Even creative types have times where we aren’t struck with a genius idea. Productive days where words and ideas flow on paper are glorious. Those are some of my best days, when I get up from my trusty Mac with a satisfied sigh equivalent to just having put down one of the best novels I’ve ever read. Productive is one of my favorite verbs. It exemplifies a hard day’s work, a dollar earned and necessary work completed.
Today I am hampered with what we writers not-so-affectionately call in the industry—writer’s block. It’s an affliction that has gotten the best of those who must create. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies as creatives. We suffer from depression; we lack concentration on bad days; we place so much pressure on ourselves that failure is not an option—an inhuman, unattainable trait. There are times where I place so much emphasis on what clients, my readers or interviewees will think that it completely blocks me. I put off the “hardest” content first, letting evil procrastination win. However, the fact of being in the line of work that I am in is that deadlines do not wait and clients deserve my very best work and ideas, even when a squirrel comes running across my windowsill.
Therefore, in the spirit of breaking down the wall, I have concocted five cures for my ailment.
1. Always Have a Notebook Handy.
I have a notebook by my bedside and in my car. Some of my best headlines and ideas for current or future projects have sparked when I’m sitting at a red light or are in the midst of the dreaded two-hour toss and turn. Writing down something when opportunity strikes will save you on the days where it’s needed and your brain has nothing.
2. Phone A Friend. (Or Text, Or IM, Let’s Be Honest.)
Some of my biggest blockage comes in the course of headline writing. I’m always looking for that catchy verb or that quirky alliteration. And, sometimes it’s just not there. For some reason I’m the type of writer who must have her headline written before beginning her prose. It’s just my thing; it sets my tone. Having an arsenal of friends in the industry really can help when you’re in a headline- or lede-writing pinch.
3. Step Away From the Computer.
I’m not talking about for days. See above: clients and deadlines don’t wait. However, when I’m in a blocked state, my floors suddenly become clean, my dishwasher gets emptied, a load of laundry gets cycled and my dog gets an extra long walk. Sometimes one just has to step away from the situation to see it more clearly. Staring at a blank screen has no more effectiveness than a pot of water boils while being watched.
To piggyback off of this idea, I also have the privilege of being able to change locations often. On tough blockage days, I have been known to work from the grocery store deli area, a Subway and a Starbucks all in one day. As long as I’m not using the switchup as a procrastination technique, I find this an acceptable cure. The perfect surroundings help stimulate my brain; in fact when envisioning a story I have to write during my nightly toss and turn, I also envision where I’m going to write it.
4. Have A Dance Party.
There is no better cure for what ails me as a writer or idea maker than music. Music lifts my mood, helps me cry when I need to let my emotion out and automatically makes me laugh when I’m in the middle of my living room rocking out by myself. Sometimes I write with music on if I’m not feeling too distracted, and unless a really catchy song is on, the words will flow. As an editor, however, I need complete silence. As Hemingway said: “Write drunk; edit sober.” Same thing goes with music.
5. Just Write.
It may sound silly to have writing cited as a cure for writer’s block. Seems counterproductive. Remember those less pressure-filled projects I spoke of earlier? Do those to clear your head; empty out your emails by catching up on correspondence. Write for fun for a while and see what happens. This blog is my example. I couldn’t write all morning, and then I turned on the music and this blog about writer’s block simply flowed. Block cured.