I read the news today. Oh, boy!
The chief fortune cookie writer for Wonton Foods, Donald Lau, has called it quits… after writing fortunes for over 30 years!
His reason? Writer’s block.
I just had to laugh.
After 30 years of writing fortunes, Donald didn’t quit because of writer’s block. He quit because he couldn’t stand the idea of writing one more teeny-tiny fortune to fit inside of a cookie. He’s not blocked. He’s done. Finished. Ready for something new.
Nevertheless, if you’ve ever experienced writer’s block, you know it is enough to make anyone call it quits. It’s so frustrating, disheartening and aggravating to be in the position of needing to constantly churn out creative content – like blog posts, articles, novels, poems or copy – yet feel completely out of your own creative flow. To be blocked. Stuck. Unable to access the right words, ideas or inspiration to create whatever you want to create.
How about you? Have you ever felt completely uninspired or wordless or idea-free when trying to create content or copy for your biz? Or maybe you always have plenty of ideas, but when it comes down to actually taking action on those ideas, you can’t stir up enough enthusiasm, clarity or inspiration to get the job done.
Or perhaps you get caught up in what I call “performance anxiety,” where you have the ideas, focus and inspiration you need, but you don’t feel confident in your ability to pull it off. You’re afraid you’ll mess it up. Or the right words won’t come. And that anxiety stops you cold.
However and whenever writer’s block strikes, you need to know this: the more you push against it, curse it, fight it and try to work through it, the stronger and more persistent it will become.
You also need to know that it’s not fatal. And there is a cure.
So, the next time you feel stuck, blocked or out of the flow when you’re writing, just let go. Don’t push. And try one of my 10 favorite remedies listed below!
10 Favorite Remedies for Writer’s Block
- Wash Dishes
This never fails me. Anytime I’m writing anything and it’s just not working, I stop, walk into the kitchen and wash dishes. There’s something about the running water, the repetition, and the mindful-yet-mindless activity that mellows me out and let’s new ideas, words and phrases flow into my brain.
Now, for you, it may be a different mindful-yet-mindless activity. Like… driving. Taking a shower. Brushing your teeth. Cleaning out the cat’s litter box. Go for something familiar, easy yet physically engaging.
When my mind feels dull and tired, I can sometimes wake it up by reading something really, really good. It can be anything. A blog post. A snippet of a novel. An inspirational book. It has to be well-written or thought-provoking though, or it won’t spark my creative mojo.
Try it. And remember, while you’re reading, you have to forget about writing. You need to let yourself take a break and take in the words you’re reading. It’s as if you’re feeding your writer self with the good food of good writing.
3. Ask the question, “How Can I Make This Super Easy?
Sometimes, you get stuck, frustrated or anxious about writing because you’re making it waaaay toooo hard. Either you’re trying to cram too much into your message or you’re making the actual writing process too precious and complicated. So, if you’re feeling tense or resistant to writing, or if the whole process starts to become a big, fat drag, ask yourself…“How can I make this super easy? How can I make it fun?”
Maybe you need to get out of the house and write while sipping a macchiato at your favorite coffee hangout. Maybe you need to cut out 3 of the 5 points you’re trying to make. Maybe you need to do both! Just ask the question and be open to the answers.
4. Remember Why
Why are you writing in the first place? What’s your intention in writing this particular piece? When you’re feeling stuck, it helps to remember why you’re writing. If you’re writing your home page, why are you writing it? Is it because you want to engage and connect with those who visit your website? Or you want to tell the world about your services? Hook into the deeper inspiration – your “why” – and feel your desire, your intention. And let it fuel and direct your words.
Tip! Keep asking why. If the answer to your first “why am I writing this” doesn’t stir up some creative juice, dig deeper. Keep asking until you hit the why behind the why.
5. Free Write
Okay, put down whatever piece of writing is making you crazy and do this: grab a kitchen timer (or the timer in your smartphone), a notebook, and a fast-writing pen. Set the timer for 10 minutes, press “start,” and then start writing whatever comes into your head. Write without stopping for 10 minutes. Write nonsense. Write “I hate writing.” Write anything. Just put words on paper for 10 minutes without stopping.
