This morning I rolled out of bed facing a huge load of client work and swiftly approaching deadlines (they’re still there). And I’ll be honest. I just didn’t feel like working. And I especially didn’t feel like writing this post. I guess you could say I had writer’s block. Maybe you can relate.
The general advice I hear for writer’s block is to just sit down and plow through it. And that works from time to time. But it doesn’t necessarily create compelling writing. It generally creates listless and dispassionate words on a paper—and a grumpy writer who starts thinking whiskey sounds good at 8 a.m. Not a good combination.
So, I’m going to offer here five ways that I overcome my writer’s malaise when it comes on strong.
Get some exercise
Sometimes your body rebels against you because you’ve treated it so badly. Let’s face it. Most writers aren’t the most active of folks. After all, we spend hours upon hours hunched at a desk pounding away on a keyboard (much to the chagrin of our lower backs). This sedentary lifestyle can actually sap your energy and dull your mind. I’ve found that sometimes all I need to do to get the creative juices flowing is to strap on my headphones, turn up the volume, and go for a run around the neighborhood.
If you’re a writer like me, I’m pretty sure you suffer from some sort of neurosis that gets in the way of your work. Thankfully, exercise has many benefits for your mind. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help you:
- Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
- Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
- Get more social interaction. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
- Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms.
Read a book
From time to time, we all need to be inspired. When I’m struggling to capture my thoughts and translate them into anything meaningful on the paper—or when I go through periods of not caring about writing at all (we all go through this by the way, see this great quote at Michael Hyatt’s blog)—I pick up a good book and let another writer inspire me. Some people find it helpful to read a book in the genre they are writing. For me, any book will do. Reading good writing will generally beget good writing on your part. Plus, you’ll let your subconscious wander for a while so it’s refreshed for the next round of key pounding.
Take a nap
Really. It’s OK. No one writes well when they’re exhausted. If you try, you’ll just create more work for yourself on the editing side later (I should know. I’ve edited this post too many times already). Though it seems counterintuitive, the best thing you can do to increase your productivity is not work more but to be well rested. If you’ve been burning the midnight oil and can’t remember how to spell even simple words, just take a nap and come back to your work with a fresh, well-rested mind.
Eat some food
Chips don’t count. Neither does coffee. You need to have a healthy, balanced diet to feed your mind and keep your body health.
This is the one I’m most guilty off. I skip meals frequently in the name of productivity or because I’m on a roll. It’s horrible for my body, and it makes me a poor writer because my energy levels are down and my mind isn’t as sharp as it could be. So, take the 30 minutes to have lunch. Grab that bowl of cereal in the morning. And eat your veggies. Your writing will be healthier—and so will you.
Change it up
Finally, I’ve found something as simple as moving to a different location for work can be immensely helpful. Working at home is great. I love it. But sometimes I just need to get out and about. I move around to coffee shops, work-share spaces like Gangplank here in Phoenix, and even outdoors. The change of space and change of pace reinvigorates me and helps me focus.
So, there you have them. My five suggestions for overcoming writer’s block. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I’m sure there are plenty more strategies out there. If you have a strategy that helps you, why don’t you share it here?
[Photo by OkayCityNate]