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a writer experiencing writer's block

6 Things I Do To Shake Writer's Block Off

Four weeks into 2020, and I’m experiencing writer’s block. My daily writing tracker looks like a chessboard, some squares shaded and some are not.

Last week, I’ve watched a video on YouTube about the two-day rule. It says that when it comes to tracking habits, don’t let yourself take two days off in a row, but you can take two days off in a week. Since then, I followed this rule to force myself to do the things I should do.

However, a few weeks right after the holidays, I felt a burnout. The assignment that I worked on seemed too daunting. It felt like I have to work twice as hard to get things done even though I have SMART goals to motivate me. I felt stagnant and my creative well empty. Yet, I am aware that I need to shake this feeling or writer’s block off.

Here are some of the ways I battle with this stagnancy and keep things exciting and going.

1 – I feed my mind.

I’ve been freelance writing for years now and there are times when I felt that I don’t have anything new to write or a new way to write old content. So I have to feed my mind with useful content to be inspired.

However, lately I’ve been feeding my mind with audio-visual content than text. So this year, I resolved to read more and be inspired by other writers’ writings. And in order for me to reach that goal, I make sure that I spend at least 15 minutes reading a book aside from reading the Bible every morning.

2 – I change my surroundings more often.

I love my work at home life and staying on my desk. However, working at home for a long time can start to feel like I’m stuck and can sometimes creep into my own writing. My writing began to look formulaic or made out of a template. So I try to change the arrangement of my desk every once in a while.

At times, I change my clothes to simulate that I’m going to work in a distant office. And if people here at home asks if I’m going somewhere, I just smile and keep it to myself. But when really stuck, I really go somewhere else — either to a mall, grocery store, bookstore, or fastfood restaurant — and stay there for a while. Then I’ll return with my mind refreshed.

3 – I literally leave things behind.

It is not a good practice to force myself to write even though I knew that my creative well has run dry. Even with a deadline approaching, I’ve learned to leave my writing unattended for a period of time and do something else other than writing.

It seems that I’m slacking off but I’m not. This is the same as number 2. I’m filling my creative well with new ideas as I seek for inspiration.

4 – I take a shower.

Some experts say that taking a shower can induce creativity. Aside from increasing the blood flow in the brain, taking a shower could help me access my brain’s alpha waves.

5 – I do crafts.

For me, coloring books, drawing, cross stitching, crocheting, and the like, feed my inner child. This inner child becomes my source of creativity. Doing these crafts on weekends replenishes my creative well.

6 – I join other writers.

William Turner wrote birds of a kind and color flock and fly together. Fellow writers know how tricky freelance writing and novel writing could be. By joining writers’ groups like Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines, I could get a little empathy and encouragement to feel better.

So here are a few of the things I do to shake off writer’s block. If you do have other ideas, do share it with me by sending me an email. Also, I’m inviting you to join the tribe.

Make The Time To Write

Writing is a juggling act. A writer juggles his job, family, friends, recreation, and writing. Some writers grow weary of the constant juggling act and give up writing. Others like me struggle to keep going.

How do you find time to write?” has been a common question to writers or among writers. The answer depends on each one of us. Some writers write during their free time while others have a fixed schedule. Some of the well-known authors started writing their novels while having a job of their own. Other famous writers had the luxury of spending their whole day writing.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. – Stephen King

For Stephen King, constant reading keeps the writing going. Even professional writers have their own ways of delaying their writing tasks. Arranging their bookshelves, doing some art & crafts, binge-watching are some of them. But in the end, once they find the impetus to write, they do write on their desk.

The secret is forcing yourself to write everyday, either measured by page count or by word count. The important thing is showing up on your desk and write. But when delays turn from a few minutes into a few weeks, or even months, that becomes a big problem.

One of the reasons why “writers” don’t write is they don’t love writing. They like referring themselves as “writers” but they hate the hard work that goes with it.

But there are other writers who would hit the typical writer’s block. They struggle daily on how to go through with it, and then have a breakthrough moment and leap back to work.

Like any other writer, I experience writer’s block. I spend my time on other activities other than writing. And when I realize that I have deadlines to beat, I decide to make things work in my favor. So I devise a plan: make a schedule and make it work.

Fifteen years ago, I was still single then and starting my career as a freelance writer. I wrote from 9 am to 6 pm and made a schedule that had become my daily routine. It made me more focused and productive.

But everything changed when I gave birth. Taking care of a baby became a handful that I don’t have the time to write. Then an employment in the corporate jungle came along. I wrote reports not novels for the next seven years. Until I decided to return to writing in 2012 and started working from home.

