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10 Ways to Combat Writer’s Block

10 Ways to Combat Writer’s Block

    All day long, nearly every day of the year, I write.  I write and write so much that it’s almost become second nature, but sometimes I’m at a loss for words.  I sit around trying to think of what to write, trying to find some inspiration, and sometimes even if I do find something that inspires me, I don’t know what to say.  The words just won’t come out.  As someone who writes for a living, you can bet that in the battle of beating writer’s block, I’ve tried it all.  Here are some of my methods for getting around writer’s block, but feel free to share your ideas in the comments section as well.

    1. Take a Break and Go Back to it Later

    If you’ve been staring at a blank screen for hours, sometimes all it takes to get the words flowing again is to step back for a bit and take a break.  Go run that errand that needs to get done, make yourself a cup of coffee, watch a television show, go for a run — do anything that takes your mind off writing for a short while.  Sometimes it can be hard to write if there’s something else you need or want to do.  In other instances, taking a break will take off some of the pressure and you’ll feel more inspired to write when you get back to it.

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    I like to allow myself the indulgence of stopping writing to watch an episode of a favorite TV show I may have DVRed, or if I am really struggling, a fun, light-hearted movie on Netflix or something to relax and refresh my mind.

    2. Try Writing in a New Place

    A simple change of scenery can work wonders.  If you normally write sitting at the desk in your home office, why not try setting up your laptop on the picnic table in your backyard (if the weather is nice)?  You could also try your local library, a coffee shop, a college campus, or anywhere else that is not where you usually write.  This might not work for everyone, but it’s worth a try.

    3. Write About Something Else

    So you’ve got to write a 1000 word piece on green businesses or you’re trying to pen a new chapter for your novel, and for whatever reason it’s just not inspiring you.  One tactic to try is to write about something else.  Sometimes just writing about anything that inspires you will help you when it comes times to write about what you need to write about.  I employ this tactic from time to time, when I have to write a political piece and it’s just not coming to me, so I’ll do a blog post on my news site about random celebrity gossip or whatever comes easily to me at that moment.  It’s not what you are writing that matters, just that you are writing.

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    4. Figure Out When You Write Best

    We all function on different biorhythms, and while some of you out there might find that you tend to write best at the crack of dawn, other people, like my husband, find that they get into a good writing groove at more “off” times, like in the middle of the night.  Pay attention to yourself and find out when you write best, and when you find it more of a struggle.  Then, avoid the times, such as just before lunch when your blood sugar is low, and you’ll have more good writing experiences overall.

    5. Get Moving

    Research has shown that exercises helps preserve memory because it gets the blood flowing, bringing more oxygen to the brain.  I apply the same theory to writing.  Get up out of that chair or off of the couch, and get your blood pumping.  Go for a run, play a game of tennis, or even do a little Wii Fit.  Just make sure you’re moving.  Once you’ve cooled down, showered and are comfortable again, try writing.  You might be surprised to find that it comes to you a little easier now.  Thank the increased flow of oxygen to your brain.

    6. Trick Yourself

    There are a few different ways to trick yourself into writing.  First, you can try telling yourself that you only have to write for five minutes.  That can sometimes be just enough to get you going, and you’ll find that you want to continue.  But like anything else, it might not always work.  Another tactic is to pretending you’re emailing a friend a “guess what” type of message.  Don’t worry about the format, you can change that later.  Sometimes writing in a more conversational way is easier than a factual method.

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    7. Limit the Amount of Time You Have to Write

    If you tend to procrastinate or slack off, this may work well for you. It might also work for those who work well under pressure. Instead of giving yourself an entire day to write an article or report, restrict yourself to just two or three hours.  Sometimes knowing that you have a whole day to complete something will only succeed in giving you an excuse to slack off; you think to yourself “It’s okay if I go shopping because I have the whole day, it won’t take that long, and I can do it later”, or “I’ll just go on Facebook for awhile and maybe something will come to me.” That usually leads to wasted time.    Tell yourself, for example, that it has to be completed by 2pm, no ifs ands or buts.

    8. Read a Book, Magazine or Newspaper

    If you’re reading a newspaper or magazine, sometimes just scanning the headlines or flipping through the images can inspire you.  Seeing a headline that says “10 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues” might inspire you to write “10 Ways to Beat Stress”, and so on.  Reading industry news can also help you think of an idea for your own writing.  But reading for fun can help too, if only to distract you and give your brain a workout to get those gears moving.

