Inevitably, it happens. We find ourselves just staring at the blank paper or blank screen in front of us. The cursor keeps…on…blinking. Of course I could only be talking about, writer’s block. Alas, it comes to us all at some point. With a statement like I may as well be talking about the Grim Reaper. But thankfully, this is nothing nearly as final. By following these simple tried and true practices, you can turn that blank page into an essay, or a novel, or 3 lines of descriptive web content like a pro.
What do you mean by Themes?
Let me start out by saying, “writer’s block” as it is so affectionately known, is not something just seasoned (or unseasoned?) writers feel. This is truly something that can happen to anyone, at any age. I’m reminded of all those times in grade school (or high school) that I just could not find a way to start my paper, or “theme” as they were called ages ago. I distinctly recall having to write themes rather regularly in Literature/Language Arts class at my grade school. I also know for sure that the concept of writing a theme is an old one, and was not limited to my 1990s Catholic education experience. Whatever that means. Anyway, remember the scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie has to write a theme on what he wants for Christmas? (Duh, a Red Ryder air rifle) Same thing! And that film was supposed to be set in the 1940s I believe? So yes, Virginia, themes are definitely a leftover from a different time. Not to digress too much, but I even remember how we were required to fold our loose leaf paper vertically. This was for some reason only a Catholic grade school could think of. Then we would write in 2 columns (?) because reasons, obviously. Well good thing word processors got rid of that rule along with the awful 5th grade cursive handwriting that went along with it.
Ways to fight Writer’s Block
Now, on to some tips for getting rid of that annoying blank page syndrome. So what I’ve found helpful over the years, is if I just can’t start an article, blog or client’s brief, I first get up and try a change of scenery. Even if that only entails going into the next room to pet a cat, that counts. However, if you’d rather take a walk, or step outside onto the patio to check on the plants, those work too. This is a great strategy because it makes our minds focus on something else, in other words, makes it relax. I’ve found this technique especially helpful for me. I feel it’s because you are forced to engage with different surroundings and other scenarios, which stimulates your brain. Walks are a wonderful remedy to clear your head (whether for writer’s block or for other reasons), and I always seem to find what I’m looking for afterwards.
If clearing your head and getting a change of scenery don’t work, make sure you are working in an area free of distractions. This means different things to different people, I might add. To me, a TV is the most distracting thing on Earth. I can’t sleep with it on, I hate having it on while conversing and I never leave it on just for “background noise.” But, on the other hand, lots of people have no problem with any of those issues. To them, a quiet room might be nails on the chalkboard distracting. So this one is highly subjective, but very important. Whatever distracts you or can cause you interruptions, do without it while you’re writing. This goes for furniture, or lack thereof, as well (raise your hand if you’re guilty of sitting on the floor!). If a couch makes you sleepy, avoid it. If a desk and chair is uncomfortable, avoid it.
When I’m working under a deadline and can’t seem to start a piece, sometimes it helps immensely if I write an outline first. If you know basically what you want to say, just start writing a list. I like this because there’s no set structure to adhere to. When you’re getting thoughts on paper, they pop in your head in any order. Sometimes just seeing an idea written down helps me to put the list in the right order and start to develop clear, logically flowing sentences. This works very well when paired with the first suggestion. Write down you’re outline, get a change of scenery, then come back refreshed and ready to flesh it out.
Another useful option is run it by a friend or spouse and just talk it out. Sometimes when you speak about it, it starts to make more sense in your head, which leads to you writing your article faster. When all else fails, a nice glass of wine should get the creative juices flowing!
Well, there you have it. Those are my main go-to practices when faced with writer’s block. Although writer’s block can be annoying, and everyone gets it from time to time, there are ways help combat it. Hopefully these are some useful tips you can employ the next time you’re stuck!