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My name is Samantha Walters and I am what you would consider a “millennial executive” over here at Colocation America. Every Monday (get it, get it, Samantha on Mondays – the S.O.M column) I will write a little something on whatever is on my mind from business practices to current events and everything else in between.
This week’s topic is on… um, it will come to me…
This week’s topic is on… wind… it is super windy today in L.A.
This week’s topic is on… some great idea that I am sure I will get if I just get up and walk around
This week’s topic is on… all the random facts in my head
This week’s topic is on… writer’s block (yep, I went there).
Welcome to Samantha’s Guide to Overcoming Writer’s Block.
But before we jump into it, let me be honest, the irony is not lost to me – I am writing an article on writer’s block because, I myself, am experiencing a moment of writer’s block. With that said, this is not my first, nor will it be my last, case of writer’s block. So, how do you get through it?
I am sure many of you have experienced writer’s block. If not, congrats and here is what you are missing: writer’s block is simply the condition of being unable to think of what to write. This condition does not just happen to the lone blogger in today’s crazy world but has been documented in such greats as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Joseph Mitchell.
Apparently, the condition was first described in 19 47 by psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler. A follower of Freud, Bergler blamed “oral masochism and a milk-denying mother” for writer’s block. Although there is no evidence that you being bottle-fed leads to more frequent cases of writer’s block, it is something that has been documented since, well, 1947. Since then, people have been coming up with “coping strategies” to help a writer move past this, here are mine:
Pre-Coping Strategy: Create a Vibe
Perhaps the most important thing I do during my writing process is creating the right vibe. For me, this includes a clean environment and the perfect music. Before I can even start writing, I have to make sure everything is clean. For me, it’s a way to cleanse my mind and get rid of any distractions or clutter that may prevent from a clear path from brain to paper.
Crazy enough, after I am done cleaning my space and my mind, I put on music. Not just any music but music I have heard so many times that people question my sanity. You know, those songs you feel comfortable choosing as your last karaoke song of the night, if you catch my drift. For me, it’s all about sound in the background so I do not experience that deafening silence (funny enough, the song THE QUIET by Troye Sivan just came on). By choosing music that I know full heartedly, I am able to concentrate on what is in front of me – a blank word document.
For you, this vibe may be silence in a dark room and away from everyone. For others, it may be going to that busy hipster coffee shop where people come up to you asking if you are a screenwriter (remember, I live in L.A., that is real life). Whatever vibe you need, create it before you start writing; it will put you in the right mindset.
Coping Strategy 1: Go Down the Rabbit Hole
To not be confused with Urban Dictionary’s definition, in my office “going down the rabbit hole” means getting lost down a research path you didn’t mean to be on. For example, you think of a topic, any topic, and you go to Google and you search for some “resources” you can use. Next thing you know, you clicked on another article and another and before you know it, you have spent 10 minutes learning all you can about ant colonies.
Now let’s take this inevitable event as a strategy for getting rid of writer’s block. While you are figuring out what to write, think of a couple of topics, words, things, whatever, and Google it. Once you dive into some articles, let your brain take over. Whatever seems interesting on the page, click on it. Whatever idea pops in your head, write it down. Essentially, just let your own unconscious curious mind take over. Do not think too hard about it. If this does not jolt a thought, move on to next strategy.
Coping Strategy 2: Simon Says Jump
Unlike my childhood best friend, I am not one for science. It’s not that I don’t get it or can’t do it, it’s just not my thing, if you feel me. However, one thing I have always found interesting is the way the human body works. For one thing, are you aware that a pulse-pounding workout has the same effect on the brain as, say, a cup of coffee (minus jitters)? According to science, when you are working out your heartbeat and circulation increases, you are filled with energy, and your thinking becomes sharper and clearer. Brain and Cognition published a study that found that after 30 minutes of exercise (they had people bike ride), people completed a cognitive test faster than they did before excising. Even cooler, they found that the “brain-boost” lasted at least 52 minutes after the ride.
So how can this help you with a writer’s block? Instead of sitting around trying to think of the next Pulitzer Prize article, get up and go exercise. Take a break. Sometimes the best thing to do is walk away, get some fresh air, and, apparently, get your heart rate up. Go to your gym, run with your dog, do some jumping jacks with your kids or, perhaps, enjoy some Afternoon Delight. Whatever you do, do not just sit there.
Coping Strategy 3: You Do You
As I am sure you are aware, the causes of writer’s block are endless and depend on numerous factors. For some it’s the fear of criticism and the struggle towards perfection. For others, it’s the stress associated with our ever-so powerful insecurities. Whatever your trigger is, it’s probably not coming from a place filled with flowers and unicorns. Most likely, your writer’s block is wiggling its way out of the darkest parts of your mind. To combat this, go to a happy place. See happy friends. Read happy books. Be happy. Go to an environment with people that make you feel good about yourself and your opinions. Remind yourself why you like to write and the positive effect it has on your life. In other words, you do you in all its glory!
Post-Coping Strategy: Write Something!
Did you notice something interesting about these “coping” strategies? None of them included writing. At no point did I mention getting out a sheet of paper and putting your pen to it. For me, when I have a writer’s block there no writing happening. However, I do get the creative juices flowing doing the aforementioned strategies. After I try this, the next thing I do is do some freewriting, just writing stream of consciousness style. Also, I am known for doing some pretty awesome brainstorming things (all off line and on paper) where I tempt to write or even draw whatever is on my mind. Although these less formal writing strategies won’t lead to the next Noble Prize in Literature, it will help levitate that fear of writing.
So without further ado, get to it!