How to Beat Writer’s Block
This article about how to beat writer’s block first appeared in FlyPaper by Soundfly. I reprint it here with permission and I encourage you to check out their courses. You can get a 15% discount code on a subscription using the promo code AJTRUMM15. Finally, you may come across affiliate links, and I may make a commission if you buy.
I don’t know what to say about this. Blah blah blah. Doop dee doo. La la la writer’s block shmiter’s block.
As you can see, anyone can run into a little writer’s block from time to time. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, the waxing and waning of creative energy is an important part of the process, and everyone experiences a lull in creative flow at least once in their career – and usually it comes at regular intervals.
So, creative professionals have an entire toolbox dedicated to getting back their mojo in a predictable way, so they can go on meeting deadlines, writing hits, and winning Grammys.
And as it turns out, generating creativity is a predictable process, and writer’s block is not some mysterious demon that rears its ugly head because you’ve some how angered the muses with your unworthy lyrics or dastardly lifestyle.
Writer’s block usually indicates something in you that can be addressed – an emotional blockage, physical exhaustion, or a simple running out of ideas.
Here, we’ll go over some of the best, most tried and true remedies for the dread blockage (besides just using this thing), so you can get on with penning your next great work of art.
Fill The Well
Writer’s block is often the result of putting out a lot of creative energy and not getting any back. So one of the best ways to get your juice back is to consume other people’s art. Read a new book, explore new music, get out and enjoy a movie, take in a play.
Pro tip: in-person experiences like going to see a live concert or comedian usually have more impact.
Writing music isn’t exactly physically taxing. Getting up and moving around will not only help you maintain your health, exercise has also been shown to increase creative thinking. Getting a good workout in on a regular basis is a necessary part of being a healthy person, and also an important part of a strong creative flow.
One of the best authorities in the business of building up creativity is Julia Cameron’s “The Artists Way”. Walking is a crucial part of Julia’s method, and for good reason. Not only is it exercise, but it gets you out of the house, seeing new things, interacting with the detail of the world, and refreshing your perspective.
Artists tend to romanticize the all-nighter. While the creative vibe at night can be super compelling, in general lack of sleep does damage to clear thinking and creativity. Best to get plenty of sleep to go along with other healthy habits, if you want to remain creative for long.
Sometimes you just need to get out (or stay in) and have some fun! Make something weird, run around the room, rock out with your…ahem…friends. Socialize or play a game or do whatever it is that makes you forget everything and just be. If you’re lucky enough to get juiced up like this by being on stage, then you can use your gigs to have a blast and rejuvenate your creativity.
Sometimes the way to get out of writer’s block is to write your way out. Journaling in the morning or taking your instrument and just improv’ing for half an hour can work wonders. When journaling or brainstorming, make sure not to edit, or even think about what you’re writing. Write three or four full pages by hand without stopping. Even if the whole first page says “I have nothing to say” over and over again.
Perfectionist? Stop It
We’re always hearing about some great maestro or famous producer who’s just the ultimate perfectionist. Every little detail has to be right and she never quits and never accepts anything until its absolutely, totally, unequivocally perfect.
Poppycock. Perfectionism will stop you dead in your tracks. There’s a point, when you’re finishing a song, or if you’re a mix engineer, where you’ll need to be thorough about the details. But even then you have to let things be, and when you’re thinking about your next song, you should not be concerned about how great it might be or trying to get it right, much less perfect. Leave obsessiveness to the people writing about you.
Get Away From It
Sometimes you just have to let things lie. If you’re in the middle of something and you’re stuck, let your subconscious work on that puzzle while you take a walk or learn to cook. As a creative, you shouldn’t try to prove your worth by sitting in front of the computer 16 hours a day. Creativity is as much about letting it happen as it is about doing something.
Another pro-tip: try hanging it up for the day before you’re out of ideas. Just stop working while you’re still into it and come back tomorrow.
Find A Purpose
It’s amazing what having a reason to do something does for creativity. Not just a deep, spiritual drive to create. No, what we mean here is a real, tangible, reason. For example, getting paid to write an article about writer’s block. Money can sometimes be a mind killer in the arts, but sometimes doing a job that has a real, tangible purpose will be just the kick in the pants you need.
It doesn’t have to be specifically about money and you don’t have to wait to get hired. Book a gig in 3 weeks and promise to perform all new songs, for example.
Look Back At Your Own Stuff
It may sound a little self-aggrandizing, but sometimes you can get a real spark from listening to your own old stuff. If you’re like most of us, you remember your old stuff as being absolutely terrible, but with a fresh perspective, you may be surprised at your own talent. This exercise can help you remember how creative you really are.
Pro-tip: Watch out for wanting to re-do your old work. You know more now, so you might hear something you could fix. Better to move on, letting your former self inspire you.
Finally, it’s worth acknowledging that writer’s block can happen when your emotional state is not its best. Psychologists have identified a number of deep-seeded reasons that writers and artists get stuck for long periods of time, and there’s no shame in admitting you may have reached an impasse that’s bigger than normal. After all, artists do deal in some pretty heavy emotions, and life does throw us a lot of curve balls. So, if you find that nothing is working, or the joy you once had for creating seems gone for good, it’s not a bad idea to seek the help of a qualified counselor.
It doesn’t mean you’re crazy! It means you’re a dedicated craftsperson, who knows how to do the work to keep in top shape. Just like an athlete would seek the help of a physical therapist when injured.
Ok, Let It Flow!
Every creative person has their own way of working, and that includes getting past blockages. Let us know some of your favorite techniques, and the next time you’re stuck, see if something – or everything – from the above list helps.
And now – let it flow!