborhood or in my favorite park. Walking for 20 minutes really opens my mind as I take in fresh air.
Gaming. I intentionally have games downloads on my iPhone for this occurrence. I often find that playing a game is the change-of-pace distraction I need to help me to refocus. Mobile phone games are similar and not as consuming, in my opinion, as a console-based game.
Cleaning. I’m a clean guy by nature, but if my house is professional level immaculate, then you know I’m trying to tap into my creative. Cleaning—be it my house, a few closets, or my car—lets my mind process questions and solve problems.
Coloring. Sometimes just doing a different form of art is therapeutic. Coloring books aren’t just for kids and sketchpads aren’t for artists only. Being able to sketch turns on a different side of my brain that deals with spacial relationships and not words.
Conversation. Getting out of my own head is one of the best tools I have for releasing myself from a block. Talking about something entirely irrelevant with a friend, or even discussing what’s stalling my writing with a trusted friend is helpful to overcoming it.
Sleeping. Sometimes the brain needs to shut itself off and allow room for the subconscious mind to play and work. I have napped and risen to brilliant ideas and I have napped and awakened to nothing. Either way, I’m fresh and ready to write on any level.
Running. I find this one to be one of the best ways to get my mind pumping. I throw on my iPod, take to a trail and run a few miles to the music. It’s great for getting you out from behind the desk, in a upright position and into the light of day. It also is good for getting much needed oxygen to the brain in larger doses. Running will produce a lot of ideas while you’re in the act, so be prepared. I have stropped and voice recored or scribbled down memos.
Music. Listening to music has a transportive effect. I have specific playlists in Spotify for different times in my life. When I need to have a change in my mental state, I use a playlist. I have playlists for different writing moods that I have be it business writing, journalism, blogging, or inspirational writing.
Showering. It’s true. The best ideas always come in the shower. If your mind needs to be unplugged or decompressed, take a shower. I fire up the water, and start talking. Having a conversation with myself in the shower is often a solid remedy. It sounds strange, but what part of being a writer isn’t?
Amusement Parks. I have a season pass to Busch Gardens, so this is easy for me. I find that when I’m out among people and having some fun that ideas seem to flood my mind. Even watching a couple of the shows (again, theater being creative) helps to unlock stuck areas. I’ve even written entire sections of my book in Evernote while standing in line for a roller coaster.
Driving. When I think of unblocking in the car, I imagine the scene in Jerry Maguire when Jerry is driving down the open road in his convertible with the top down. The wind is blowing his hair and he has Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers loudly blasting “Free Falling.” He’s in his happy place and no doubt in his zone. This works for writers as well. Go for a drive. Put on your favorite mental creative music (mine is Pop) and snap yourself out of your block. Sing at the top of your lungs while feel the wind blow.
Using Prompts. Using writing prompts will help get you writing. I use an app called DayOne, which comes preloaded with them. There are also a number of websites that offer working prompts for you to try.
Write What’s In Front of You. I’ve done this a lot. I’ll take a pen and paper and write down what I see in vivid detail as if I’m writing a narrative. I’ve done this at home, at Starbucks and in a shopping center. Create the scene and describe it in full detail. What’s going on? What conversations can you ear? What do you see. Write it all out.
Morning Pages. I took this idea from Julia Cameron, author of “The Right to Write” and “The Artist’s Way.” Sit down with a notebook and pen anywhere you choose and write. You can talk about being blocked, what you want for Christmas, why the sky is bluer today than usual or just write your name over and again. Write three pages or set a Pomodoro timer for 25 minutes. The idea and goal is to get you writing by decluttering whatever it is that’s on your mind that has you blocked.
How Famous Writer’s Approach Writing Blocks
“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’” — Maya Angelou
“I encourage my students at times like these to get one page of anything written, three hundred words of memories or dreams or stream of consciousness on how much they hate writing— ust for the hell of it, just to keep their fingers from becoming too arthritic, just because they have made a commitment to try to write three hundred words every day. Then, on bad days and weeks, let things go at that…Your unconscious can’t work when you are breathing down its neck. You’ll sit there going, ‘Are you done in there yet, are you done in there yet?’ But it is trying to tell you nicely, ‘Shut up and go away.’” — Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
“Now, what I’m thinking of is, people always saying “Well, what do we do about a sudden blockage in your writing? What if you have a blockage and you don’t know what to do about it?” Well, it’s obvious you’re doing the wrong thing, don’t you? In the middle of writing something you go blank and your mind says: “No, that’s it.” Ok. You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying “I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for.” You’re being political, or you’re being socially aware. You’re writing things that will benefit the world. To hell with that! I don’t write things to benefit the world. If it happens that they do, swell. I didn’t set out to do that. I set out to have a hell of a lot of fun.
I’ve never worked a day in my life. I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: ‘Am I being joyful?’ And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.” — Ray Bradbury at The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, 2001
“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