I don’t know how many times I’ve found myself staring blankly at a stark white word doc and that taunting blinking cursor, all the while hating myself for only coming up with the words FML. Some days, I’m simply at a loss for words, creativity, or the basic desire to write. And I know you’ve been there too.
Writer’s block is the most classic villain in the history of the written word- so much so, that even the pros struggled with it.
In a sonnet describing his desperate search for inspiration, English poet Sir Philip Sidney found solace in some advice from his loving, yet clever wife:
“Fool” said my Muse to me, “look in thy heart, and write.”
Whenever I’m battling writer’s block, I often find motivation, or at least a little chuckle in these words. Of course, some days you might search to the greatest depths of your heart for inspiration, and still come up with nothing. So what’s a writer to do when there’s content to be completed and no gas to fuel your thoughts?
Here are some tips that others (and myself) like to use in order to buckle down and get the job done:
Just Keep Writing
This little mantra is based on the line “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming” from one of my favorite films, Finding Nemo. If you haven’t seen the movie, the quote is just another way to express the need to move on and persevere when all hope is lost- or in this case, when the synapses in your brain fail you and only leave behind thoughts of zero value. But remember, if you just keep writing and start exercising your mind, you’ll eventually gain the ability to articulate what you’re trying to say. If you’re really struggling, try this great writing exercise: Write consistently on the topic your writing about for 5 minutes without taking a break. Even if your mind starts to wander, write down that nonsense as well. This not only exercises your brain in the way you want it to work, but you might also find that you’ve come up with some valuable ideas and thoughts pertinent to your topic.
Creativity is an independent and stubborn beast that establishes the rules in this relationship by making itself apparent whenever it pleases. Whether in the shower or trying to fall asleep at night, brilliance can strike at any given moment, and you better be prepared. Jot down your ideas in a notebook or on your smart phone so you can always go back to it. I like to keep a notebook next to my bed for those moments when I wake up in the middle of the night feeling inspired. And I’m obsessed with apps like Evernote, which are great tools that keep your notes organized and synced across cell phones, tablets, and computers.
If the mental exercises don’t work, step away from the computer and go for a walk. This is a great way to literally get your blood flowing and oxygen to your brain so you can think clearly. Taking a mental break also gives you the chance to take a step back from whatever it is your working on, and possibly gain a new perspective. Besides, sitting is bad for you anyway.
Talk About It
Discuss the topic you’re writing about with a friend or a co-worker. This might help you gather your thoughts and develop good material for your content.
If you’re still struggling to get your creative juices flowing, try staring at something green, or grabbing one small drink, as suggested in an article in the Wall Street Journal. But if all else fails, don’t be a fool and just keep writing!