This post was sparked by a Twitter conversation with Andrew of Redtype, when we were chatting not too long ago about how we sometimes need to disconnect ourselves from the wonderful world of social media when we need to F-O-C-U-S and W-R-I-T-E.
Do you find you do? I find I do.
It’s not that I can’t write when I’m flitting between social networks, but when I really need to put my head down and get a ton of writing down, I do need to go offline.
Because delightful as chatting with everyone is, it doesn’t always help me focus on my writing, and then I start panicking about all the writing I’m not doing.
And then I lose all the ideas that I had and that dark knight of blogging – writer’s block – gallivants in.
“Curses, Sir Bloch,” I sputter. “I don’t need you to rescue me right now; in fact, you’re doing quite the opposite.”
Sir Writer’s Bloch, of course, couldn’t care less. But here are some ways I’ve found to combat that armor-ridden beast, and they might work for you too.
1. Cut your nails
I know, this sounds ridiculous. What I’ve seen, though, is that if my body is not prepped for optimal writing, er, typing, then I get distracted.
For me, this means cutting my nails regularly (they grow so quickly, you wouldn’t believe it). I had to keep them short as a kid, since I grew up playing the piano, and even when I was into changing my nail polish every few days (now I barely ever wear it), I could never keep long nails.
What you can do: identify your figurative nails (if they’re not literal ones). Are there any things about your physicality that help you write better? Taking your contacts off (or putting them in)? Sitting at a certain chair so that your posture is less strained? Whatever it is, do that.
2. Writing in Word
I’ve gotten very used to writing directly in WordPress. This is a good thing, but it also means that I’m in my browser, which means I have the potential to get distracted.
Recently, I’ve been asked to write a spate of guest posts. Since I typically send the posts in as Word documents, when I wrote them, I’d switch over to Word and get through them much more quickly than I thought I would.
What you can do: exactly what I did.
3. Prep your editorial calendars
Good grasshoppers will know that I love the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin, no matter how much it might drive Howie Goldfarb crazy. Oh, sorry, that’s WordPress itself that drives him crazy.
At the risk of repeating myself, what I love about this plugin is:
- I can move posts (or drafts) around by dragging and dropping; and
- I can start a new draft from within the plugin interface.
I usually keep the WUL dashboard open throughout the day. So if I get a post idea on the fly – and you know that happens – I can quickly jot it down, along with a few key points of what I think I want to touch on, and then go back later to flesh out the post.
What you can do: install and use the plugin! Or else, figure out what mechanism to use so that when ideas come to you, you don’t lose them. Maybe this is creating voice notes on your phone. Maybe it’s always having a notebook and pen/pencil handy. Maybe it’s clipping ideas to Evernote.
Find your most-favored way of capturing post ideas, so that you’re not stuck for inspiration.
4. Get mad
From a health point of view, I don’t recommend this as something to aspire to. However, when I see something that makes me mad, it usually consumes me until I just have to write about it. Sometimes over and over again.
Sure, I end up writing so much that I spend almost as much time on editing … but sometimes I don’t. And these have been some of my most successful posts.
What to do: know what your trigger points are. But don’t get mad over everything, because then you just run the risk of being boring.
A while back I contributed to a post on heretical productivity. I then ended up writing my own post on the subject which included a conversation with BYS (backyard squirrel), the gist of which was that when I was feeling really overwhelmed with things to do, instead of doing any of them, I took a nap in my hammock.
And when I woke up, I got them all done much more quickly than I had anticipated.
Now, please know that I am not advocating procrastination. However, I think part of what leads to writer’s block is that we have so much we’re trying to process during our waking hours, we end up not processing any of it. Taking a break can help.
What to do: take a break. Go for a walk, go to the gym, dance frenetically for 20 minutes … whatever it is that will break the monotony you’re enduring. It will refresh and re-energize you.
Image: tizzie via Flickr, CC 2.0
These are five ways I’ve been able to beat Sir Writer’s Bloch when I’ve been in danger of being overwhelmed by him.
What do you do? Do share, I’d love to know, and you know the comments are yours!
[…] 5. 5 Ways to Break Through Writer’s Block […]
I find running helps clear my mind and if I write in the morning before I get too distracted by anything else!
@rachaelseda You are hell-bent on getting me into running, aren’t you?! So… what are you going to do in winter… will you keep running?
