Being a writer for almost all my career life, I’m very well acquainted with writer’s block. I’m pretty sure it has happened to you too, whether it’s that report you’re trying to complete or even a cover letter you’re trying to update so you can apply for the job online.
Why do the words not come when you want them to? It’s purely psychological, say experts in this article. For starters, perhaps you’re too hard on yourself, trying to find all the right words to say the right things. Trying to be perfect at your craft is admirable; but it can also be a bane if you’re on a strict deadline. The more you spend trying to write the perfect word, the more you’ll realise you haven’t really written anything at all!
Then there is fear – are you worried that what you will write is not good enough and therefore you are reluctant to do it in the first place or you keep putting it off?
Of course, distraction is a number one enemy. Finally found the time to finish that report but in comes a colleague to ask if you want to join the rest for coffee? Or were you about to rewrite your resume but a Facebook notification took your attention away for a good hour (because we all know that one Facebook notification equals scrolling through your social media feed).
And finally, a good reason why you have writer’s block? You’re tired. Quite possibly you have too much on your plate and even if you found time to write your cover letter, you find yourself stuck for words. Simply because your brain can’t focus and function anymore, and it just wants time off!
But what if you really need to write because your job or future depends on it? How do you get your creative juices flowing again? Here are some of the things I’ve done that have worked:
#1 Stop writing
You read that right – if you want to start writing again, step away from your writing task and come back to it later. Forcing yourself to write is not going to happen or you’re just going to produce work you won’t be proud and will have to rewrite. Take your mind of writing and focus on other tasks at hand. Sometimes, your mind needs that temporary distraction to recharge.
#2 Or don’t stop
This has worked for me as well – sometimes the best thing to do when you have writer’s block is to keep going. Some people call it freewriting where you spend 10 minutes writing whatever comes to mind to get the engine going. Then stop and read what you’ve written.Yyou may have something there that just needs a bit of tweaking. Eventually you’ll get back into the groove and voila, your report is done!
#3 Just you and your computer
Leave your phone out of the picture (turn it to silent!). Make sure your desk is cleared of mess. Turn off WiFi so you won’t be tempted to surf the internet. Put on your headphones so people around you know not to bother you. Set a time limit of how long you want to spend writing. By creating this writing zone, you’re telling yourself you need to focus and get the job done.
#4 Take a shower, do the laundry, play with your cat
There are many times when I want to write but find that I have brain fog instead. So cue the laundry basket and Netflix while I sort and fold. At the end of it, I go to my computer and realise that I have better focus and am more motivated to finish writing.
#5 Map it out
One of the reasons why you have writer’s block? You don’t know where to begin, how to continue, or how to end. Basically, you’re writing blindly and therefore have no proper focus to begin with. This is me when I’ve spend many days writing so what I do is map out my story or article on a piece of paper, and add in pointers so I don’t forget them when I write. Then I use that as a guide when I am writing and refer to it occasionally to make sure I am on track. It’s quite a structured way of writing but if you need that in your life to get things done, why not for writing?
#6 Go outside
I work from home and yes, writer’s block is very real when you are seated in front of your laptop for hours on end. Near my workspace is also a very large window where there are plenty of trees outside with birds chirping away. That’s a very good distraction for when writer’s block hits. I take a look outside, recollect my thoughts and try to get back to what I was writing. If inspiration still does not hit, I sit outside with a cup of tea and take a break. And if that really still doesn’t work? I call it a day and head out to visit my parents or go for food somewhere. My point? You can’t and shouldn’t force the words to come. Give it a day and soon you’ll be back writing again. It’s probably more productive to log off than sit in front of the computer a whole day achieving nothing.