Breaking writer’s block

I’ve worked as a writer/ad creative and producer for over 20 years. Needless to say, I’ve felt blocked more than a few times. The most important thing about breaking writer’s block is not to freak out. It’s called writer’s block because we all experience it from time to time and to my knowledge no one has ever died. Stress is usually the number one factor but it can also be a huge motivator once you get used to dealing with it.

Here are some techniques I use when I’m facing breaking writer’s block:

Clear your mind: Take a moment to concentrate on one thing to stop the panic. Some people meditate and some will do a breathing exercise. Try concentrating on the act of breathing and nothing else. Do this for a minute or two. Now get back to work refreshed.

Move: Sometimes when you can’t control your internal stimulus to achieve focus, it may be easier to change the external ones by getting up and moving. This could include leaving the office for a coffee bar. One agency I worked at had a library – I’d head in there with a notepad or laptop if I was feeling stuck at my desk. Changing just a little bit of the external input can have a huge effect on how you feel and thus your ability to write.

Take a minute to straighten your desk and office: Is your desk cluttered? Maybe it’s having an effect on you. Ask any psychologist, environments have a profound effect on behavior.

Reset: Get up, go get a bottle of water or a fresh cup of coffee. Go through your routine again.

Invert the process: Flip the problem on it’s head. Sure this sounds silly but how would you do it backwards. Start doing it wrong and then fix it. Boom, now you have an idea.

Work through the bad stuff: Just write the bad stuff and get it out of your system. You’ll have wasted no more time than you would sitting their beating your head against a wall. And now you can’t write anything bad because you’ve written the bad stuff already. Don’t believe me, then you haven’t tried hard enough.

Learn/borrow from the masters: If you’re stuck on solving a problem, look how other people solved similar problems. If you’re writing a novel and have some really hard  exposition to deal with, how does Don Delillo handle it? Writing a screenplay and need to introduce a character in a cool way, who better to look at than Quintin Tarantino? Working on an ad? I can think of a few websites to look at. I’m not saying steal, look at the mechanics of how they solved the problem and see if you can use it as inspiration for solving your own problems.

Drop and give me 20: This is a newer one for me. I’ll credit Paul Lewis for this one, I used to go for a walk or run but according to Paul, even a short burst of exercise can decrease the cortisol from stress and improve cognition. Sure you may feel stupid doing pushups in the office but not as stupid as missing a deadline.

These are the ways I’ve developed to break writer’s block over the last couple decades. What are yours?

Posted on: September 5, 2017, by :