Advertising
Advertising

Break Through Writer’s Block

Break Through Writer’s Block

    It’s a simple fact of life if you put enough words on paper: the day will come when you can’t think of any sentence worth the effort to write down. You’ll have the dreaded writer’s block. Symptoms can vary, but the disease itself is simple. You won’t be able to think of anything to write — and anything that you do think of won’t meet your standards. It can manifest itself in other professions as well; artists of every variety can find themselves unable to work.

    Advertising

    But you can overcome writer’s block in just a few easy steps.

    1. Do Some Research

    If you’re spending much time at all on your writing (or other creative pursuits), you probably have a particular project in mind. If you’re having a hard time finding a place to start or a way to move forward, research may be the key. I routinely write about a few specific subjects and, equally routinely, I feel like I have nothing to say on those topics. I turn to research. I can research the questions that remained from other times I’ve written about the topic. I can research new trends in the topic. I can even research tenuous connections: long chains of Wikipedia links can occasionally get you somewhere useful.

    Advertising

    2. Seek Inspiration

    Despite the romantic ideal of going to Paris, London or some other far off place for inspiration, you can often find it in less exotic places. I keep articles, ads and other items that I find good approaches to writing and design in, whether or not they’re relevant to any project I’m currently working on. Then, when writer’s block strikes, I pull them out and start looking for a phrase that intrigues me. I look for anything that can give me even the tiniest starting point.

    3. Work On Supplemental Materials

    Some writing projects have graphs. Some have diagrams. Some have appendices. Very few written projects are entirely stand alone, so working on those supplemental materials can provide a way to keep up with the forward motion on a project despite writers block. So start with those supplemental materials. Even if you’re doing nothing more than typing up a cover page, that moment’s reprieve can be enough to end your writer’s block.

    Advertising

    For other creative artists, supplemental material remains a writer’s block cure. Perhaps you need to put together a plaque for your new installation, or name a new project.

    4. Plan Your Distribution

    Unless you’re planning for your writing to sit in a drawer gathering dust after you finish writing it, you’re probably going to have to distribute it. Why not plan out that distribution, rather than banging your head against the wall that is writer’s block? You can create a list of internal recipients or agents to query — or even consider a few marketing plans. No matter which route you take, though, take the opportunity to consider your audience. What questions is your project supposed to answer? And which does it actually manage to answer? Asking yourself about your audience’s expectations can give you a few ideas for what your writing needs to contain: a topic or an an inspiration.

    Advertising

    5. Work Anyway

    Even if you can’t find inspiration, it’s worth the effort to write as much as possible. The simple act of writing — or typing letters can be enough to get some people in the groove of creating again. Just sit down at your work area and start writing. Describe how you spent your day in boring detail. Copy someone else’s work — extra points if you paraphrase rather than copying directly. Heck, even making a shopping list can be enough to get you used to the feeling of writing again.

    This technique holds true across a number of creative fields. You might wind up throwing out the first few minutes — or maybe even the first few hours for an exceptionally bad case of writer’s block — but you’ll eventually wind up with something you can use.

    6. Get Physical

    While a change of scenery can help your writer’s block, a change of pace can have even more effect. I’m a big fan of the brisk walk around the block — physical activities that don’t require a lot of effort and do provide a lot of room to think help me consider the opportunities created by whatever I’ve already managed to write. Writing is a fairly sedentary pursuit. Sometimes you just have to wake up your brain by moving around a little bit and thinking about your project in what you hope is a new way.

    Breaking Your Writer’s Block

    Just as few creative projects are similar, let alone the same, the solution to your particular brand of writer’s block may not be obvious. You may need to try different tactics — or there might be some secret switch in your own mind that can get you going. Some writers need a bit of a jump start on the best of days. If you’re one of them, try going through your normal pre-writing routine. I had a friend in college who literally could only think of ideas to write about in the shower. It’s up to you to experiment. Maybe you’re another shower guy; maybe you just need to sit down and get back in the writing groove. Either way, just keep on trying until you find the best combination for you.

    More by this author

    5 Sites Where You Can Sell Your Photos 7 Tools to Find Someone Online 19 Entrepreneurship Websites Worth Checking Out 50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time 5 Suggestions for Leaving With Style

    Trending in Communication

    1 How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward 2 What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships 3 How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence 4 This 4-Year Old Girl’s Explanation On the Problem with New Year’s Resolutions Is Everything You Need 5 What You Really Need to Feel Secure in a Relationship

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on January 15, 2019

    How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

    In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

    Step right up, don’t be shy!

    Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

    The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

    Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

    Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
    So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

    A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

    Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

    Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

    When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

    Culturally Conditioned

    We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

    I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

    The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

    Advertising

    Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

    Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

    Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

    1. Broadens Your Network

    After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

    2. Improves Your Communication Skills

    I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

    Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

    3. Continually Learning

    So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

    Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

    4. Increases Self Confidence

    Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

    Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

    So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

    How to Talk to Strangers

    Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

    Advertising

    1. Say Hello

    Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

    Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

    Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

    2. Ask About Them

    Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

    You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

    As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

    3. Just Do It

    One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

    When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

    Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

    4. Don’t Take It Personal

    One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

    When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

    Advertising

    5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

    I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

    One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

    6. Detach

    A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

    Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

    7. Share Your Stories

    Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

    To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

    So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

    8. Give a Compliment

    Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

    When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

    9. Relax Your Body Language

    If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

    When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

    Advertising

    If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

    10. Practice, Practice, Practice

    Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

    Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

    After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

    The Bottom Line

    As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

    There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

    Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

    Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

    More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next