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20 Ways to Kill Your Writer’s Block Forever

20 Ways to Kill Your Writer’s Block Forever

Frustrated woman at computer

    Has this happened to you? You want to write some new posts for your blog, but nothing’s coming to you. You’re just sitting there, with those blank white pixels taunting you, until your eyeballs hurt.

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    If you’re going to be a successful writer of any kind — blogger, journalist, copywriter, novelist, you name it — writer’s block can’t happen.

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    The good news is you can learn how to write on cue.

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    How do I know? I had to write at least three articles a week for 12 years, to keep my staff-writing jobs. Over the years, I developed a whole bag of tricks and techniques to get the writing going.

    Here are my 20 best tips for defeating writer’s block and getting the writing done:

    1. Don’t start with a blank page. Write a quick outline. Jot down a few notes. Write down that one, great quote you were planning to use. Presto — no more blank page.
    2. Read more widely. Create an RSS dashboard of top bloggers in your niche, sign up for a SmartBrief or two, or get a Google Alert on some of your key words. Read more newspapers. Read books. Read, read, read.
    3. Write what you feel like writing. If you have a terrific itch to write one particular idea, then write that one right now. The more you go with your creative flow and write what you’re inspired to write, the easier it will be beat writer’s block.
    4. Start anywhere. Many writers sit staring at their screens because they’re obsessed with writing the first line of a piece first. Forget all about that. If you know how it will end, write that now. If it has bullet points, go ahead and write those first, if that would be easy. Once you jot down the part that’s coming naturally to you, the rest will start to flow.
    5. Use your lifeline. That’s right, phone a friend, just like on the reality shows. Then, tell your friend about the topic you’re trying to write. As in all conversations, you will tend to naturally mention the most interesting points first. When you hang up, your piece is outlined and ready to go.
    6. Don’t edit while you write. When you’re writing, just let those creative juices flow along. Don’t spoil the magic by stopping to fiddle with a word here or cut a line there.
    7. Create an ‘idiot’s outline.’ If you have a lot of research, interviews and other material to organize, go through all your resources and simply listing each source. Then, next to the source, write the most important point or two they make. Now all you have to do is place the points into a logical order, and you’ve got a rough outline.
    8. Write without notes or quotes. Here’s the opposite approach for a piece with lots of interviews, statistics and research — simply put all your paperwork aside. Now, write the story. Resist the urge to look up factoids or exact quotes. Leave blanks or notes to check details as you go, but keep moving forward. At the end, go back and fact-check.
    9. Write something else. Write a shopping list, or a letter to a friend. Once the fingers are moving, it’ll be easier to get the piece you were stuck on rolling.
    10. Review your past writing. Whenever I was really intimidated by a writing assignment, I used to get out my writing portfolio and look through it. When you read your successful previous work, it reminds you that you are a strong writer, and you can do this.
    11. Free associate. If you feel disorganized, just go with that — start writing random thoughts about your topic. Then, sort through your brainstorms for lines you want in your piece.
    12. Do a mind map. Get off the computer and make a visual drawing of your topic’s ideas and how they relate to each other. Soon, you’ll not just have ideas for your current post, but ideas on how that one might lead to related, future posts.
    13. Set a timer. Use the Pomodoro technique and set a timer for 25 minutes. Now, you have to work on your assignment until the timer goes. You can’t do anything else. That’ll get boring fast, and you’ll start to write. Try it if you don’t believe me.
    14. Create a deadline. The problem with our own writing is no ‘boss’ is standing over us insisting we get the writing done by a specific time. So create a deadline calendar of when your posts must be completed. Then, allow no recreation time until the deadline is met.
    15. Reduce noise. Are you trying to write with the TV or radio running in the background? That extra stimulus may prevent you from focusing on the writing. They say our brains really can’t multi-task.
    16. Turn off the Internet. Do you find yourself playing Bejeweled or checking Twitter when it’s writing time? Write on a pad of paper instead, or use programs such as Anti-Social or Freedom to disable social media or Internet access until you’re done writing.
    17. Try a writing prompt. If you can’t get the juices flowing, do a writing exercise — writing prompts are available on sites such as Creative Copy Challenge.
    18. Do more research. Sometimes, nothing’s coming out because a nagging voice in the back of your head says you don’t really know enough about your topic. If that’s so, do a bit more research and then return to writing.
    19. Change your location. Move to your deck, a coffeeshop, a friend’s back bedroom, a co-working office space…wherever you don’t usually write. See if inspiration hits.
    20. Take a break. Take a half-hour break. Take a walk. Take a bath. Take a nap. Do a headstand — get some blood flowing to the brain again. Then, come back ready to have at it.

    What do you do when you’ve got writer’s block? Leave a comment and add to my list.

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    Last Updated on August 12, 2020

    When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

    When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

    Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

    In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

    How to Listen to Your Gut

    The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

    Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

    1. Tune Into Your Body

    Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

    However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

    Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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    Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

    In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

    2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

    Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

    There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

    3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

    Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

    As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

    This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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    4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

    As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

    Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

    5. Challenge Your Assumptions

    When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

    In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

    A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

    6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

    Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

    There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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    Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

    Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

    Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

    We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

    The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

    We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

    7. Trust Yourself

    It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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    Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

    If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

    The Bottom Line

    The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

    Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

    More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

    Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
    [2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
    [3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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