Writing slump is real! I am going through one right now. I started writing this article 5 days back and it should have been completed by now, but instead here I am – hitting delete more often than I would like. As an unemployed, freelance writer, I have a lot of time on my hands. In theory, extra time on hand is always better than no time. But for someone like me, extra time often makes it difficult for me to navigate my emotions and fall into a routine.
I seem to have two extremes – my brain is either on a hyperactive mode or a complete slump. When the setting is on the former, I would have a 100 thoughts per minute – a new blog idea or a course I want to sign-up for.. it’s a super-fast and highly motivated energy buzzing through my entire being. That’s when I get great ideas. That is also when I get random thoughts from my sub-conscious/gut that when acted upon often lead to positive results. But on the other hand, when I’m in a lazy slump, you’ll find me curled up with a book and obsessing over my lack of motivation (and a huge task list).
To give you a better understanding. Here is my current to-do list:
- Start work on 5 blog articles
- Explore the concept of a weekly themed blog feature
- Finish reading 2 books for review
- Be regular with learning web development coding
- Subscription to learning Spanish
- Practice reiki and meditation
- Practice animal communication
- Signed-up for a Masters in Psychology distance learning course
- Ongoing freelance projects and pitch for new clients
In the last 2 weeks I realise I have taken too much on my plate. I went through each item to try and see if I can remove anything, but you know what? I don’t want to. When lockdown hit and I quit my job, I told myself that this is the time to do everything I ever wanted to do. So while watching Money Heist and Narcos, I felt a strong urge to expand my Spanish vocabulary beyond Puta and Por Favor. Hence the Spanish course. Next year, I’d want to move my website to a self-hosted platform. Hence the interest in web development.
Inspite of a growing list of interests, I’m most passionate about writing – whether it is working on my own blog or understanding my client’s needs and creating beautiful content pieces. But with a love for writing, also comes the fear of failure, self-doubt and the writer’s block.
9 Ways to Get Rid of the Writer’s Block
1. Explore a different passion
I love to write. I love how my jumbled thoughts flow so seamlessly to paper. Writing helps me to be a better reader and a better thinker. It allows me to question myself as a person. But I’d be lying if I say that I can write every day for hours at a stretch. There are days when I don’t even want to open my laptop. Those are the days when I’ll turn to my other interests (one of the many listed above), allowing my writing brain to recuperate.
2. Do something completely opposite
I get deeply annoyed with mindless TV. At times when my procrastination has gone out of hand, i’ll switch on Netflix and put on a ‘reality’ series like Selling Sunset or Love is Blind or something like that. Within a couple of hours, I’ll be ready to pull myself up together. This is when i’ll either grab a book or open my laptop to get going. I call this method shocking the brain to do something productive.
3. Move around
Pretty much all self-help articles have this as a point. Move around not in the form of cardio, HIIT session or a run, but as simple as get up and walk to the kitchen for a piece of chocolate. On your way there, pat your dog and wake her up from her sleep. Throw her a couple of biscuits and let her chase you around for more. Just by stepping away from your desk, you are hitting the refresh button on your brain.
4. Leave your desk behind
We writers love our workspace. A comfy chair and a quiet space to get the creative juices flowing. While the brain loves a sense of familiarity, but when the block sets in – the familiar needs to be shaken. I love to move around my house and find cozy spots. Now with winter coming, I am looking forward to escaping to the terrace post lunch to soak up some sun. An hour on the couch won’t kill your back!
5. Sleep it off
If your writing can be postponed to the next day, then great. But if you’re running on a tight deadline, then instead of forcing words to spill out – take a nap. A 20-min shut eye calms the brain and when you wake up you’re more likely to feel rejuvenated and motivated to get down to business.
6. Start a daily task-list
Every morning, before starting your day, jot down your priority items for the day. My to-do list (from above) right now seems crazy. There is no way I can possibly touch upon each of these items everyday. Instead, I have now started to break it down day-wise and it may look something like this:
- Web Development: 1 Hr
- Meditation/Grounding practice: 30 mins
- Write a blog article: 1-2 Hrs
- Finish 50 pages from my current book
- Freelance writing job search/networking
If you can plan a routine and stick to it, that’s great! I can’t. So instead of planning days in advance, I only decide in the morning what I feel like doing that day. If you give yourself the freedom to take each day as it comes, you also feel a push to make sure the tasks of the day are completed by the time you hit the bed at night.
7. Ramble on
The dictionary definition of ramble is: talk or write at length in a confused or inconsequential way. Best way to get yourself out of the block is to ramble. Open a new Word document and just start typing – what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling this way, your latest dream, what annoyed you recently etc. Just let your thoughts guide your fingers as they type. No heading, no grammar checks just an open playing field for you to run around (mentally!).
8. Time yourself
When I feel stuck and unable to form words, I challenge myself to write uninterrupted for 10 mins. I put my phone on silent, turn it upside down, close all irrelevant tabs and turn on the DND setting on my laptop. No distractions and the pressure to make the most of those few minutes will compel you to write something – anything. Start with 10 mins and slowly increase it to longer times.
9. Let the Oxytocin flow
It’s scientifically proven that release of Oxytocin, the happiness hormone has a direct affect on productivity. So if you’re spending a couple of hours a day scrolling through Instagram reels looking at dog and cat videos, then that might not be so bad. Checking out dog videos, really makes me happy, like filling-my-heart-with-a-warm-golden-light happy. Find your thing and use it whenever you need that kick.
Writer’s block is one of the most common feeling writers face multiple times in their career. It comes with the job. There is no avoiding it and the best you can do is to find your own ways to deal with it. It’s interesting to know that some of the most famous writers (Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, JK Rowling) too came face-to-face with it at some point in their lives.
How do you pull yourself out from the writing slump? Any unique ways that work for you?