    9. Always Carry a Voice Recorder or Notebook

    Write down or record your ideas, anywhere, anytime.  This way, when it comes time to sit down and write, if you find yourself struggling to think of something to write about, you can pull out your notes or listen to your voice notes, and see what you thought of at another time.  It’s so easy to forget about the things that inspire us as we go about our daily lives, so keeping a log can be a real lifesaver.

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    10. Use Mind Mapping

    Simple mind maps can help you to get all of your ideas down on paper. Write down everything you want to say about a particular topic, or all of your topic ideas.  To come up with a unique angle for a story, link together your most unusual ideas.  Once you have everything written down, it’s easy to sort things into categories and find something interesting to write about.

    Final Thoughts

    Often times writer’s block is simply a result of the pressure we put on ourselves to perform.  If you’re particularly stressed out or under-the-gun in terms of a looming deadline, writing might be more difficult.  And sometimes, no matter what you try, the writing just isn’t happening, and in this case it’s a good idea to step back for awhile and try again later.

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2018

    How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

    How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

    She could hear her beautiful baby crying but was frozen in the doorway unable to move. The crying got worse and she knew that unless she comforted the infant soon the baby would be inconsolable, and yet her feet wouldn’t move. She didn’t look at the cot but the floor in front, where the venomous hairy monster sat before her…. .okay it was a UK spider so not likely to kill her at all, and yet still her body was frozen as the tears fell down her face. “What a useless mother you are” she berated herself.

    That awful mother was me 14 years ago. My fear of spiders had not been controlled for years and I was at the stage where I wouldn’t open a newspaper until my husband had read it and removed the images of spiders. I hated houses that had wooden floors or skirting boards because every knot in the wood could be a spider about to crawl across me.

    At the height of my fear, I tried to get out of a moving car. Clearly this harmless 8-legged creature had massive levels of power over me but now that fear is gone, I’m never going to love spiders but I’m not going to leave the room because of one and I can read the word without freaking out and sobbing.

    If you think that fear is irrational, what about the fear of going to airports? Or the fear of not asking for help?

    Today I want to look at how our irrational fears impact on us, how they can destroy (and I don’t use that word lightly) our success. They can damage our health and even stop us from living our lives. And then I’ll share the benefits of fighting that fear and most importantly how you can fight your fears too.

    How irrational fears impact your life

    The thing about irrational fears is that we are not keen to look at them. It makes us feel inadequate, weak and daft because we can’t do things that it seems everyone else can. That gives the fear power.

    Fear loves negative emotions and saps up yours making your fear bigger and uglier and even more powerful. Not ideal to say the least. Fears can cause us to:

    • Avoid situations where that fear may have to be faced. Dodging parties, new jobs, new experiences where we aren’t sure we will be able to protect ourselves.
    • Stop us from sleeping for fear the thing we fear will “get us in the night.” For me this was massive, and I stopped sleeping which had massive implications when my job was to look after a toddler and a baby. I felt half dead most of the time!
    • Feel ill with the stress. Stress can be the cause of wrong decisions. Drinking alcohol when we shouldn’t, eating chocolate because it makes us feel better, the list of excuses is long that we hold on to so that we can avoid the cause of our stress.
    • Cause more distress as our minds overload us with negative thoughts of inadequacy. This can damage our confidence. Having coached thousands, I know that a lack of confidence is usually the underlining impactor on most people’s success across all areas of their lives.
    • Risk looking aloof or arrogant because we won’t participate like other people. Our fears can even isolate us in our personal and professional lives too.
    • Feel debilitated. Needless to say, these fears may look irrational and shouldn’t exist to the outside world but to the sufferer they are debilitating. Even impacting on their earning potential, love life, hobbies, travels and personal and professional success.

    Why bother to fight the fear

    Couldn’t you just ensure you live your life in way that you don’t have to deal with your fear?

    I had a client that was so scared of flying that they couldn’t even take their partner to the airport, another who had avoided public speaking for over 20 years and yet now at the height of their profession they had no choice, what were they going to do? Quit? There was another who could never ask for help and another who feared people finding out who they really were.

    All these fears and many more can be fixed but only if we can appreciate the benefits of fighting the fear.

    Let’s look at the benefits of fighting your fears:

    If you’re going to change the way you do something, something that has impacted on your life, thoughts and actions for years, it can be hard to believe change is possible.

