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4 Effective Strategies for Tackling Writer’s Block

4 Effective Strategies for Tackling Writer’s Block

Whether you write for a living or just enjoy getting creative in your spare time, writer’s block is without a doubt one of the most frustrating problems to run into.

Researchers are still divided on whether the problem is neurological or can be chalked up to anxiety caused by pressure to produce, and some psychologists are even convinced that writer’s block is simply an excuse we make for poor discipline.

Regardless of what causes it, though, experiencing a creative block is only natural from time to time, and while there are many different ways to tackle it, what works for one person may do nothing for another. So if you’re in need of some inspiration, here are a few strategies you can try.

1. Allow yourself to daydream

Your subconscious mind is good at coming up with creative ideas and solutions, which is why sometimes, it’s best to stop thinking about what you’re going to write and let your mind wander.

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In one study, researchers found that when writers are unhappy, either due to stress and anxiety, anger and irritation or apathy and disengagement, they are more likely to experience writer’s block and less likely to daydream in a constructive way.

To tackle this problem, they asked a group of writers experiencing writer’s block to sit in a quiet, low-lit room and visualize specific things such as a piece of music or nature setting. Then they would try to describe it. After becoming accustomed to the exercise, the writers were asked to do the same thing some aspect of their current writing project.

Sure enough, those who participated in the intervention found that they were more motivated and self-confident in their writing and were able to get more done.

2. Experiment with different brainstorming techniques

There are countless brainstorming techniques, and these days, even apps you can use to generate ideas, but it’s important to find a technique you feel comfortable with. For writers, some effective brainstorming techniques may include:

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  • Mind mapping

Mind mapping can help you develop vague ideas into something more concrete. Start by drawing a circle with your main topic or idea at the centre, then, use lines to connect as many related thoughts and ideas to the main circle as you can think of.

  • Free writing

Get out an empty note book or open a blank word document and start writing whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about whether you’re making sense or even staying on topic, the goal is simply to free up your mind and push past whatever anxiety is preventing you from writing.

  • Star bursting

Star bursting involves coming up with as many questions about your topic as possible. You can start by answering the journalistic 5Ws and 1H: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? Once you’re done, go down the list and answer each question as best as you can.

3. Try social writing

Writing is usually a solitary activity and most writers wouldn’t have it any other way, but if you find yourself stuck, it can help to write in a more social setting.

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You could either find a writing partner or create a little writer’s group, but the goal is to find someone who can critique your work, listen to your ideas or just provide some moral support. Social writing isn’t for everyone, of course, but sometimes simply getting another writer’s perspective could be just what you need to move forward.

4. Do something completely unrelated

This might be difficult if you have a hard deadline coming up, but since writer’s block often stems from the pressure you’ve put on yourself to produce, it can help to step away from your writing for a while and do something completely unrelated to give your mind a break.

Psychologist Susan Reynolds explains that when you’re feeling pressured to write, your anxiety level rises and your brain releases stress hormones, which triggers your fight or flight response.

Once this occurs, the limbic system stops transmitting messages to the cortex, which is responsible for conscious thought and creativity. So the more you pressure yourself to write, the more anxious you’ll feel and the worse your writer’s block will become.

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So whether you go for a run, listen to music, paint, make a scrapbook or clean the house, doing something unrelated for a while will help calm the anxiety you’re feeling and help you get over the mental blockage.

Figure out what works for you

This is one point that just can’t be emphasized enough. We’re all different and that means there is no right or wrong way to get creative in your writing. Once you’ve experimented with a few different techniques, you’ll have a better idea of which one helps you generate the most new ideas or leaves you feeling less anxious and ready to get back to your writing.

Do you have any weird or wacky techniques of your own for tackling writer’s block? Let us know about them in the comment section.

Featured photo credit: Picjumbo.com via picjumbo.com

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Marianne Stenger

Writer, Open Colleges

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Memorize More and Faster Than Other People

How to Memorize More and Faster Than Other People

People like to joke that the only thing you really “learn” in school is how to memorize. As it turns out, that’s not even the case for most of us. If you go around the room and ask a handful of people how to memorize things quickly and how to remember things, most of them will probably tell you repetition.

