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5 Ridiculously Easy Ways To Unblock Writer’s Block

5 Ridiculously Easy Ways To Unblock Writer’s Block

    You would say that after more than 500 articles it’s highly unlikely to hit the writer’s block. Well, think again. Yes, I’ve written more than 500 articles so far in my career, but still, there are times when that white, empty computer screen makes me wanna scream. When all the happy and green pastures where my ideas used to fly from tree to tree, light and playful, are nothing but an empty desert. When words are turning their back on me, leaving behind a dumb smile and foggy eyes. Yes, even after 500 articles, this ugly beast can still makes you shiver.

    If you’re not paying close attention to it, that is. Because, and that’s the good news, you can (and you should) fight it with very good chances to win, each and every time you see those empty spaces around you. You cannot make it disappear, it will still be there, but, if you’re carefully planning your moves, if you do a little bit of trickery, mixed with some mild discipline, all combined into just 5 simple principles, well, you can say an honest and vigorous “bye-bye” to the most hated enemy of the professional blogger (or writer, let’s not start a debate here, ok?).

    1. Don’t Let It Happen

    They say is far more easily to prevent an illness than to cure it. And they say that for a good reason. Don’t let your ideas well go dry. Keep close some capturing device and, each and every time you see an idea (I don’t think we’re having ideas, we’re more like seeing them) stop whatever you’re doing and write that thing down. Use a notebook, a notepad on your smartphone, an audio recorder, or whatever works for you.

    There aren’t really any rules for this capturing device, as long as you’re going to actually use what you’re writing down. I’m kinda of techie guy so I use my own iPhone app (iAdd) for this, but you can use whatever you like. Pen and paper is great. Sending yourself emails with your Blackberry is also good. Whatever works for you.

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    I have an incredible feeling of relief every time when, some solitary morning, almost sensing the writer’s block jumping at me, immobilizing my hands on the keyboard with a short and unbeatable: “there’s nothing more to write about, Dragos!”, I just fire up my app and randomly pick one idea out of the dozens already saved there.

    2. Write For Somebody Else

    Believe it or not, we’re wired to act and perform in a group. We’re social animals, hence, our constant need for support and encouragement. If you keep writing only for your own projects (being it blogs, or books or columns), at some point, something will stop inside. You’re gonna run out of power.

    This “stop” may come in the form of a writer’s block. Sometimes it may come in the form of a depression, but we’re not going there now. If it’s about a writer’s block, though, try to do this: write for somebody else. If you’re a journalist, do a favor to a colleague. If you’re a blogger, do a guest post. A genuine guest post, like giving the best of you for somebody else.

    Magically, the words will start flowing. The inspiration will hit you like a Newtonian apple and fantabulous images and ideas will literally explode from your brain. Deep down, you’re seeking a form of validation. Sometimes, all you have to do in order to unblock your path is to first unblock somebody else path.

    3. Free Form Writing

    A very common source of writer’s block is the constant need of a “meaning”, or a “form”, or some sort of constraint, like the size (1000 words by noon, ok?). This can be really pressuring. My articles are usually between 1000  and 1200 words. But sometimes I can express everything I need to in just 30 words.

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    When I hit this wall, I usually put that specific project aside and start doing what I call free form writing. No constraints. No limits. Just writing whatever comes into my mind. I never keep those free form writing sessions. Because, of course, everything is so dull, or boring or ridiculous, that I just couldn’t stand reading it.

    But the effect of this short exercise is amazing. After all the small pieces of garbage from all the corners of my conscious mind have been dumped into a disposable recipient, something that I know I will throw away immediately after, my normal, organized mind takes the lead. Paragraphs are forming naturally, structure is created on the fly and my project is finished in minutes.

    4. From A To B In 5 Semantic Fractures

    That’s a serious one. Although I used to play this game when I was a child, I only use it now when none of the above can be applied (namely, when I have nothing jotted down in my app, when I can’t write for somebody else or when no free form writing will produce the expected results).

    I pick a random word (usually by opening a book at a random page), write it down, then pick another one using the same technique. Then I try to create 5 semantic structures (or fractures) from the word A to the word B. Going from “skyscraper” to “cabbage” may look like this: skyscraper – sky – birds – planes – wings – leaves – cabbage.

    You can do this even when you’re not having the writer’s block. It will work like a sort of “brain muscle fitness”, forcing you to make unexpected connections. And unexpected connections will always lead to unexpected ideas, strategies or approaches. Unexpected is good. Go for it.

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    5. Silence Your Mind

    If you could turn your mind into some kind of a radio, I’m sure you’d be completely blown away by the number of stations you’re listening simultaneously. Even if you “think” you’re not thinking at anything, you’re in fact thinking at something. Yup, you guessed it, this last tip is in fact just a form of meditation. I call it “silence your mind” because it makes me look smart, but in fact, is just a form of meditation.

    Sometimes, our focus is hijacked by all these thousands of thoughts we’re continuously fostering, modifying, adjusting and we simply don’t have any focus left to finish that bloody page. The only solution here is to silence your mind. But don’t do it with violence, it will only make the noise higher.

    Gently follow each and every thought until it’s no longer there, witness your visions and memories, look at the show put up on your brain scene by somebody you think it was you. If you do this long enough, if you resist the temptation to unfold all those stubs into independent scenes, the characters will eventually turn to you with obedience. You will be able to commend them. And only then you will be able to make them stop that gibberish you thought it’s yourself.

    ***

    Writer’s block is more often than not just another form of life imbalance. Those tips here are not really just for writers. Or, if you really understand that we’re really the authors of our own lives, then, yes, we’re all writers of some sort.

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    So, plan carefully, don’t be selfish, empty your mind from time to time, play with your words and don’t take yourself too seriously.

    You’ll be amazed how many people will start to enjoy your book of life.

     

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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