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    The first thing you must do is give yourself a big enough reason why. Go back through your life and remember all the occasions that this fear was there.

    I can still see the spider trapped in my hair because it had obviously been on my hairdryer. I also remember that I probably looked ludicrous in the South of France in my underwear running down the lane screaming and flinging my hair everywhere. The poor spider had not only been flung a long way from my head but was probably destroyed in the flight.

    Remember the feelings, the actions, the negative feelings you felt afterwards, for me it meant that every time I picked up a hairdryer I could see a spider crawling towards my ear in my hair. Guess how helpful that was for reinforcing my reactions and irrational fear?

    Really experience the fear. Make it so painful that you probably notice your heart racing, your shoulders drawing up and your breath changing. That fear is causing physical change in your body, doesn’t feel good does it?

    When the irrational fear is challenged and destroyed, it can’t have power over you. So new opportunities can come your way and instead of fearing them and what people will think of you for your choices, you can be open to;

    • New hobbies
    • New travels
    • New opportunities
    • More success
    • Financially more secure
    • Happier
    • Healthier
    • Confident

    The list is long so what can you do to get rid of your fears?

    How to fight your irrational fears

    In my book Fight the Fear: How to Beat Your Negative Mindset and Win in Life, I cover 12 of the biggest fears that I see impact on success and happiness. Not all of these are obvious but they all have far reaching impacts on our lives.

    Here are some of those ideas to help you fight your fear and get more of what you want out of life:

    Why did this happen?

    For some people they really need to know why the fear started, for others all they want is to get rid of it. If you need to understand yours then don’t skip this tip. Learn how your fears are made and appreciate where yours came from. If you don’t care how it arrived, you can jump to top tip 2.

    I’ve seen some clients who are not prepared to look at how to get rid of the fear until they’ve understood how it got here in the first place. It’s not my place to tell them that is right or wrong, just to help them find the right steps to lead them to a happy path.

    When a fear first starts, we don’t acknowledge a fear has entered our lives. It is only after a few occasions that we begin to notice that there’s a strong negative emotion connected to this “thing”. That’s how fear is allowed to grow because as humans we have in-built responses that have kept us safe for our entire existence. This means we are meant to perceive fear and either run or fight, either way our bodies jump into action creating physical responses to the perceived threat.

    Look for when you first noticed the fast heart beat, the shallow breathing, the shaking hands, the redness. You have created an automatic way of dealing with this fear. It could be that it felt sensible to fear this because you had an unhappy outcome, although it is usually the case that your head has the facts and your heart is not prepared to hear them as it creates a version of the event that is far scarier than it actually was.

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    Learning how to remove the emotions and feelings will help you to change your body’s response. The first time I fixed someone’s fear of public speaking, they told me that it physically closed their throat, I worried that was it possible with words to change our physicality? The answer was yes! With the tools and techniques I share below.

    The tool kit

    From the many people that have contacted me after reading Fight the Fear to my clients, I know for even myself creating a tool kit is a must. This is not a bag that you physically must haul everywhere. This is about learning tools that really resonate with you so that when you can feel the fear start to impact on you, you’ve got your kit ready to take it on.

    I don’t have the space in one article to share all of those tools so let’s visit a few:

    1. Why I’m awesome

    Creating a 2-page handwritten document of why you are awesome can help. This document will be packed with achievements, successes, overcoming adversity and all of those will be full of positive emotions, actions and feelings. It is not easy to write, and I get many messages telling me so however it is a powerful reminder that you can stand up and accomplish.

    2. Draw out your emotions

    Earlier we looked at how irrational fears can damage every aspect of our lives. If you were to follow the negative spiral down you can follow the positive spiral up again.

    I draw these individually for clients and with each action, thought or feeling we put an arrow between them. Each arrow is an opportunity to do something different. If we know that irrational fear is an automatic thought process, then we can start to see that we need to think, do or feel something different. Top tip 3 will help with that.

    3. Acknowledge that you need to change

    It’s not easy to change, and that is a belief that many hold. Top tip 4 could assist further, however for this tip, remember that when you want to do, think or feel differently, you’ve already achieved the first step and that is recognizing something must change (you don’t need to know what). But if you aren’t sure yet if there’s really something different you want to do, this story about Nancy may help you to figure it out.

    Then it’s about acknowledging it. That means not only accepting it but feeling that it is yours to take on and change.

