A block is not limited to the experiences of writers. The paralysis of a block usually results from too much thought, too much perfectionism, and too little action. It feels like it chokes the creative breath out of you. Fortunately, a block is not fatal.
Bruce Maxwell, a Kansas City artist, describes a block as a “restrictive idea that rattles around in my head.” He adds, “If I’m not careful, it will become an attitude.” A block becomes a crippling attitude when it prevents you from taking action.
All blocks, including writer’s block, do not have to paralyze you into inaction. Peg Fitzpatrick, co-author of The Art of Social Media, advises, “Fear less about how you will be able to do it and work towards doing it.”
Daphne Gray-Grant, writing coach and author of 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better, describes creative ways to move the writing block boulder out of your way and find the inspiration you need to become productive again. Gray-Grant’s pro-active suggestions include:
Write something else. When you’re weighed down by writer’s block, Gray-Grant encourages you to write about something – anything – but your present project. Write about something different . She calls this “productive procrastination.”
Write an email. She refers to this as an alternative to pretending to write a letter to a friend. Gray-Grant encourages you to “write your piece in the body of an email.”
Change your setting. Move to another room. The kitchen. A picnic table. A coffee shop. Gray-Grant adds, “It worked for J.K. Rowling.” [This is also a great tip to remember if you’re giving a speech and lost your train of thought (I do this because I’m a brain injury survivor): Step forward, gesture, do something physical, and the movement will trigger the memory.]
Go for a walk or run. See above.
Write the headline or title.“A headline or title is a bit like a poem,” explains Gray-Grant. “It must distill your big idea into a very few words. It must also be catchy. When you write the headline first, the entire direction of your piece will become clearer. This will make writing substantially easier.” I found this suggestion extremely helpful when I experience writer’s block.
Tell yourself you have to write for only five minutes. Time limits often force you to make a commitment.
Stretch. Physical movement invigorates your body. Breathe deeply as you move. Oxygen stimulates the brain. (See Suggestions #3 and #4.)
Give yourself permission to write badly. This suggestion made me laugh (which should be Suggestion #13: Laugh). Gray-Grant states, “Many times we’re blocked as writers because we’ve raised the stakes too high.” Perfectionism slips in and we become our own worst enemy. She adds, “If you simply must beat yourself up, do it when you’re editing.”
“Speak” your writing. Gray-Grant suggests, “Go with the flow and dictate your words into a tape or digital recorder or even your voice mail.” Or find a friend – or a mirror – and orally describe what you’d like to write.
Prevent interruptions. No email. No tweeting. No Facebook. No listening to phone messages. No internet surfing. Finish writing. Then surf. [My brain sometimes wants to tell me “Surfing and responding on the internet is writing.” No it’s not. It’s procrastinating.]
Limit your writing time. “I know this sounds counter-intuitive but we sometimes give ourselves too much time to write,” insists Gray-Grant. “Don’t set aside a day for that report. Tell yourself you have to do it in two hours. Remember how productive you can be just before going on holiday? Create the feeling artificially by limiting your writing time.”
Olympic gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, maintains, “I believe that you should gravitate to people who are doing productive and positive things with their lives.” Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you, your talent, and your extraordinary writing gifts. Peg Fitzpatrick adds, “There is plenty of awesomeness to go around for everyone.”
Celebrate your victories – even the small ones.
Then pick up your pen. And write.
What do you do when you experience an artistic block?
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