.I personally like #2 and #5 and my fingernails are work, running, or cleaning my house. I live dangerously, what can I say. I can’t be creative if I don’t get enough sleep. I struggle when I type my posts directly into WP; I always do it in word (that has the makings of a @bdorman264 quip…the best bloggers do it in Word). Oh my.
@EricaAllison OMG, I didn’t know you wrote in Word. You know, I think I’m going to have to do that more often. I found that when I was writing in Word, it really did go much faster. And nice@bdorman264 quip, LOL.
I have a lack of writing energy right now. My blog is languishing I need to re-examine my schedule and maybe go down to @bdorman264 ‘s format and just write one a week with maybe a second. And if I can be half and awesome as him I will attract another reader or two.
For inspiration usually stick with Peyote and Opium but occasionally go for something harder like Absinthe mixed with Mezcal lit on fire then injected directly into my blood stream through my ear drum. But who am I to give away my secrets.
@HowieSPM What great timing; my next post will be ‘how to be half as awesome as Bill Dorman’. See, I never run out of inspiration………….:). Dude, if you are down in the gutter w/ me weez in a heap of trouble. One of us has to be the smart one and I’ve already elected you………
@HowieSPM I’ve never had absinthe. What’s it like? And er, hello, move over to WordPress, please! That will give you inspiration – think of all the ranting you could do. @bdorman264
@hackmanj Heh! Thanks. :)
I voted on Twitter, #5 is awesome.
@hackmanj It really is! It’s such a gift, to be able to sleep. I’ve come into contact with some people who have sleep apnea, and it’s horrid what that does to your body. So far, at least, I don’t have that problem (knock on wood).
@Shonali IT can be a grind, sometimes you NEED to walk away from a problem for a while and come back with a fresher set of eyes. This can be applied to anything of course, a walk, a nap, etc. Did you read that research that showed that letting your employees take naps at work led to better productivity?
@hackmanj I did, but I don’t remember the link…
@hackmanj no Joe you are Awesome!
@HowieSPM how kind of you to notice! hehe
@hackmanj@HowieSPM Get a room, guys.
@bdorman264 but if you just had a pen and paper that could fix everything
skypulsemedia knows WordPress, but he’s smart like that.
I like to wax………..my body, when I’m looking for inspiration. Man, that hurts but it sure gets your attention.
Even though I typically post only once a week, sometimes it gets down to the wire as to what I actually want to write. I have about 5-7 partially written posts but usually they don’t inspire so they just languish and then I might Google post topics and see if anything inspires. With my ‘new’ model however, I’m not going to stress; if it gets done it gets done, if not………oh well.
@bdorman264 Especially if you get a bikini wax. :p
I think it’s great that you don’t stress over the posts. I found that I was starting to stress way too much over posting every day. That’s why I cut WUL back to 5 days a week, and of course I have help since I run two guest posts every week. But especially after recovering from surgery, I don’t want to lose *my* voice, so I’m trying to keep up my own writing consistently. Btw… when are you guest posting here? I know I’ve asked often enough…!
@Shonali@bdorman264 Careful what you wish for. He has this post comparing Alpo with Kibbles and Bits in relating it to Social Media and the Law of Gravity. I think that is the one he wants to post here.
@HowieSPM@Shonali And actually I lived off both in college so I have a little deeper understanding of both brands……..
@Shonali Be careful what you ask for, it just might happen……….:)
@bdorman264 Make it so!
@kemwashcpa Thanks so much for sharing.
@erinmfeldman Thank you for sharing! Did you like “Sir Bloch
I love the first tip. I, too, struggle to write when my nails get too long. It’s something about the clickety-clack of them hitting the keyboard I guess. They also just irritate me in general because I’m used to wearing short nails for several reasons, including the playing of the piano when I was a kid.
@Erin F. I know! It’s SO irritating. When I was a kid, I had an aunt who had humungously long nails, and I used to find the clickety clack of her nails on the piano fascinating. After a while, I just found it annoying.
So you’re another pianist. I wonder who else is out there…
@Shonali Sort of. I need to get back into the habit of playing.
@Erin F. Me too. I was horrified when I sat down with a couple of books and found that I’d almost forgotten how to sight-read.