It sometimes helps to use a prompt, like “If I were a polar bear, I’d…” Or, “What I don’t see right now is…” The idea is to write whatever comes to you, no matter how silly, stupid or sublime.
But whatever you do, don’t write on or about the piece of writing that got you stuck in the first place!
I’ve found free writing can break the “mental dam” inside your brain and get your words flowing from a more raw, real and creative place.
6. Switch It Up
If you’ve been writing on a computer or laptop, and you’re getting stuck, frustrated or fatigued, switch to paper and pen. It’s okay. People still do write with paper and pen. Really.
Or, if you’re like me and you always start with paper and pen, switch to keyboard and screen. Sometimes, just a change in “tools” is all you need.
7. Write Crap
More often than not, it’s your desire to write something “great” that seriously clogs your creative pipes and makes it damned near impossible for you to write one clear sentence.
So, screw “great.” Instead, give yourself permission to write the worst piece of crap you’ve ever read, written or seen in your life.
Now, if you’ve got perfectionistic tendencies, this is going to be hard for you. So, if you can’t bring yourself to write total crap, at least give yourself permission to write the worst first draft you’ve ever written. A real stinker!
When you release yourself from the prison of perfectionism and the oppressive need to “impress,” you pull back the boulder blocking your wild voice and your playful creativity. You let go of “getting it right” and open the floodgates to whatever wants to come through you. And now you’re on a river raft, riding down the rapids of your own creativity.
8. Sing a Song
I know writers who listen to music while they write. They tell me it helps them maintain their focus and momentum. I find it impossible to listen to music and write at the same time; the music pulls too much of my attention.
I’ve also read that one way to break through writer’s block is to stop and listen to music for a while. So, you may want to try that. But I’ve found that one of the best ways to hop right over any kind of creative block is to sing.
Just sing a song. Any song. But sing it with all your heart. Sing it without caring how you sound. Sing for the pure joy of making sounds and letting those sounds out into the open air!
By singing out loud, you wake up and engage your physical voice which in turn stimulates your inner voice, your creative voice. When you sing with all of your heart, you stir the emotional energy you need to fuel your writing with passion, power and personality.
9. Give It the “Sound & Shake!”
Get up out of your chair and shake your body! Jump up and down. Flail your arms about. Kick out your legs. Bend at the waist and let your entire torso flop up and down as you shake your head from side to side. And while you’re flailing, shaking and contorting, make noise! Grunt, pant, scream, sound, wail!
I call this ritual the “Sound & Shake.” And it’s great for interrupting any kind of block, dullness, or fatigue, whether it be creative, emotional, mental or spiritual.
Sure, you can always put on some music and dance. That helps, too! But don’t work on your dance moves. Let the music move your body. Let your body do whatever it wants to do. And be sure to make some noise!
10. Take a Nap
I don’t tell many people this… but I get some of my best ideas (and I write some of my best copy) lying down. I’ll be working on a piece of writing, and I’ll start to feel the weight of my “trying” to create. So, I’ll take a break, lie down on the couch, and give myself permission to take a cat nap.
But as soon as my eyes close and my mind gets drifty, an idea will come. The perfect phrase. An ideal transition. And I have to sit up, grab my paper and pen and write it down. Then, I’ll lay back down, close my eyes, and in a few moments, bam! It will happen again. I’ll receive something that I have to capture on paper.
Sometimes, I never end up napping at all. I just let myself receive what’s being downloaded during my relaxed, sleepy state. If I do nap, it’s usually for only 5-10 minutes. And when I wake up, I’ve got some new inspiration, new energy and a few new ideas to propel me forward.
So, there you go! Save this list of remedies for the next time you get writer’s block. You may even come up with a list of your own.
And remember… writer’s block is not your enemy. Don’t go to war with it. Just walk away for awhile. Engage in something easy, repetitious or mindless. Shake your body. Make noise or take a nap. And give yourself permission to let it be easy!
Do you have some favorite ways to blast through writer’s block? If so, share yours below! I’d love to hear what’s worked (or even what’s not worked) for you.