You might think that writer’s block just impacts wannabe novelists closing themselves off in their rooms for days, but a block can affect you in many areas of your life, even if you’re not a writer. Perhaps you’re struggling with resume updates or completing an online learning program to advance your skills. Sometimes it feels impossible to that task, or worse yet, even get started.
Blocks of any kind can mess with your workflow, and even your success in securing employment, so it’s important to break through any kind of block (writing, designing, planning, submitting), to manage your career and satisfaction with your life. Here are some tips to help you get past the block and onto success.
Just Start, and Commit
When you sit down to work on something that’s been weighing on your mind, you may not even know where to start. Rather than sit staring morosely at the computer screen, just start writing, or designing, or mind mapping. And commit to a amount of words, or a minimum time limit, so that you’re consistently working on it each day. Those first few attempts are probably not going to be the best content you create, but you will never come up with great work if you don’t even start. Worry about editing and improving later. For now, just get started.
Deal with any Underlying Issue
Sometimes it’s not that you don’t know what to say, but that you are afraid to put it out there and possibly fail. What if you’re writing your resume and feel like you’re explaining your work history well enough? What if you want to write a book but don’t know whether to self-publish, or look for a professional editor and then a publisher? Such what ifs and doubts are perfectly normal, but if they control your mindset and your activity, they get in the way of planning, writing, and delivering. So if you’re dealing with these internal monologues, or a
challenge related to money, family, or health, it’s important to take action and move on. Take a walk, think in the shower, or call someone to have a quick chat. Tackling some aspect of the challenge will make you feel better and make it easier to get back into productivity.
Mix Up Your Media
Staring at a white document background or a page from a blank notebook can be pretty dull, especially when you’re lacking creative mojo. Some experts say merely mixing up your media can help draw out your creativity, and thus help you beat the writer’s block that’s keeping you from finishing and submitting your career materials for a new role, or breaking through on a project at work.
- Start drawing out your ideas or your to-do list with different colored pens or colored pencils.
- Write on different substances, like napkins, or flip the page a different direction when you’re writing.
Computer or Mobile Device
- Change the font and background colors, sizes to change the onscreen view.
- Use the basic shape drawing tools on a computer or mobile device to outline items, create new text boxes.
Listen While You Create
You can change your mood just by listening to music or a podcast. And both can transport you into a different place, encouraging new lines of thinking and inspiring action.
Listen to Music
- Turn on some classical, soothing sounds, or even soundtracks to encourage relaxation and flow of creativity. Good background music shouldn’t distract you too much.
- Turn on some favorite jams, to improve your mood, break you out of monotony, and move on in the day. Do you like 90s pop music, or old jazz, or something else? Stop and listen, but beware that this option can get distracting if you get too into the music to then concentrate on the work!
Listen to Podcasts and News
Podcasts and news help you stay current and can trigger ideas, emotions, feelings and thinking on topics you didn’t actively search for (new viewpoint, whether you agree or disagree). Business podcasts offer a great chance to learn from successful entrepreneurs and leaders, so you can improve skills in finance, marketing, community outreach, and more. Podcasts on topics that interest you can help you feel connected to hobbies you enjoy, without having to do more than just listen. Do you like murder mysteries or lifestyle hacks? You can find virtually any topic to listen to in the podcast world, or simply catch up on the latest news without being distracted by
the commotion of the web or TV.
Listen to Audio Books
Audio books are a great option for people who don’t enjoy reading, are commuting on a train or waiting for long periods in between meetings, or find they can’t commit to reading on a page but still want to experience the story. From historical nonfiction to poetry to the current bestsellers in fiction, audio books keep your mind active and then help you transform ideas into your own works.
It doesn’t really matter what.
But variety is good.
I’m not a person who believes you have to finish every book you start. Some books are just not good enough (in your opinion) to waste your time. But it is good to try out different genres, and to also re-read your favorite books and authors to understand what comes together to make writing understandable, interesting, even actionable.
Commit to a Challenge
Committing to something like a 30-day writing challenge, or to journal every morning, or complete free motivational videos or courses, can also keep you inspired, motivated, and clear your head.
Commit to Writing Challenges
Search the web and you’ll find writing prompts and challenges for just about anything. If you’re a teacher needing to spark kids’ creativity, you can search for writing prompts related to books they’re reading. If you’re a blogger or aspiring to be one, there are a lot of 30-day blog challenges, that range from covering generic topics about yourself, to more specific industry-related topics. There are also challenges for novel writing (I like NaNoWriMo), poetry writing, memoir/personal storytelling, marketing plans, and more.
In fact, there are so many writing challenges available online, that you could start a new one every month. Search “writing prompts” online and to find many helpful starts that you might not have considered otherwise.
Write out Your Morning Pages
I learned about this a few years ago. Every single morning when you wake up, grab some paper, a tablet, a computer, or a mobile phone, and write three pages about what you’re thinking or worried about, dreams you had, emotions you’re feeling or ideas that pop into your head. By writing it down, you begin to process and remove the bad stuff, and have something to come back for ideas. Morning pages work whether you’re a professional writer, business owner, nurse, or administrative assistant. This exercise comes from Julia Cameron, and she describes the exercise of Morning Pages as stream of consciousness, no-wrong-way-to-do-it kind of writing.
Draw or Sketch
Sometimes, just drawing or doodling unleashes creativity. Shapes, cartoon characters, nature, anything in any color works. I wrote about the random word doodle, for which you select a word from a list and just draw about what you’re thinking for 15 minutes. It’s actually pretty fun, and did take my mind in different directions.
Yes, a change of scenery can be a helpful tool. Move your work materials outside, set up at a coffee shop, move your notebooks to your bed, even go for a drive to process something in your brain. The simple act of changing the location breaks routine, and you might hear something inspiring or angering on the news, listen to a new song, meet people with similar interests at the store, or find a new favorite coffee shop.
It’s easy to let a project—especially a new one—overwhelm you to the point of immobility. But if you can clear your head, start moving, and connect with various media and resources, you’re well on your way to beating writer’s (or other) block and closer to completing the projects currently on your list.