Conquering writer’s block – 7 tips to get you going
If writer’s block feels like an immovable object, here are 7 ways to become that unstoppable force. Writers – you’ve got this in hand!
When inspiration hits a wall, writers, actors, painters, musicians and performers know all to well what it’s like. Creative block, in all reality, is literally like being held back by a barrier to inspiration; an immovable chunk of rock that you can’t go over, around or under. This ‘block’ can last for days, weeks, months, and, has been known to last for years.
“You can’t wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club.” — Jack London
A creative block can appear as if out of thin air and has psychologists baffled as to its reason for inflicting its patients or how or why it manifests. Theories include self-doubt, anxiety, and fear of the unknown and the depletion of creative energy. Here is a list of tips that might help.
1. Generating A Plot With Character
The more you try and force a resolution to creative block, the more it seems to fight back. At this point it’s best to try something new and get your ideas flowing. If the wall won’t let you add to your existing work, the chances are it will limit you in attempting something new unless you have a prompt; something that will give you a writer’s first line. In many cases, that first line is a writer needs to get the mind racing with ideas.
If the music isn’t pleasing your ears, or just isn’t stirring the airwaves, perhaps you could randomly generate a tune to help find that elusive note? There is a multitude of generators available to suit any creative art, and many are free.
2. Close Your Mind And Freely Create
When you are creating your mind opens up, but to get to that stage you need to be in full flow. You should try your hand at free-writing. This exercise gets you creating and there are no rules, or regulations, except shutting off your mind to any distractions. Prepare yourself with pen and paper, sketch pad, musical instrument or word document and set a time limit, 5 or 10 minutes, or however long you want, and just create. Don’t stop under any circumstances until your time has ended. If the phone rings, leave it; if you notice a blatant spelling mistake, leave it; grammar is way off the mark, leave it.
It’s not about being perfect, it’s about creating freely, with no limitations, for a period of time and ignoring all the rules.
Once in the flow, you will be amazed at what you will achieve. This exercise can be used, and adapted, for all art forms, change free-writing to free-paint, free-compose or free-draw. This is a good exercise to do on a regular basis, blocked or not.
3. Exercise Your Imagination
Overwhelming the brain will result in it refusing to work. Try not to think about the job in hand and slow down. Pick up a book or listen to music. Do something completely different. Take a walk in the country or along a beach. A day trip somewhere new is always a good way to stimulate the brain. A museum, library or any of the countless cultural attractions or exhibitions that you probably have locally are perfect venues for stimulating the imagination. But, remember the notebook and pen, it’s pointless having all that creative energy going on and nowhere to record your findings.
4. Just Keep Creating
You can’t force creativity but you can give it a nudge it in the right direction. If you’re a writer, just write; if you’re a painter, just paint; if you’re a musician, just play. It might be that what you achieve isn’t what you would want anyone to see or hear, but you’re working, and that’s what counts; keep going and don’t stop. The fact that you have something to show for the effort is an achievement, feel good about it, take stock of what you have done. Did you solve your problem?
Creating something completely different can help clear your mind. Use a plot generator and create a whole short story. Write about anything that comes to mind; focus on an individual and write about them. Thousands have been in your situation and pulled through, usually by grinding on and never giving up. If you really want to do the job you’re doing, you must push on. If you’re a writer – write!
5. Focus On Preparation And Not Distraction
We’re all guilty of cluttering the workspace. No sooner do we clear the area, we fill it back up again. The writing desk with heaps of paper; the phone; the printer; the multitude of pens; books; manuals and post-it notes stuck to every available space. Painters and musicians have the same challenge; substitute the untidy desk for the rehearsal room or studio.
An unprepared or cluttered working environment is one perfect reason why your brain doesn’t want to work; it’s being distracted by so much clutter. A clean and pleasant workspace makes for a productive workspace.
Improve your productivity simply with the following mnemonic mind trick:
- Set in order
It’s an efficient marketing strategy that can be just as beneficial in the home. Not having to wade through countless junk before you even start your work day will have your brain on a positive note almost immediately.
6. Mind Over Matter
The ‘unconscious mind’ is a powerful tool and the greatest solver of many of the issues surrounding creative block. We’ve all gone to sleep with a problem and awoke with the answer. We’ve all had an issue with a character or image and been hit with the answer when stood over a freezer in the local supermarket deciding which fish fingers to buy.
Think long and hard about the issue you’re troubled with and then forget it. Watch a film; read a book; go for a walk or take a nap and let the power of the unconscious mind work its way through the problem to resolve. You might be sat at your computer, easel or amp and as if by inspiration, the answer comes to you.
7. Prevention Is The Best Cure
It’s easier to believe that it’s only other people who suffer from creative block and that you are far too creative to suffer; until it hits you. It’s too late for all the preventative measures you could have had in place, now; you must work to resolve the issue. With some thought, you could have measures implemented or at least, ideas to fall back on should the need arise.
When you’re in full flow, be it writing, painting or stringing notes together, leave your project unfinished. Leave a sentence hanging or end at a part in the story where you can jump straight back in when you return. If you’re busy working on a project and an idea arises, write it down, jot down a brief description, and then jump back to what you were doing.
Most writers hate the idea of plotting because it takes away creativity from their characters, but, plotting gives you a basis. It doesn’t need to be totally mapped out leaving no room for character development, but enough to jog the brain into action when, or if, you hit the wall. And, having an outline or plot will give you the root idea of something else to jump into if you encounter a problem. The idea is to just keep writing.
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