*This article was written and edited by Tracey Spicer’s mentee Nicole Iliagoueva
Writer’s block is something you’re probably familiar with, but the confusion lies in knowing how to overcome it.
Say if you’re going to the doctor, the first question they’ll ask you is “what’s wrong?” and get you to relay your symptoms to understand the situation and give you a remedy. Similarly, you should ask yourself the same thing when it comes to figuring out why you have writer’s block. What’s been going on in your life? how are you feeling? Self-reflection could very much lead to your answer and then to some personalised strategies.
In saying that, a thought often attributed to writer’s block is believing that in order to start writing, you need to wait for inspiration to come to you and that can be rather unhelpful, especially if you have a deadline approaching. We all have days in which we’re uninspired, and therefore doing things based off sole willpower is unreliable. However, when willpower is paired with habit, that’s when the magic happens.
To help set those habits, here are five strategies (which you can then personalise) backed up by hundreds of authors that will help you beat writer’s block.
Take a Break
Taking a break like going for a walk or doing yoga should already be something you do regularly, and if it’s been three days since you left your house, struggling with writing, let alone anything, shouldn’t be surprising. Planning ahead is a form of self-care, which is why building a habit like getting some fresh air and doing some exercise in between work will be essential to staying motivated and giving you a new perspective. They say that spending even 15 minutes outdoors can boost your mood. And calling your friend while you’re doing
so will also be helpful, as your conversation could leave you feeling inspired and reinvigorated. Have a think about what activities inspire you and wake up your mind. Is it reading a fantasy novel? watching an artsy movie? listening to classical music? And then do it on your break.
However, burnout can happen, and that’s where taking 12-24 hours or longer off from writing is necessary. Prioritising your health will help you generally in life and more specifically, with overcoming writers block. Often it just takes waking up on the right side of the bed to get back into it.
Adapt your expectations
Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to start. And that may be from having unrealistic expectations because of a harsh inner critic. It’s good to ask yourself, will this piece of writing be perfect the first time around? The answer is no. Is that okay? Yes, in fact it’s very normal. Nobody is perfect and expecting that from yourself can lead to overthinking, censoring your creativity and withdrawing from writing by doing things like procrastinating, because the pressure is too high. Instead, set your intention as vomiting out a draft and editing after. Adapting your expectations will make writing easier for you, and after doing this several times, it’ll turn into a habit and you won’t have to think about it as much.
Limit the time you spend writing
This may seem counterproductive, but structure is everything and that means giving yourself set hours and sticking to them. Procrastination is a common problem – which can come from high expectations as mentioned in the above advice – and can be countered by allocating a certain time to write. You can structure those hours based off your energy levels, but if you don’t have that luxury, when you’re supposed to be in the office, or when you have the time. It helps to break down your writing tasks in a way that works for you, so that tackling them doesn’t seem so scary. And once you’ve done your hours, really allow yourself to recognise that and be proud of yourself.
Giving yourself time to switch off is so important, however especially if working from home, we tend to work overtime as it’s hard to separate work from home. Or uninvited feelings of guilt parade in – something women are more prone to feeling than men – that instil thoughts like “well I didn’t get as much work done as I hoped, so let me just get an hour more in”, and before you know it, that hour turns into three. If you’re still feeling the adrenaline from writing and are inspired to keep going, make sure you’ve worked out how much time you need before having to eat, complete your initial plans and then go to sleep. Setting an alarm for when you need to stop working is also practical. If your reason for wanting to keep going is brought on by shame or guilt, know that that’s not conducive and will probably lead you to taking longer to finish because of fatigue, and end with going to sleep late, which will kickstart an unhealthy cycle.
During those work hours, it’s important to eliminate distractions so that you don’t procrastinate and then wonder why you have writer’s block. The only natural solution here is to limit and / or take away those distractions, whether that’s by turning off the TV, putting ear plugs in if you’ve got loud neighbours or sounds of a lawnmower in the distance. If you find yourself wanting to go on social media, put your phone in another room, or if you need it near you for calls, delete social media apps from your phone or use an app that blocks you from your social media (which there are plenty of). It also helps to create an organised and calm environment, where there’s less clutter to distract you. That could mean cleaning up your desk / workspace and lighting a nice smelling candle or getting a diffuser with essential oils going. If you’re working from home, DEFINITELY don’t write from your bed as the comfort and sudden feeling of tiredness will get you distracted in no time. Best to separate sleep and work. Another tip to remain focused is reminding yourself why you’re writing in the first place, and what better way to do that than to have a physical reminder. You can do this by writing your motivation on a sticky note where it’s visible, as well as motivational quotes, having a photo frame of family and friends on your desk, or anything else that suits you and your goals.
Try something new
Sometimes the simple act of mixing it up a little can deter writer’s block. Doing this by switching writing tools can be a breakthrough, which can be done by writing with a pen and paper for a day instead of using your computer. Or if you’re working from home, changing your environment by going to a library or setting up a chair and table in the garden.
Writer’s block is something we all face, so now it’s up to you to take this advice and apply it to your daily life.
This article was originally published on TraceySpicer.co