    Then for 2 weeks, decide that you won’t allow the thought to be in your head. There are usually some negative thoughts allowed to fester in your head. At this stage, just say “No I’d like you to stop.” After 2 weeks choose a new thought that you would prefer to hear in your head, maybe “I can cope with situations that scare me” or “I am stronger than I know”.

    There will be times when you fail. Don’t berate yourself because that is another negative thought you are allowing your head to process. Just start again and at times like that have a read of your “Why I’m awesome list”.

    4. Choose your words carefully.

    I’ve heard many clients tell me that “It’s going to be hard to change” “I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t petrified” or “This is a lot to ask”. Any thought that gives power to your fear takes away power from you to fight it. Therefore, choose how you word your goal to overcome your fear carefully.

    Think thoughts like “I remember when I achieved xxxx and that reminds me I’m far tougher and more capable than I give myself credit for”. (Take the xxx from your why I’m awesome document.)

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    5. Believe that you have the control power

    The only person that can control what we think and feel is us. I know it can feel like other people are impacting on us, however they can only do that if we give them permission to do so.

    If you really think about that for a moment, can you see that you have the right to think and feel anything you want right now? I’m certain you wouldn’t choose pain, fear or anxiety. So, what would you choose to think about your fear?

    6. Put up physical reminders

    Working one to one, I can find the fear, work through it and create a tool kit of thoughts, feelings and actions that will help them fight that fear and get rid of it. For some, they don’t need physical things to help them; others do.

    For example, the CEO who was petrified of public speaking but could handle a conference call with 300 without a second thought, imagined the microphone was a phone when they spoke in front of 400 people to help reinforce the positive thoughts and ideas we’d created.

    Or the client that always worried that they were an imposter and “someone else can do this better” pinned on their office wall a tag cloud of all the words that made up their “Why I’m awesome document”.

    So they had a daily reminder. They were the right one for the job and they could do it. These daily reminders all come down to one key point — help you to Hack the Habit Loop.

    What would be your visual clues to remind you that you can overcome this?

    7. Physical supports

    Music, environment and even smells can impact on us. Know the music that makes you feel alive and ready for anything. Try aromatherapy oils to feel positive and energised. Even choose your work environment or clothing to empower you.

    Changing these things is physical and giving yourself physical ideas to action can help power up your emotional state too.

    8. Don’t go it alone

    The fear to ask for help is very real (and has a whole chapter in my book) so I know people really struggle with this. The fact is we all need people. We are not insular by design and as such it can be tough to admit that you have a fear impacting on you.

    However, by sharing your fear with a trusted friend, colleague or loved one can mean that when you are feeling the fear. you can talk to someone. It could be that you share with them the contents of your tool kit and ask their permission to be added to it. That way they know what works for you and how to best support you.

    It’s not a sign of weakness to tell people about your fear. It takes massive levels of strength to say, “I have this fear, and I want to get rid of it.”

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    9. Get physical

    One of the reasons that a fear can escalate is because we have come to accept that response. Our body reacted in a certain way, once repeated the behaviour and it became a formed habit that was accepted.

    Challenging a fear can be done using our body too when we appreciate that fear is actually a reaction inside our bodies. We don’t need to understand where in our brains or what chemicals are racing through us to use our physicality to help us challenge our fears.

    When I was writing my book, the Cuddy Superhero pose was proved and disproved by various researchers around the world 3 times. Whether it’s real or not, the fact is the way we stand, the way we breathe and even the speed at which we speak can impact on us as well as those around us.

    If you have a fear of public speaking or a fear of people thinking you are stupid or a fear of what people are thinking you can look at how you speak, stand and move. If you compare these with people you deem confident and happy in these situations, how do you look? What can you learn?

    The research around placebo’s reinforces us that if it feels like it is working, then keep doing it! What could you use to help reinforce your power and fearlessness?

    A little fear can be good

    As someone famous once says:

    “It is not fear, it is performance energy.”

    Despite having an absolute hatred of public speaking 10 years ago, I now love an audience and yet I have a healthy level of fear. That level of fear says “Are you well prepared?” “Do you know your audience?” “Have you rested your voice?” “You really want to deliver to this audience what they need” And those thoughts are sensible.

    And just remember, it’s never ever too late to face your fear and do what you desire most! It’s even possible to start over your life no matter what stage of life you’re at. Here’s the proof:

    How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

    So as you reduce your fear, be aware of a good level of fear.

    Featured photo credit: Isaiah Rustad via unsplash.com

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