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.
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.
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.
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.
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.