You did it. You mastered the art of self-discipline. You woke up before noon, and you didn't touch the snooze button. After having breakfast and a cup of coffee or two, you went straight to the construction site (my metaphor for your writing project). No social media, no celebrity gossip websites, no TV. But when you sat down to write, your mind went as blank as the page on your screen. Writer's block has come to keep you company again. How do you get rid of this pest?Just as roaches don't thrive in clean, dry places, writer's block doesn't flourish in energized, creatively nourished minds. Ironically, the writer's lifestyle is fertile ground for writer's block. Most writers can recall times where they spent days, even weeks, alone in their confined work spaces, moving only for an occasional bathroom break or snack. Forget changing clothes. The bravely honest ones might brag about how much water they saved Mother Earth by skipping showers.
This obsessive approach is necessary when deadlines or big projects come up. (Even then, please squeeze in five minutes for a shower, and change your underwear, if you're wearing any.) But when it becomes a long-term routine, our minds get so exhausted, forming even the simplest thoughts overwhelms us. Witty dialogue? Clever metaphors? Sexy scenery? Forget it.Even when we're putting our writing aside long enough to see the sky and our fellow humans, writer's block will still invade our space if we don't develop creative fitness habits. Just as athletes must take care of their bodies off the court, we writers must take care of our minds away from the screen. How do we do that?
1. Technology in moderation.
I get it. Modern life, especially for us freelancers, forces us into codependent relationships with our smartphones, our Facebook and Twitter accounts, and our email. If we ignore our iPhones and our inbox for long, we WILL miss assignments, as well as business and social engagements. I've made that very mistake, and I'd still be kicking my butt if it weren't glued to a chair right now.
But spend too much time on your computer, and watch writer's block rear its hard head when it's time to write.
Surfing the web might not leave you breathless and sweaty (or it might, depending on what sites you like), but it's taxing on your brain. You may be honing in on one Facebook message, but your brain is taking in the whole thing, from where to go for the best enchiladas to the new gym your friends like. How exhausting to process all of this information!
Do your burnt out brain a favor and unplug. Just as you find ways to cut expenses, find ways to cut time spent on electronic devices. Do you really have to spend two hours watching online videos? Or would an hour do? Do you have to check your phone every five minutes, or can you let a half hour go by?
To overcome writer's block, overcome your addiction to technology. Or at least be smart about it.
2. Stay creatively active.
Unlike your computer, you can't shut down and reboot creativity at your leisure. Like your computer, creativity can crash without proper maintenance.
How do you keep the metaphorical blue screen of death away? Plug into creative outlets on a regular basis. Read magazines and check out exhibitions. A picture tells a thousand words, some of which can go in your writing.
Unconsciously, we adopt the mindset of those around us, so if we want to be creative, we need to be with right (minded) people. Spend time with artistic people, be they actors, musicians, or other writers. You never know when they will come up with a funny joke or metaphor that inspires you. Be sure to thank them or give them the appropriate credit for it!
Like the cockroach, writer's block will make an occasional cameo, despite your best efforts to make your haven an unsafe place for it. It's an inevitable part of the writing process. Don't let this intimidate or discourage you, because you can overcome writer's block with the right preventative habits.
Like the cockroach, the writer's block is more afraid of you than you are of it.