By Devin Kreuger
I envy the writers who can set their fingers on a keyboard and just start creating content. For me, every word is a struggle, and that’s assuming I even have a topic in mind. I second-guess every decision and reconsider each word. The blank white simulated paper on my computer screen taunts me.
Usually when trapped by writers’ block, I distract myself online, surfing through my bookmarked favourite sites, and scanning the twitter-verse for inspiration. And it was while doing exactly that today that I was inspired! (Perhaps you figured that out from my Buzzfeed-worthy click bait title.)
So here they are, my almost-completely unscientific 7 steps to overcoming writers’ block:
1. Procrastinate. Nothing motivates like a deadline. If you’re not staring down a deadline, then you have been granted a gift—time. So take it. While procrastinating, do what I did: surf the web, check out twitter, read up on what’s happening. Inspiration could be right around the corner, and you just may stumble upon it while procrastinating.
2. Play a Game. Recent research has shown that playing games can help with post-traumatic stress disorder, so surely taking a 10-minute break to play the relatively mindless video game of your choice (think Tetris, Candy Crush, Tapped Out, etc.) must help with writers’ block. Right?
3. Hydrate. Make a pot of tea, or grab a glass of water. Be careful with over-caffeinating, but otherwise, get some liquid into you. Having a beverage handy to sip on between sentences keeps your hands busy while not distracting from the mental concentration of choosing the next words to flow from your typing fingers.
4. Listen to Music. Turn on the tunes to drown out unwelcome auditory distractions. I prefer atmospheric, orchestral music or EDM, but anything without distinct words works for me. Others find they concentrate best when listening to their favourite bands or singers—songs that already worn comfortable grooves into their consciousness. Set up the audio cues that work best for you.
5. Move. Get up and move, especially if you’ve been sitting for a while. It’s astonishing how tight our necks and shoulders can get when we’re at a computer for any length of time. Stretch them out. Do a few squats. Getting your body moving will alleviate some of the physical manifestations of stress associated with writers’ block.
6. Focus. You’ve procrastinated (see step 1) and now you’re facing that deadline like a deer in the headlights. So now it’s time to focus. Put down the game (step 2), and take a sip of your beverage (step 3). Pause for a moment to listen to whatever is playing (step 4), and do a last-minute neck & shoulder stretch (step 5). Take a deep breath. You can do this.
7. Fake it. If inspiration hasn’t yet struck, and you’re still struggling to get words out, embrace the concept of ‘free writing’—when you just let your stream of consciousness flow through your fingers. And just like that, there are words on the screen that, just moments ago, was intimidatingly blank. That wasn’t so hard, was it? And since there are already some words on the screen, it’s (theoretically) easier to add a few more. “Fake it until you make it” is easy to do with a word-processor, since you can readily delete the faked parts once the real words start flowing.
Devin Kreuger is Director of the Office of the Vice-Principal Research at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He can be contacted at [email protected] Visit www.utm.utoronto.ca/research