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8 Effective Ways To Overcome Writers’ Block

8 Effective Ways To Overcome Writers’ Block
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Writers’ block occurs all the time, and seems impossible to avoid. There are, though, steps you can take to prevent it, sometimes before it even starts happening. Here are some effective ways to kickstart your brain.

1. Write Down Ideas As They Come To You

Not being able to come up with ideas is the worst. You’re ready to write, but you don’t have the engine you need to get rolling. The best way to circumvent this particular brand of writers’ block is to have a lot of ideas already at your disposal. You’re going to come up with ideas when you least expect it, and you should always be prepared to archive them. You can use your smartphone to note your ideas. You can use a a barebones writing app like Drafts to get the ideas down as quickly as possible, and a note taking service like Evernote to compile them for future use.

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2. Commit To Your Idea

Sometimes you might not be 100% confident with your idea, and your indecisiveness prevents you from turning that idea into something tangible. Instead of being productive with the idea you have, you’re spending all your time trying to come up with something better. After a while, though, you stop deliberating and start stalling. If that’s the kind of writers’ block you’re suffering from, just accept that your idea isn’t flawless and start executing it as best you can. The idea isn’t nearly as much the power of a story as the words that tell it.

3. Be Far Enough Ahead To Work On Whatever You Want

A lot of writers’ block doesn’t occur because you can’t write anything. It’s because you’re stuck while you’re working on a particular piece of writing. If you have more than one type of assignment, be far enough ahead in your schedule that you can work on the project you’re most inspired by today. If you do only have one kind of assignment, look to diversify your writing responsibilities so that you can avoid unnecessary writers’ block and significantly increase your productivity.

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4. Break The Writing Process Into Multiple Parts

I didn’t write this article right from start to finish. First, I took some time to wrap my head around the topic. Then I chose sub-headings. After that, I drafted a basic outline. Only then did I start writing. Because of that pre-work, the actual writing was much easier, leading to fewer roadblocks on the path from pen to paper. Make it as easily as possible to avoid writers’ block by doing as much preparation you can before you even start the hard part.

5. Go To Where Things Stopped Working

A lot of the time writers’ block is a subconscious warning that what you’ve already written isn’t working. If you’re experiencing writers’ block, peruse what you’ve already got down and see if there’s a part of it in which you swerved right when you should have taken a hard left. Then go back to that wrong turn and correct your course.

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6. Jump Ahead

Your story doesn’t have to be written chronologically. This article wasn’t. If you’re experiencing writers’ block because you’re not excited about what you’re “supposed” to write next, jump to a point in your story that you are excited to write. As long as you’re careful with your revisions, no one will even notice that parts of your story were written out of order.

7. Turn What You’re Stuck On Into A Writing Exercise

Not sure where your story should go next? Make a list of all the directions your story could possibly take. Don’t worry if some of them are ridiculous; the point is to loosen your writing muscles. Once you’ve limbered up you’ll be ready to rock.

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8. Don’t Dread

Writers’ block is so often rooted in fear. You’re scared that what you’re about to write won’t be good enough, or won’t meet your wild expectations. That dread is debilitating, so get past it by not taking the time to feel insecure. Just start, even if you’re not convinced of your abilities, because time spent stalling is better spent writing, even if you throw all of it out. You’re already at your keyboard, so don’t hesitate to type away.

Featured photo credit: Sharon Drummond via flickr.com

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Matt OKeefe

Matt is a marketer and writer who shares about lifestyle and productivity tips on Lifehack.

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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)
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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.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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