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10 Real Ways to Beat the Beast that is Writer’s Block

writers blockThis is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti of Sparring Mind.

Writers of all types will deal with writer’s block, this we know to be inevitable.

Where things change is exactly how you’ll deal with them.

Will you let writer’s block eat up your productivity, and come back for seconds to devour more free time?

Fear not, if you’ve ever have the displeasure of running into writer’s block (and haven’t we all), I’m serving up some fresh ideas.

(Image Credit)

1.) Talk it out

No, I don’t mean make a white-flag truce with your future post (don’t surrender!)

What I’m talking about is literally sitting back and discussing, out loud, where you want the post the go, and what type of things it should address.

This works even better if you record your talks, as you will never have to interrupt your “flow” to write down something particularly genius.

Most of us have no problem speaking (when we’re comfortable), so talking out-loud (as if you were discussing the topic with someone) can be a great way to get your ideas flowing, as the process of conversation lends itself to ‘instant’ idea generation. You have to think of things quickly in order to speak.

This forces you to think on your feet, and with this pressure may come a great foundation for you new post, and if not, it costs you very little time.

2.) Start a “article ideas” journal

Fate is a cruel mistress.

Dramatic intro aside, it can be quite cruel for writers to find themselves in a fantastic brainstorming session… only to be nowhere near their computer.

In fact, most of your best tidbits of genius will probably come this way.

Are you going to rely on your already busy and overloaded brain to remember each and every one? Even after you’ve flushed out some amazing details?

Rather than lose out on your best stuff, create a “post ideas journal” that will allow you revisit these nuggets of gold when the time is right.

With technology nowadays, this doesn’t even have to be a real journal.

While I personally still prefer a nice moleskine notepad, I know people whose ideas live and die on Evernote, being stored away (or later trashed) until they have time to pan out.

Point is, don’t let insight pass you by. Write good ideas down and save them for later.

As an added benefit, you’ll start to create a “backlog” of post ideas that you can use for upcoming articles, creating a “to-do” list that will never leave you thinking of what to write about next.

3.) Change Your Setting

It’s been proven that changing up your daily routine can lead to more creative thoughts.

Have you been getting stuck in a rut lately?

Do you always have the same writing locale?

This is one of the easiest things to change, you might not even have to leave your house, a different room might be just what you need.

If you can manage it, a whole new location might also be a breathe of fresh air (quite literally, if you are able to take things outside).

Coffee shops and libraries are just a few of many places to enjoy a large, open space – all the while getting the new setting you need to mix things up while writing.

4.) Use the Pomodoro Technique

This is a neat technique that a lot of folks are starting to use, and I think it works perfectly for writers.

If you have a large project ahead of you, instead of hitting the mental wall that your brain is bound to run into (if you approach it “all at once”) use the Pomodoro Technique to split segments up into 25 minute work sessions.

The process works in half-hour intervals, because after the work session you get to enjoy a 5-minute break that can consist of getting a drink, stretching, and just plain getting up and moving around.

Check out tools like the FocusBooster app which allow you to use a timer right from your browser, great for getting started with the Pomodoro Technique right away.

This might sound goofy for those who have never tried it, but trust me, for some folks, this technique can be a godsend for getting things done.

5.) Get Physical

As much as we’d like to grapple our writer’s block in a merciless headlock, that’s not what I’m talking about here.

It’s long been known that exercise has more benefits than just your physical health, it’s also good for the brain.

You shouldn’t have to engage in any power lifting to get your brain ready for work, some simple stretching or a quick walk will do.

This is especially important for writers who spend a large portion of their day in front of a computer. It’s the advice they are least likely to take, unfortunately.

That’s a shame, because it doesn’t take a health expert to tell you about the stimulating benefits of exercise. Many folks who work largely “static” jobs can relate just how much better they felt when incorporating a little fitness into their daily routine.

Taking care of yourself can lead to less stress and burnouts, and taking a little time each day to move your body will help when your brain seems to just run out of steam.

6.) Evaluate Your Research

One of the most important steps for many great posts is comprehensive research.

There is somewhat of a danger to research – which has to do with perfectionism. This is because many writers will use research as a way to procrastinate, telling themselves that they are getting things done (when really they’re just browsing with no purpose).

More often than not, however, I’ve found that it’s a lack of research that leads to the glazed stare at a blank page.

Take the time to look into what you’re going to write about.

Find time to actually research, not browse the internet while you half-heartedly read 10 other open tabs.

Dive into some of the best (or closest in relevance) articles on the topic you are approaching, and see what makes sense, see what can be improved, and see what they might be missing.

You can’t cook up something good without the right recipe, and a well-researched post will generally be a much easier post to write.

7.) Create A Writing Schedule

If writing is your profession (or if you want it to be), you need to take it seriously.

Writing “when you feel like it” is one way ticket to disaster.

