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5 Ways To Conquer Writer's Block

iwillwritesomething.jpgWhen people find out that I'm a writer, one of the questions that I often get is "so what do you do when you get stuck writing?" or "how do get over writer's block? When I answer "crank loud hard rock" they usually look at me funny... and then I of course say that what works for me may not work for them, etc., etc.

Since I've been asked, here is what works for me... perhaps it will help you as well.

NOTE: I am not talking here about a block in "coming up with ideas to write about". I have NO PROBLEM with that... every day I wake up with my head exploding with stories to tell. What I'm talking about here is the "Chapter-1-rocks-and-Chapter-3-will-be-awesome-but-to-get-there-I-have-to-somehow-make-it-through-the-dreck-of-Chapter-2" kind of block. When you *have* to write something and the text is just not flowing.

These steps below are also after you do the obvious steps to eliminate distractions like... shut down your email, sign off from Twitter, get rid of the Facebook window, sign off from Skype and all your other IM clients...

So here's my list:

1. IMAGINE YOURSELF SITTING ACROSS THE TABLE FROM SOMEONE - You are in a cafe... or an office... or your living room... and someone asks you about the topic you are trying to write on. You explain it to them in a natural conversation... think about how the flow would be if you were just talking one-to-one about whatever the topic is. Then try to capture that flow in your text.

2. CRANK LOUD HARD ROCK - I'm serious! Turn your music up very loud. And I mean "peel-the-paint-off-the-walls" loud! Crank something loud and hard. No quiet ballads here... just crashing guitars, screaming vocals, etc. Being a child of the 70's and 80's I'm partial to that era... in particular some of the harder songs of the Scorpions, AC/DC, etc. And I find it works best for me without headphones... just letting it echo off the walls in my home office. (Sadly, with young children around this is no longer quite as possible as it was before.) I can't explain why this works... maybe it's the blocking out of everything else? I just know it works for me.

3. STEP AWAYYYY FROM THE KEYBOARD - Leave the computer. Go outside. Breathe the fresh air. Walk around the block. Go for a bike ride. Go for a swim. Go for a ski. Go for a sail. Whatever works for you.... just leave the electronic world, get some physical exercise, get the heart pumping and the blood flowing.

4. FIND ANOTHER PLACE TO WORK - Sometimes you just need a change of location to unblock the writing flow. In the era of laptops, this is easy to do. Go to another part of your office. Go home if you work in an office. Go find an "office" if you work at home. Find a cafe (just don't get distracted by people streaming through). Go sit in a park. Go outside and sit under a tree. Or alternatively go find a room you can shut yourself in. Just change from where you normally write.

5. DO SOMETHING ELSE MENTALLY CHALLENGING - Perhaps what is needed is just to fully engage and focus your brain in some other activity for a short period of time. For me this may take forms like:

  • Programming/coding - Outside all my PR/marketing work, I enjoy the occasional bit of programming. So I'll take a break to play with some new language... or play with a bit of code in some way. These days, odds are I'd toy with tweaking WordPress, building a Tropo app, or playing with Clojure (with which I have a bizarre fascination probably dating back to my extensive Emacs LISP use 20+ years ago). I'll go off and try something for a half-hour, maybe, and then return to the writing.

  • Writing somewhere else - Writing to overcome a writer's block? Sure... I'll go off and write something on a completely different topic. (Kind of like writing this article!) Focus on writing some solid blog post or article. Something that engages the brain.

  • Wood working - I have a tiny "micro-lathe" down in the basement where I very occasionally turn wood to make pens or other small objects. It demands intense focus so you don't mess up the wood... and it goes along with #3 above of getting away from the keyboard.

Whatever the activity is... for some of you it might be video games... or photography... whatever it is, the key point is that you are completely focused and, for that short time, you completely forget about that huge writing task that is dragging you down.

The goal with all of these is to shift your brain in some way so that you can move through whatever block you are suffering and start the text flowing again. And if none of them work... well... sometimes you just have to start typing and typing and typing... and slog through it somehow.

Do any of those resonate with you? What do you do to get past "writer's block"?

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