All outdoor writers, even copywriters lucky enough to live in Devon, have moments when the words refuse to flow. You know the feeling, you sit staring at your screen, your mind starts to wander and then, bingo, you’re faffing around with one of the million and one other things your technology has to offer and your 1,000 words are as far away as 1,000 miles in a slow Toyota campervan (other campervans are available). The topic of writer’s block must be one of the most commonly discussed issues on the internet. I’m not sure I believe in this procrastination-ridden phenomenon but here are the 5 things I usually do when my writing reduces its usual flow.
I avoid giving the problem a name
Personally I don’t find the name ‘writer’s block’ helpful. If I am struggling to write, the cause is probably something physical like being over-tired or mental like worrying about an invoice. I tend to acknowledge the problem but refer to its cause rather than its effect. This works because causes can usually be dealt with in a methodical manner, leaving me free to continue writing once they are no longer an issue.
I take a look at my bank balance
I know this sounds a tad brutal but money, or the lack of it, can be a great motivator. If I find myself drifting away from my paid writing tasks, a quick glance at my online banking, and a reminder that my current article is going to pay the next month’s mortgage, can be a surprisingly good catalyst to getting on with the job in hand. The scientists will tell you that money doesn’t actually make the world go round but, in the microcosm that is freelance writing, it can certainly help put pen to paper.
I talk to my friends (or even my enemies)
The great thing about conversation and social interaction is that it is unpredictable. As a writer I have complete control over the interactions happening on my page. When I meet with other people, I lose that control and there is something about the edginess of conversation that reignites my creativity. Make no mistake here, although I enjoy and value social media chatter, this utilises the typed word and is no substitute, in this incidence, for face to face or at least voice to voice conversations.
I create my own deadlines
Although I do get the odd writing request that requires an immediate response, much of my writing has a far bigger time allowance than I need to give it. This is great but the knowledge of that ‘spare’ time can lead to procrastination and excuses not to write. At the start of each week I look at my work schedule and set self-imposed deadlines for each piece of writing. I genuinely find that writer’s block type issues only occur when I have given them time to do so.
I left this one to the end because it is the most predictable answer to problems with writing. There is however a reason for its predictability and that is because getting outside works. Creativity flows best if given a stimulus and this doesn’t just apply to outdoor writing. By taking myself outside I am removing myself from my office and opening myself up to the elements. By stimulating the parts of my brain that operate my senses, I seem to be able to reignite the sluggish brain cells that have stopped me writing.
Everybody experiences writing in different ways and we would be really interested to hear how you deal with those times when the words just won’t flow. Do let us know in the comments below.