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6 Scientific Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

6 Scientific Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

I’ll be 100% candid with you. I’m working on my goal of publishing 100,000 words in a year (outside of what I do for my 9-5), and I’m having a bit of trouble coming up with something to write about. So, in lieu of any creative genius, let’s talk about writer’s block.

It’s a real thing. It’s frustrating, it’s confusing, and it’s formally acknowledged by most psychologists (considered a brief form of generalized anxiety resulting in decreased cognitive functioning, and lasting for roughly two weeks). Any of us that have ever written at all, be it school papers or lengthy books, have experienced writer’s block to varying degrees at some point. Why not struggle through this together? Here are six things we can both do to overcome writer’s block.

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1. Go for a stroll.

Many of the nation’s most successful writers attest that going for a mild walk helps them break through a creative slump. Thankfully, science agrees with them! Going for a 20-minute-ish walk will actually provide the same cognitive benefits (endorphins kicking in, blood circulation, increased serotonin, etc.) as a full workout. Except, if you’re just going for a leisurely walk, you still have plenty of energy left to write when you get back.

2. Do something else, anything else!

Writer’s block is thought to be caused by anxiety, right? So get away from what’s making you anxious, which is probably whatever you’re trying to write! Many people will confuse writer’s block for burn out, and they’re not necessarily wrong. Writer’s block can be a form of burn out. But it’s not as debilitating, nor does it last as long. You simply need to do something completely different for a while (maybe for a few hours; maybe for several days).

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Think of it this way. Creative workspace has been a growing trend over the last decade, because every spot within an office would be different, and therefore offer varied stimulation to keep your brain from becoming too complacent or too used to one thing. If you keep trying to work on the same things over and over again, and keep getting stuck, you’ve got to find something else to stimulate your brain, because you’ve become too used to what you’re currently working on.

3. Down a glass of deliciously cool water.

This one’s pretty simple, and it’s amazing how often drinking a glass of cool water will help whatever problem you’ve got. If your hydration level drops even 1% below it’s peak range, you could lose up to 14% of your productivity and cognitive potential. For some, this is a quick fix. If you can’t think straight for the full “clinical” two weeks, you might do well to change your diet! You could start by replacing alcoholic, carbonated, and sugary beverages with water.

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4. Just wait it out.

If you have a serious case of writer’s block, it will last about two weeks. But then you’ll be back to normal! Why this time period? It could be that’s how long it takes your brain and body to recoup from whatever stressors are causing your writer’s block in the first place. Really, we’re not entirely sure why it’s this time frame. But we do know that it’s only temporary, and that you will be back to your usual creative self before long. Have faith!

5. Keep pushing!

It won’t be easy, and you won’t necessarily create your best content, but sometimes you need to keep writing. Maybe it’s to finish a project, beat a deadline, or because you have the insatiable urge to keep writing. Actually, if you do power through, you’ll most likely break out of your writer’s block, as point six will explain.

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6. Start handwriting whatever comes to mind.

To be completely candid, that’s how I wrote this post! You’re familiar with hand-eye coordination, right? It’s two separate parts working together to improve each other. Similarly, whenever your hand starts writing, it moves because the neurons in your brain are traveling back-and-forth to your hand telling it what movements to make. This stimulates the area of your brain associated with both your hand’s fine motor skills and your high-functioning cognitive processes – the frontal lobe. By picking up a pen and starting to write, your hand and mind will work together to get your creative juices flowing.

Whatever you choose to do, know that writer’s block is a legitimate condition, and that it’s only temporary. You’re not crazy for going into a creative slump, and you won’t lose the creative prowess you pride yourself in. Try not to stress about it! That might make it worse. You need only be patient. And if you must push through, you have this handy list to help you succeed.

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Kenneth Burke

Director of Marketing

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Last Updated on December 4, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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