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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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Last Updated on March 30, 2020

    What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

    What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

    Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

    You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

    This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

    What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

    According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

    Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

    There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

    How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

    When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

    Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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    1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

    One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

    The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

    Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

    2. Be Honest

    A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

    If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

    On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

    Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

    3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

    Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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    If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

    4. Succeed at Something

    When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

    Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

    5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

    Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

    Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

    If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

    If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

    Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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    6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

    Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

    You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

    On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

    You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

    7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

    Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

    Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

    Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

    When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

    Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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    In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

    Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

    It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

    Final Thoughts

    When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

    The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

    Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

    Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

    Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

    More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

    Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
    [2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
    [3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
    [4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
    [5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
    [6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
    [7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
    [8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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