By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics
Writer’s block. All writers will experience this bane of creativity at some point in their career. It’s so common that plays and films have been written about it (think of Jack Nicholson in The Shining). The reasons for this debilitating condition may vary – a looming editorial deadline, the need to improve on the previously written product, or a personal and illusive chase for perfection.
These inner drivers can lead to feelings of failure and fatigue. Fatigue can amplify writer’s block and deplete the struggling writer’s energy when you lack sleep, a proper diet, and routine exercise. Ambition, acceptance, and achievement are internal blocks that writers and others struggle with to gain the confidence to move forward.
Many times, these internal forces are stronger than any external force. As a result, the inner drivers produce the exact opposite effect and prevent those creative juices from flowing.
So if you are looking for a quick way to break up writer’s block and return to being a high performer, there is no one answer. But here are some techniques that have worked for me:
- Remove distractions. Silence works for some, and surround sound works for others. It’s important to create an environment that’s conducive to writing. A new location — even if it means writing in a different room, outdoors, or in an altogether different zip code — can change your physiology.
- Change the method. If you put pen to paper, switch to writing with a computer keyboard. If you usually write the conclusion first, try writing the abstract first. Instead of writing, dictate your words orally into the computer. Change your method of writing to engage in a new way of writing.
- Don’t think, just do. Set a timer and just write. Write down every thought in your head, whether it relates to your topic or not. The goal is to clear your head so you can write. You may have a negative thought that’s blocking you — a reaction to a text message, a negative comment from a friend or a visual image you can’t get out of your mind. Triggers can cause both positive and negative emotions; however, the negative emotions can result in stress, anger and an inability to write.
- Set a schedule. Writing becomes easier when it is effortless. Scheduling a set time every day to write can help the prose flow more effortlessly. Writing should be a part of your daily schedule just like eating.
- Celebrate your success. Each day, take time to be grateful for what you have written. This form of meditation and reflection can be cathartic and executed by expressing your success aloud or in a journal. You could celebrate as little as a paragraph or as much as an entire chapter, but celebrate each day so that you have the momentum to move forward.
- Mentor and be mentored. Writing is not a solo effort. The goal is to convey a message to others. So take time to communicate with others on a regular basis. Mentoring is a two-way street and you, like every writer, should seek people to help you find greater levels of connection. Seeking actual connections can inspire you to connect with others with the written word. It’s okay to say that you are in a fog and need help. Feedback can be invaluable when it comes from a trusted source. Sharing your vulnerability can lead to a new outlook on writing.
- Reflection. Everyone needs room for contemplation, rumination and thoughtfulness. Sometimes we can’t stop thinking about something and for good reason. It can also be a signal to shift and to think about something else. So what if you are attempting to write entails a singular topic? Shift your focus and start writing about something totally different to break up the blockage.
Action and tapping into your creativity is the key to removing writer’s block. It’s an emotional experience to translate ideas into thoughts, dreams and images on paper. You can be in control by integrating these concepts, making daily gains to keep the momentum going and challenging yourself to be open to the emotions that can block you from moving forward.
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