Cultivating an established writing routine is the essential ingredient to getting past one of the main components of writer’s block: getting started.

Waiting for inspiration to strike takes the control away from you: put it in it’s place by treating your writing like you would anything else of note: practice it regularly and it will become a habit.

Just like getting to the gym can be the hardest part of the exercise, sitting down and FINALLY diving in to that new piece you need to write can be the hardest part about writing.

However, when you have a schedule to stick to, you won’t give it a second thought. With a specific time to write, you will learn to write at that time (rain or shine) and won’t be left with poor excuses like, “I’ll wait until I’m in the mood.”

8.) Prevent Interruptions

This would seem like common sense, but when you’re on the computer and have finally sat yourself down to write, small interruptions can create writer’s block where none existed, because you will be constantly thrown off track.

Some of my absolute favorite tools for creating a stress free (and insulated) writing environment are:

  • SimplyNoise (white noise generator, you’d be surprised how much it blocks out those background noises, even in a “quiet” room)
  • ZenWriter (this is my personal favorite tool for distraction free writing, but there are also free variants in WriteRoom (Mac) and DarkRoom (PC) that you can use)
  • Noise cancelling headphones (not for everyone, but they really allow me to focus in and work steadily)

The other way to prevent distractions is to outright eliminate things that draw us away from writing.

If all that takes for you is a website blocking tool like StayFocusd, so be it.

But if it takes you disconnecting your internet for a while, or turning off your phone, or refusing to check your email, then that is what you have to do.

Don’t let the false rewards of checking small things like new messages distract you from the long term (but much more rewarding) accomplishments like getting your work done.

9.) Broaden Your Consumption

It may seem strange to recommend more reading to prevent writer’s block, but I’ve found that information consumption often directly affects output.

This is an important consideration for writers, because if what you’ve been consuming has become stale, your writing will reflect this.

Branch out of your reading comfort zone into styles, genres, and topics that you wouldn’t normally read.

Challenge yourself, and you’ll likely be rewarded with a new perspective.

10.) The “Brain Dump”

Sometimes, you just need to get something creative “out of your system”, and that is where the brain dump comes in.

Don’t wait, don’t plan, don’t even outline… just write.

You don’t have to publish everything you write, keep that in mind.

Sometimes you just need to get words flowing and out of your system.

Sometimes you just need to see a blank page full of your own work.

Whatever the reason, don’t hesitate to “dump” your thoughts onto the page, disregarding your normal writing routine, because sometimes it will be absolutely essential in order to get back on the right track.

Gregory is the author of Sparring Mind, a blog that combines smart content marketing & clever insights into social psychology to get results and cut through the malarkey.

33 Comments on "10 Real Ways to Beat the Beast that is Writer’s Block"

  1. Gregory, you are really fulfiling the word ‘BE EVERYWHERE’. Lovely write up and great links as well. I guess i still strugle as a writer (most times i outsource my work but not my blog writings) I hope to bounce back to writing fully.

    Sheyi

    • I’m even down in the comments! 😉

      I hear you, outsourcing is good, but I guess I’m too “attached” to my writing to do much outsourcing for content creation, that will probably always be my favorite part of running sites of any kind.

  2. Great ideas, Greg. I already have an articles journal (list) and a writing schedule. I also read widely and do a lot of research.

    Your points here will really help writers with a block. I know that from personal experience. Now I have to go and try talking to myself. It’s a great idea that I’m sure will work. HOwever, I have to make sure no one else is around, or I may be sectioned 🙂

    • Joe Boyle says:

      Or, better yet, why not get into a community or chatroom (such as a Skype chatroom) with people in your same niche, and talk to yourself – it’ll spark ideas somewhere. When I used to be a part of a blogging chatroom, we’d have calls where we’d just say whatever was on our minds – it’d inspire someone.

  3. Seby says:

    You rock Greg!!

  4. Dean Soto says:

    Great guest post, Greg. Always love your stuff. The Pomodoro technique and the Brain Dump are my favs. They usually work wonders.

    I know that you say that to “write when you feel like it” is bad, but what if you are putting out mediocre stuff just for the sake of writing? I definitely agree that a habit needs to be formed, but would it be detrimental to your blog if you write too much with little substance? Or should that not be a concern because through writing and practice the content will become better?

    • Joe Boyle says:

      In my opinion, you should write whenever you feel like it. You should even write when you don’t feel like it. It’s just a matter of what you publish. If you love the article when it’s finished, then post it. If not, save it into your drafts and come back to it later. It’s much better to improve what you wrote previously then to not write at all.

      It’s like the famous saying goes, “Write drunk, edit sober.”

      • Perfectly Explained Joe!
        I’m used to the same writing habit you’re talking about. When I feel I can’t concentrate anymore on writing, I save the unfinished article, take a break to get refreshed then come back when I’m ready to write. This helps a lot in writing a unique & creative article.

