Updated: Mar 17
It's that condition that you (well maybe not you specifically) experience when you sit down to write something, and nothing happens.
You can't find the right words to get started, or you don't quite know what to say.
It can be kind of scary.
Particularly if you have a deadline.
Even more so if you have taken on a gig as the off-season caretaker of a remote hotel in the Colorado Rockies.
I know some will say it isn't real.
That it is more like a grand form of procrastination.
But I have experienced it myself from time to time.
And it can be a bit challenging to overcome.
Which is why I thought I would share a few things that I have found helpful when I have found myself taunted by a blank screen and a cursor that just keeps blinking and blinking and...
Do the dishes: Well, it doesn't have to be the dishes. But what I have found is that walking away from the computer and doing a relatively menial task, like tidying, laundry, or baking, helps the mind relax to the point where ideas start to formulate. I know it's probably not easy to do those things at your office, but that is where an Easy Bake Oven is your best friend. Just be sure to make enough cakes for everyone.
Free associate: One way to open the mind hole is to randomly write things that come to you until you clear the clutter from your mind, stumble on a good idea, or write a sequel to Finnegan's Wake.
Take a walk: You have legs. You should use them. A nice perambulation can lead to inspiration, if not good, strong muscles.
Read: If you have a topic you want to explore, why not see how other writers have tackled it? It may inspire a fresh approach or a way to wrangle all that information that has you feeling overwhelmed.
Remove distractions: Sure, it's interesting what that dog is doing outside your window, or to see Judge Judy tell people to put on their listening ears, or to read an article like this about writer's block, but when you eliminate distractions, it is easier to focus, not to mention start writing.
Meditate: Ten or fifteen minutes of deep focused breathing and mindfulness can usually spark an idea or two, even if it is 'how to avoid cramps when sitting cross-legged during meditation.'
Begin anywhere: When writing, it is easy to get hung up over the opening paragraph or sentence. That's what everything flows from. But it is possible to start with supporting content that will form the body of your work and expand out from that. Oftentimes, you'll find that getting the ideas down helps immensely in crafting that opening passage. So just write 'amazing opening goes here' and work up the other elements first.
Stream some tunes: I don't know if music really soothes the savage beast, but I do find it easier to write when I listen to something like John Coltrane's take on Greensleeves or My Favorite Things.
Write about not being able to write: Kind of meta, I know, but it is valid writing, and sometimes just expressing the fact that you are frozen takes the curse off so you can start writing what you really want to say.
Make some playtime: I once read that Paul Simon developed some of his lyrics by bouncing a ball against a wall, which probably explains how he came up with Red Rubber Ball, but not Sounds of Silence. I can say that there are times when I've been under pressure for a slogan or two that this approach has done wonders for me, but probably not my downstairs neighbors (except it did prompt some strongly worded letters of complaint, so, yeah, it works).
So there you have it. Ten tips to help you overcome writer's block and finally write the great American novel, a product slogan, or just a Yelp review of that restaurant that thinks three bacon-wrapped scallops constitutes a 'serving.' Did I miss something? Is there a tip you have that you'd like to share? Leave a comment and let me know, unless you are experiencing writer's block. In which case, get out that Easy Bake Oven...