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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 January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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