That is so far from the truth, it’s running for office. If you want to memorize something quickly and thoroughly, repetition won’t cut it; however, recalling something will. The problem is that recalling something requires learning and we all learn in different ways.

So how to memorize more and faster than others?

In this article, you will learn how to master the art of recalling so that you can start memorizing a ton of data in a short amount of time.

Before you start, know your learning style

Before we start, you need to establish something: are you an auditory, visual, or experiential learner?

If you’re an auditory learner, then the most effective way for you to grasp information is by hearing it. As you can imagine, visual learners favor seeing something in order to learn it. Experiential learning types are more akin to learning from events and experiences (or, doing something with the material).

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Try out this quick quiz to find out your learning style.

Most of us are a combination of at least two of these categories but I will denote which step is most favorable to your most agreeable learning style so that you can start to memorize things quickly and efficiently.

Step 1: Preparation

To optimize your memorization session, pay close attention to which environment you choose. For most people, this means choosing an area with few distractions, though some people do thrive off of learning in public areas. Figure out what is most conducive to your learning so that you can get started.

Next, start drinking some tea. I could link you to mounds of scientific studies that confirm green tea as a natural catalyst for improving memory. Mechanically speaking, our ability to recall information comes down to the strength between neurons in our mind, which are connected by synapses. The more you exercise the synapse (repetition), the stronger it is, resulting in the ability to memorize.

As we get older, toxic chemicals will damage our neurons and synapses, leading to memory loss and even Alzheimer’s. Green tea contains compounds, however, that block this toxicity and keep your brain cells working properly a lot longer.

Step 2: Record what you’re memorizing

This is especially useful if you’re trying to memorize information from a lecture. Use a tape recorder to track all of the acquired facts being spoken and listen to it.

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If you’re trying to memorize a speech, record yourself reading the speech aloud and listen to yourself speaking. Obviously, this is most helpful for auditory learners, but it’s also handy because it ensures that you’re getting more context from a lecture that will help you learn the information faster.

Step 3: Write everything down

Before you start trying to recall everything from memory, write and re-write the information. This will help you become more familiar with what you’re trying to memorize.

Doing this while listening to your tape recorder can also help you retain a lot of the data. This is most useful for experienced learners.

Step 4: Section your notes

Now that you have everything written down in one set of notes, separate them into sections. This is ideal for visual learners, especially if you use color coding to differentiate between subjects.

This will help you break everything down and start compartmentalizing the information being recorded in your brain.

Step 5: Apply repetition to cumulative memorization

For each line of text, repeat it a few times and try to recall it without looking. As you memorize each set of text, be cumulative by adding the new information to what you’ve just learned. This will keep everything within your short-term memory from fading.

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Keep doing this until you have memorized that section and you are able to recall the entire thing. Do not move on to another section until you have memorized that one completely. This is mostly visual learning but if you are speaking aloud, then you are also applying auditory.

Step 6: Write it down from memory

Now that you can recall entire sections, write everything down from memory. This will reinforce everything you just have just learned by applying it experientially.

Step 7: Teach it to someone (or yourself)

The most effective method for me when I was in school was to teach the information to someone else. You can do this in a variety of ways. You can lecture the knowledge to someone sitting right in front of you (or the mirror, if you can’t convince anyone to sit through it) and explain everything extemporaneously.

If what you’ve learned needs to be recited verbatim, then do this in front of someone as well in order to get a feel for what it will be like to recite the text to the intended audience.

My favorite method for this is creating tests for other people. Take the information and predict what questions will come out of them. Use multiple choice, matching and so on to present the data in test format and see how someone else does.

All of this is experiential learning since you are actually practicing and manipulating the concepts you’ve learned.

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Step 8: Listen to the recordings continuously

While doing unrelated tasks like laundry or driving, go over the information again by listening to your tape recordings. This is certainly auditory learning but it will still supplement everything you’ve shoved into your short-term memory.

Step 9: Take a break

Finally, let your mind breathe. Go for a short time without thinking about what you just learned and come back to it later on.

You’ll find out what you really know and this will help you focus on the sections you might be weakest at.

Try these steps now and you will find remembering things a lot easier and you’ll memorize more stuff than a lot of other people!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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