The last year and a half have been difficult for everyone and we are all doing our best to manage, one day at a time.
For me, as a writer and a parent to three school-age children who are doing school at home, this has meant a shorter window for being able to write and a higher level of stress. I find when I am overwhelmed and stressed it is difficult for me to concentrate, leading to writer’s block.
This may not be the same for everyone, but this is my biggest roadblock to moving forward with a story I am working on. I have found it is often the “to-do list” in my head that significantly adds to the stress (I’ve only come to this conclusion recently).
With this realization, I have tried several mental tricks to make my mind… behave. Most of them didn’t work. For instance, berating myself into submission. This, of course, was completely counterproductive. I also just tried forcing myself to sit there, staring at the blank screen and blinking cursor. This rarely worked. I tried reading through what I had already written to give it a jump start. This worked sometimes, but mostly, it was unsuccessful. I was getting really frustrated.
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet has been turned on.” — Louis L’amour
So What Works?
I remembered a writing conference I attended while I was still in college. One teacher had done a workshop on brainstorming. She started the workshop by having us do a few minutes of what she called a “brain dump”.
You put down on paper everything that is floating around in your head from “to-do lists to”, unprocessed feelings, frustrations, random thoughts related to nothing, etc. She had only set a timer for two minutes because of the short amount of time we had in her workshop, however, it was suggested we do this for ten to fifteen minutes before a writing session.
“You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.” — John Rogers
I will admit, I don’t always do this before every writing session. However, when I am really struggling to focus and all my thoughts are scattered. When I cannot enter back into my story, this is where I turn.
I take a deep breath, set my timer, and just purge. When I am done, my mind is clear, and it is much easier to connect with my characters once again.
Now, I am not saying this is a full-proof way to always avoid writer’s block. It is, however, one of the best ways I have found to deal with writer’s block. It is also effective at reducing my stress level.
What do you do to fight writer’s block? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
***Disclaimer*** This is a work in progress and as such is likely to change before reaching the finished product. Thank you for your understanding.
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Originally published on Medium
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