Finding time to write is forcing myself to write everyday. I have to write something be it a chapter of a novel or a blog. It’s like showing up for work on my desk.

Always remember that it’s how frequent you write each week and not how many hours a day you spend in writing. Spending three times a week, 2 hours per day writing is much better than writing 4 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays. I guess, this has something to do with the momentum. Try not to lose the momentum when there’s a story running in your head.

There are 3 P’s we gain from this kind of scheduled writing:

Planning

This is the most difficult part of writing. This is the stage where you set up everything from settings to characters to plot. By having a consistent writing schedule, you have the time between writing sessions to think about what you’re going to write next.

Pressure

Having a consistent writing schedule puts a pressure on you not not to write. Even if you’re able to write a single paragraph, you’ll be back tomorrow to write again, no matter what. Compare it if you’re just going to write once or twice a week. That one paragraph will probably stay as one paragraph in the next two weeks because you stopped somehow. And that will get you in serious trouble.

Practice

They say that practice makes perfect. It’s the repetition that trains the mental muscles and extract creative juices. You will notice that your writing improves with time.

But since people are different, one method doesn’t fit all. There are two ways of making a writing schedule. Both are effective so you can choose which one works best for you.

Gridlock Method

This is a rigid schedule of writing that you must adhere religiously. Using a grid, fill in every hour that you have commitments or activities. Then look at the empty blocks and try filling the blocks where you are absolutely positive you can write. Be realistic and don’t overbook yourself. Three to five times a week for two hours a day is fine. If you can’t find reasonable number of hours for writing in a week, examine your priorities. Once you have workable schedule, stick to it. Let other members of the family know that you have to follow a schedule and you’re serious about it.

Spare Change Method

This involves establishing goals for each day and week. Your goal is not putting in a certain amount of time, rather, producing a specific number of pages each day or week. Decide if you are going to adhere to a daily or a weekly goal. Take a calendar and write down a daily goal or at the end of the week, write the page number you expect to achieve on that day. Don’t worry if you’re uncertain, or if it keeps on changing as you write. The point is to establish a goal and work towards it.

True, writing is a juggling act. But the main hurdle in becoming a successful writer is finishing a writing project — be it a novel or a short story. Making a schedule and finding time to write will help you do that.

writing myth

Don’t Be A Victim Of This Writing Myth

Once upon a time, we believed that writers get a stroke of inspiration from the muses. They sit down and pour out their emotions and transform them into words on paper. It was the stroke a an Inspired Genius.

But like the muses, those writers were just myths. Writing doesn’t work that way. And if ever you believe in this kind of myth, you’re harming yourself as a writer.

Writing is hard work with blood, sweat, and tears. Behind successful novels is a process. And when we talk of a process, it has stages that we have to go through. But those who believe that the Inspired Genius myth exists, they don’t know what is really happening behind the scenes. Instead, they see the finished product and wants to get there fast.

What happens when you believe in the myth of the Inspired Genius? You’ll show the three signs of writer’s block.

THE PRESSURE

Because you believe in the inspired genius myth, you start to do the same. Sit down, wait for the muse to inspire you, and once stimulated, write. But what if you’re not yet inspired? You get up, look for inspiration somewhere else. And you end up doing something different other than write. This is one reason for procrastination. And it’s hard to get back to sit down and write. Fear sets in and you’ll get scared to try again.

Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. – Sylvia Plath

LOST STEAM

They sit down, write brilliant prose, then run out of steam in the process. You’ll reach the point where you don’t know what to write next.

SELF-DOUBT

Believing in the Inspired Genius myth can make you doubt yourself in the process. You’ll lose confidence in your writing once you compare your piece to someone else’s novel. “How I wish I could write like that!” But what you don’t know is, you’re being unfair. You’re comparing your failed draft to someone’s successful novel. What a big disparity!

So what do you do once you have these signs? Accept the harsh reality of the writing life. Authors don’t wait for inspiration. They show up on their desk, sit, and write like it’s the only work they know. A brilliant piece of writing comes from a pile of messy drafts. Writers spend months or years planning their novels. Even those writers who join NaNoWriMo plan first before starting to write their draft.

Joining NaNoWriMo can be an exciting challenge. Write and reach the 50,000 word count by the end of November and you’ll have your first draft. But if without a plan, you’ll end up revising a lot to the point of losing steam and starting all over again.

So start planning your novel now in time for NaNoWriMo. I’ll try to make one, too. I can’t let myself feel the pressure, lose steam, and cast self-doubt now. Writers who are susceptible to this myth’s trap should bounce back.