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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 April 19, 2021

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

    The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

    Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

    In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

    When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

    Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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    1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

    When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

    As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

    That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

    The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

    What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

    Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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    There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

    So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

    2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

    When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

    No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

    3. Move Your Body

    A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

    It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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    So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

    4. Connect With Another Person

    Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

    One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

    Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

    5. Use Your Imagination

    When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

    That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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    And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

    Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

    Final Thoughts

    Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

    Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

    More on the Importance of Taking a Break

    Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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