Overcoming Writer's Block
We’ve all been there, staring at a blank page, hoping our fingers will just start typing automatically. The author of this article even stared at an empty Word document for 45 minutes before finishing this sentence. If your freelance profession is centered around any kind of creativity, you don’t always have the time to stare at the glow of your computer for too long. You need to make that cheddar, that dough, that chicken, and time spent not working is money down the drain. Obviously you don’t want to write crap. You want to be informative, witty, profound, but doing so consistently is difficult, and thus we stare at the page. We need to accept writer’s block as inevitable and forgive ourselves for sometimes lacking focus. Once we’ve done that, we can start implementing practices to overcome it.
WRITE IT OUT
Sometimes we can’t think of anything to write because other thoughts are clogging up our brain. Solution? Write them down. Open up a blank Word document and start writing anything. It doesn’t have to follow a structure, the ideas don’t need to connect; just type out any random thoughts that come to mind. For example:
“There’s a large computer monitor on my desk. I broke up with my boyfriend exactly one year ago today. What a time. Time is a great song by Pink Floyd, but the rest of the album sucks. People with chihuahuas are stupid. I secretly hate chocolate.”
These sentences don’t need to make sense (I actually love chocolate), but you’re freeing up your noggin’ for more productive thinking. We recommend writing out a few paragraphs to a page of these random thoughts. In the process, you might discover a new idea to write about. Your subconscious might connect the dots in ways you weren’t thinking about before.
On top of random thoughts, write down your feelings. This doesn’t need to be a journal entry (although it can be if you want). Just give consideration to how you’re feeling today; depressed, discouraged, tired, happy, horny, whatever. Feelings are common distractions. They can negatively affect your writing, or prevent you from writing at all. If you’re distracted over some family conflict that’s bumming you out, write about it. Inscribing your thoughts makes it so they no longer need to live in your brain, leaving room for new ideas.
GET UP, THEN OUT
All that pent-up energy from sitting inside and writing all day must be released. Sometimes we experience writer's block because we’ve been staring at our computer for 6 hours. Oddly enough, the place where you do most of your work isn’t always the best place for productivity. Take a break, get out of the house. You’ll come back more industrious and effective than before.
Go for a run, a jog, a hike, a walk, even a swim. Any form of physical activity that you can do in fresh air will not only be beneficial to your physical health, but your mental health as well. If you get in the habit of it, exercising regularly will improve your concentration and motivation. Being active will re-charge your brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels. Your ability to focus and think productively relies on these chemicals. Start making them.
Getting out of the house doesn’t have to mean exercise. We aren’t trying to send you a message. It can include getting a cup of coffee, catching a movie, going to a museum, visiting a friend. We are biologically wired to be creative; sometimes we just need a jolt, a shock, or some sort of disruption to break the cycle of monotony.
As a freelancer, you’re probably not in an office, you’re probably at home, and you’re probably alone. Maybe you have some roommates, but no one new is walking in and out. Your writer’s block could be a symptom of not socializing enough with your fellow man or woman. This can happen when we work too often and for too long. Whether it be with a stranger or a friend, striking up a conversation can provide you with the ideas you need to write. Plus, it’s good for you. Humans are social animals, we’re not meant to be alone for long stretches. You might be emailing and slacking with clients and colleagues, but it’s not the same as face-to-face interaction. Schedule a time in the week to meet up with someone for coffee. Scroll through your contacts and call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Tell them what you’re writing about. You never know, they might be able to provide valuable input. If you’re more of an introvert and solitude is kind of your thing, you may still experience writer’s block. Take this as an opportunity to meet new people.
Writer’s block is normal and can strike whenever. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing or who you’re writing for, sometimes we just get stuck. Once you’ve accepted the imperfection of your brain, get into the habit of correcting it.