This is a guest post by Giulia Simolo.
You had an amazing idea for an article, blog or story. Your fingers were happily racing across the keyboard, when it happened out of the blue. Suddenly, the thought hit you: ‘Where on earth do I go from here?’ The blinking cursor on the screen is taunting you. All you can think is, ‘Now what?’
Writer’s block is frustrating and sometimes infuriating. You feel like you’re staring desperately into a murky lake and you just can’t seem to pick out any illuminating ideas. You know that they’re somewhere in the dark depths. If only you could just reach deeply enough into the water to touch one of them… But your arm is not long enough. If misery loves company, then it’s good to know that you’re not alone in this darkness. Maya Angelou, Ray Bradbury and Mark Twain are just some of the famous writers who have been where you are now: feeling completely lost.
How do you find your way again? Here is some advice.
1. Give Your Computer a Time-Out
Although getting up from your desk chair seems like the worst thing to do, especially if you’re on a writing deadline, sometimes taking a break can be a great idea. Get some sun on your shoulders or do something completely unrelated to writing. The catch is not to think about your work while partaking in this activity. Clear your mind completely but don’t hesitate to daydream.
A study published in the Psychological Science Journal asked participants to think up as many weird uses for an object as possible. Then they had to re-do the task after doing one of four other activities, such as performing an undemanding task or taking a break. Researchers found that the group who performed better were the ones who completed an undemanding task first. These participants reported daydreaming while performing the task, which seems to have helped boost their creativity.
2. Write Something Else
It can be helpful to get your creativity going by allowing yourself to experiment with different writing. So, if you’re usually writing chick lit, try your hand at a thriller; likewise, if you are supposed to be writing an article for a website, try out a short story and see what happens.
It’s possible to feel blocked during one writing task but not another, so getting creative with a different writing activity could be a great way to pull yourself out of the slump and boost your self-esteem. When you succeed at this new task, it will most likely refuel your energy to take on the first task on your ‘to do’ list.
3. Let Your Office Inspire You
We are heavily influenced by our environment. Imagine how you feel when you are in a dreary office that has bad fluorescent lighting and lots of clutter. You most likely feel like your energy is being zapped, right? Now imagine standing in an amazing forest with the sun’s rays slipping through the tree leaves and the sound of the birds chirping as they fly across a clear, crisp blue sky. Invigorating, huh?
Don’t underestimate how you feel in your writing space or office. Does the wallpaper make you feel lethargic? Is there enough light? According to a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, feelings such as hostility, anger, irritability and depression are highest in the winter and lowest in summer due to factors such as diet, exercise and light. Open the windows to let some sun inside your office and add colors that invigorate you to your decor, even in the form of flowers. Stop for regular snacks and clean up your office so that your mind will feel clearer, too.
4. Open Your Mind’s Eye
Sometimes the writer’s block you’re experiencing is that disheartening feeling of having had an amazing idea but then once you expressed it on paper or computer screen, it felt ridiculous and definitely not as powerful as it was in your head. A good idea is to refresh your mind on what you are aiming for with the piece of writing. Try writing out a summary to get to the heart of what it is you want to write. This helps you regain focus.
In the case of story writing, it could be useful to see the scene you’re battling with in fresh, creative details you might not have penned down. What is the character wearing? Where is he or she? What is he or she thinking, seeing, smelling or feeling? Why is he or she saying that during the conversation? This helps to color your story, pulling it out of a limited black-and-white perspective. Beauty is in the details and these are what can take your writing from average to amazing.
5. Mute Your Inner Critic
A writer’s worst enemy is often him- or herself. You might be an obstacle to yourself, with fears and anxieties ruling your mind and leaving no room for inspiration. For instance, you might be so afraid of what an editor who reads your article or a publisher who receives your manuscript is going to think about it that this paralyzes you. It’s normal to be filled with anxieties, but how often have you challenged your thoughts? Try to jot them down as they often feel much scarier in your head than they do on paper.
If you’re going to listen to thoughts on one side of the spectrum, challenge them with their complete opposite. For example, your thought might be that you’re afraid your editor is going to say you’re a terrible writer, but why should he/she? The complete opposite of this thought could be that your editor will say your writing is fantastic. By seeing things from both extremes (instead of being sucked into the black hole of one), you give your mind a chance to regain perspective.
Once you place your Inner Critic in the light, its darkness starts to fade fast, allowing you to continue with the important task at hand: the business of writing down all the magic that’s been trapped inside your mind.