@Shonali I can still sight-read (for the most part), but I’ve had to go back to the very beginning. It’s a good thing I saved my early piano books. :)
@Erin F. Mine are all at home in India. :( But we found a really neat olde worlde music store close by, so I bought some sheet music there. You should have seen me when I walked in. I closed my eyes and literally inhaled the store. It reminded me of browsing in the piano store back home, where I’d go through sheet music, etc.
I did the same thing, going back to “baby” books, I mean. The good thing is that I found once I did that, my eyes (and fingers?) started remembering the sight reading very quickly. Not perfect yet, but much better than it was a few months ago. Phew!
@Shonali I inhale the smell of books when I go to the bookstore. It can be Barnes and Noble or the used bookstore. It doesn’t matter. I love the smell of new and old books. :)
I’m going to have to start practicing again. I quit during the summer because my piano was in a room with no air conditioning. I couldn’t bring myself to suffer that much for the sake of music…
@Erin F. No one should have to suffer that much for music. It’s supposed to make us happy, not bring us to tears… or sweat…
Great advice, Shonali! It’s helpful to hear that everyone hits a “blogging wall” every now and then, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to think of creative ways to get around it. I often use my lunch hour at work to draft posts or outlines, since that’s when my brain is most active and I can have dedicated, uninterrupted time to write.
@Krista Isn’t it great when you have that uninterrupted time? Yay for lunch breaks!
I don’t think any of us would be human if we didn’t hit the wall. I guess we’re all trying to figure out how to do so less and less, though… right? I know one thing – when I take some time off (e.g. vacation), it’s very tough for me to get back into the groove, as it were. So I’m learning to have as many posts as possible prepped and scheduled, so that WUL doesn’t go through a dry spot!
I write posts for my blog first thing in the morning while I am having my coffee and my brain is starting to warm up. I get ideas from everything. Yesterday’s post was inspired by seeing a whole Starbucks in NYC be totally silent while everyone was on their smartphones. Today’s was inspired by a conversation about the difference between pride and ego.
I get ideas everywhere. My problem is getting all of them down before they go away!
That’s the key. Capturing all your thoughts before they fly away. Like @Shonali wrote, love the ability to get these thoughts written down on draft posts with defining statements as soon as they occur. The sooner the better.
@redtype@Shonali i got an idea for a post that I need to work on now and I have on a sticky on my computer the words “I Am NOT Your Barbie Doll” going to blog about a friend of mine who got objectified by someone else. When she complained, the man did not apologize. That is all I need to work with.
@NancyD68 What did he say?! I guess we’ll have to read your post for that… @redtype
@NancyD68 You also have a great ability to write posts that are fairly short and succinct, yet very readable. It’s rare that I can write a post straight off the bat that is not 900 words plus (!) – except when I’m in MS Word. Isn’t that weird/interesting?
I have the same problem with ideas. I get so many of them, and then I have to not lose them! I tried using Dragon Dictation on my iPhone a while back but it didn’t really help… although maybe I just need practice.
What works for me is to sleep early, get up early when it’s still dark, maybe 4-5am or so and use that quiet time to meditate, focus & plan and then I write. if you haven’t discovered what your suits you best, don’t give up. Keep experimenting and soon you’ll be on your way to carving out the best chunks of the day for focused writing.Thanks for the mention! :)
@redtype You’re welcome – thank you for sparking the idea!
I used to write early in the morning as well. I love the quiet time in the dark. Then I started working out early in the morning (not *that* early, but still…)… and I found that I couldn’t wake up, get into writing mode and then go work out unless I got up at 2 or 3 am (and I can’t do that on a regular basis!). So I’m still trying to find my sweet spot…
@shonali good morning! thanks for the mention! :) have a fabulous day! #WUL #blogging #pr
@redtype You’re welcome, and if you have the time, I’d love a comment. :) Have a great day too!
@shonali quick q. for comments, is livefyre better than disqus? was there a specific reason you chose one over the other?
@redtype At the time, Disqus didn’t have the @ function that Livefyre does. Plus, I got into the LF beta & their CS is superb.
@shonali installed disqus on monday, just signed up for livefyre, transitioning to that instead. thanks :)
@redtype Oh, SuhWEET! @JMattHicks @jennalanger did you hear that?
@shonali @JMattHicks @jennalanger :) what really got me was the live twitter convo.
@shonali @JMattHicks @jennalanger minor hiccup. have to figure out the customized html code to get livefyre to work on tumblr.