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10 Ways to Combat Writer’s Block

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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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    Julie McCormick

    Julie McCormick is a writer, and co-owner of The Cleveland Leader, a Technorati Top 1000 site.

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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