        • Dean Soto says:

          Love it, Thanks both of you guys. That makes a ton of sense, and I love the mantra “Write drunk, edit sober”. I can totally see how just writing to write can be productive in itself, and then just put it all together in a cohesive package after the fact will make something that can be published.

          Great stuff.

  5. Joe Boyle says:

    My favorite technique always has, and always will be, just taking a break. Your brain isn’t designed to function all day, 24/7. It needs a rest. Looking at the same screen, thinking of the same things, only makes your mind deter the ideas. It blocks them out.

    Just going for a short walk or a run will do a world of magic.

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    • ashams says:

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  7. Yeremi Akpan says:

    Great post. I have always considered writer’s block to be a euphemism for lack of discipline. Read this post to see my take on the issue http://www.probloggertips.com/stop-writers-block-forever

  8. Amit Shaw says:

    Great Post Gregory. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Aqif Azizan says:

    I’m a big fan of Promodoro Technique. Every time I use this technique to write, I’m pushing my mind to give lots of idea. For some people, it might gave them a high pressure.

    But for me, at least I’m writing something within 25 minutes. Thank you for sharing this awesome post. 🙂

    • narendra says:

      Its easy for me to go with Promodoro Techique. All ideas coming like as insight when I work with it.
      I am agree with what @Aqif Azizan said here. Writing about something new & different is my hobby.

  10. Writer’s block is always a great topic to discuss. Sometimes writers are empty with ideas to write but if one can analyse the above factors then it really going to help a lot in getting ideas and can overcome the writer’s block. Thanks Onibalusi for sharing this important information.

  11. Tom says:

    I´m very familiar with the “writer´s block” too.As a blogger you need to come up with useful and helpful content, you cannot just slap anything on the blog.

    When I get the writer´s blog I go for a long walk, no matter if it rains 🙂 It really helps you should try it.

  12. wantei says:

    Writer’s block is really a pain… you can’t think of anything to write “plus” you can’t even find anything to write!

  13. Koundeenya says:

    I mostly take a break when I dont feel like writing. Its actually a great relief. I am in a vacation from last month. Hope i’ll get back to writing soon

  14. Jackets says:

    Oni… Great post as usual. All 10 blocks are great to read.
    Thanks

  15. tetsuo says:

    I’ve got one more idea – just stop writing for two months. Nothing bad will happen, and after that time your mind will be freash, relaxed and full of ideas. Seriously.

  16. Becca says:

    Excellent post that really useful for new blogger. You have really layed out your points in great detail. Very easy to follow with good content. Weight lifter should take get hold of this post, read and impliment the points outlined.

  17. Anton Koekemoer says:

    Excellent tips – Especially the last couple. Writers Block is something that most Bloggers / Writers have suffered through at one stage or another in their lives. Thanks for the valuable tips.

  18. this one really awesome keep post…i am daily checking your feed

  19. Tina says:

    I so love the post and writer’s block really happened to me loads of time.

  20. Bill says:

    Writer’s block is the second most deadly illness that can befall a blogger. It’s second only to laziness. Great post Bamidele.

    I agree with Joe Boyle on this one. I write for my blog and for a living and have learned that the best way to beat writer’s block is to take a break. My preferred method is simply closing my eyes and doing a quick meditation that lasts anywhere from 10-breaths to 5 minutes. Even if you don’t meditate, just taking the time to be aware of your surroundings and rest from writing can sometimes break the ice.

    As you mentioned, creating (and actually sticking to) a writing schedule is also a great way to get moving and stop writer’s block. I do this while writing my eBooks because I can roll over to another section when I get stuck on one chapter.

    Another great exercise is editing what you’ve already written for a few minutes. Reading what you’ve already written out loud in search of any mistakes is a great way to change things up and get your mind back in gear.

    Like I said, great post. I’ll stay tuned to hear what you other folks do to deal with this situation.

  21. Sahl Ahmed says:

    Great post, Keeping a article idea journal is the best way to keep generating ideas for article. I try going deep into the functions of any gadget to generate ideas and also read many blogs.

  22. Recording my thought turned out to be a resultative way not to lost my original thoughts since I am prone to easily lose them seconds after I make them up. The physical activity early in the morning, just before the writing, made me feel incredibly energetic and charged with creative thinking.

    • Yeremi Akpan says:

      I should try out this idea and see how it works for me…

  23. I love the tips at this blog. Nice guide for writers.

  24. warren says:

    Began to read and follow your posts Gregory. It’s great to learn from both you and ONI 😉 Thanks, it’s a nice one!

  25. Kingsley Agu says:

    Fantastic post bro.
    I think it’s high time I give physical exercise a try. I’ll try and also follow what you made mention above – about reading outside our comfort zone. Let’s see how that will pan out in the nearest future.

Onibalusi

Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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