Would You Like to Bust Through Your Writing Block?
You know what it feels like to have writer’s block, don’t you?
You sit in front of your computer and nothing happens. No ideas come. Your mind is a blank slate.
When you think of writer’s block, you think of nothingness – a void in which you can’t think at all, when you really need to think of something spectacular to write about.
What if I told you that the vast majority of the time, nothingness isn’t the problem?
In fact, what if I told you that the real problem you’re facing is the exact opposite of nothingness?
Up until now, there’s been no name for this phenomenon – but today, you and I are coining a phrase together… writer’s log jam.
More often than not, writer’s log jam is what’s really clogging your mind, freezing you in your tracks, and stopping you from giving life to your next great creation.
The good news is that you can beat writer’s log jam – but before you can fix the problem, you have to understand the nature of the beast.
Although writer’s block and writer’s log jam both result in frustration and lack of progress, how they materialize is very different.
Imagine yourself sitting facing an open doorway. You’re waiting for a courier to walk through and deliver an idea to you so you can write about it.
With writer’s block, the courier never comes. The doorway remains empty. You wait, patiently at first – then not so patiently as time drags on – but nothing happens. Writer’s block is seen as the absence of ideas.
Writer’s log jam is the opposite side of the same coin. Picture yourself facing the same open doorway – still waiting for a courier to walk in and hand you an idea.
But instead of one courier coming through at a time… 100 or 1000 of them, each with a different idea, come rushing at the same moment.
Since it’s all happening at once, they’re all jammed into the doorway, clogging the opening and making it impassable.
Just like a log jam.
They’re all shouting their ideas at you, but you can’t make sense of any of it because of all the noise and chaos.
That’s writer’s log jam. This is what blocks your writing. It’s the inability to write because of too many influences, too much information, and too many different ideas banging against each other in your head.
You may know writer’s log jam by the terms over-stimulation or information overload, but whatever you call it, it’s destructive to your creativity.
In our digital age, information is abundant. At any given moment, you’re only a few swipes, taps or clicks away from more information than you could possibly consume. Or retain.
But you try, don’t you? Creative types like us writers love to read, research, curate, deconstruct, and analyze. It’s our curse. And our blessing.
If you’re someone who writes and creates, you crave information like a foodie craves junk food. And when there’s a limitless supply of what you crave, what usually happens? You over-indulge.
With information, over-indulging can lead to over-stimulation – writer’s log jam. With all the information you consume, you literally become too smart for your own good.
Fortunately, unlike in the case of a foodie, your craving can’t kill you. But it can kill your creative process.
Sound physiological and psychological data link overstimulation with anxiety, confusion, helplessness, and even depression. If you’ve ever been stuck on what to write about, I’m sure you can relate to at least one of these emotions.
It’s likely that the real problem is that you’ve been exposed to too much information, too many ideas – too many stimuli. You have so many thoughts crashing together that you can’t make sense of them.
You have an abundance problem!
That’s something you can learn to live with, right? Especially if you know how to bust up that log jam.
When you’re overstimulated and experiencing what I call writer’s log jam, less stimulation can be extremely beneficial.
Here are 7 tips to reboot your brain and bust up that log jam.
While no one likes being stuck, consider that having too many stimuli and too many thoughts is preferable to having none. Would you rather have too much money, time, shelter, food – or none at all?
Over-stimulation is frustrating, but it’s manageable and fixable. Allow yourself to feel gratitude for being fortunate enough to have too many ideas. That little shift in thinking may just help you straighten out the situation and find inspiration to push forward.
I’m as hyper-connected as anyone else. The idea of logging off, walking away and being completely unplugged terrifies me too. But you know what? The couple times a year when I do force myself to log off, shut down all my iDevices, and separate myself from tweets, likes and emails – I feel wonderful. Seriously – unplug for one day. Once your e-shakes go away, you’ll feel brand new.
I know. Everyone tells you that exercise is the answer to every problem, right? Well, there are some really good reasons for that. According to the American Psychological Association, even moderate exercise has a positive effect on mood, lessening anxiety, providing a sense of accomplishment, and allowing your brain to deal better with stress. All these things could help to untangle a writer’s cluttered mind. Go get your sweat on!
Sometimes you need to call on a trusted ally to set you straight. I was recently feeling unproductive because I had several articles still in development that I expected to have already completed.
When I shared this anxiety with a friend, I was surprised at her response. She laughed at me and said, “Are you kidding? I’m amazed at your productivity. You’ve had two major guest posts go live this week, one the week before, and you have a new post live on your own blog!” As it turns out, I was being negative and looking at the situation all wrong. You may be, too.
Share your anxiety, frustration, and “stuckness” with trusted advisors and best buddies. They’ll either help you through it – or make you realize you may not even have a problem.
Another common advice is to free write. This means to just start writing without regard to format, grammar or structure. Just write and write and write. But I’m going to suggest a twist on this one.
I want you to free write only about feeling stuck. Write about your emotions, why you think you’re stuck, and the ideas that you can’t seem to develop. Just dump all your thoughts and feelings about it onto the page. Complain, feel sorry for yourself, or blame someone else – but dump it all. Let all your frustration and negativity spill out through your writing.
At some point during the free writing session, you’ll either feel relieved because you vented – or you will have written the germ of a new idea that can help you move forward.
Recently, Jon Morrow wrote a brilliant post that seemed like it was written just for me. But the more I think about it, there’s at least one insanely valuable takeaway in it for every writer. Namely – do less.
Whatever it is in your life that you hope to be excellent at (in our case, writing), you need to put in a significant amount of quality time thinking about it. Not sort-of thinking – but deeply intense, contemplative thinking.
You need to understand that to achieve excellence, you’re probably going to have to trim some things out of your life. This is a tough one, but it’s a bitter pill that both you and I are going to have to swallow to take that next step to significance.
7: Accept that different projects will have a different flow
There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “Don’t push the river, it flows by itself.”
If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that sometimes you’re trying to push the river when you write. Just because your last piece flowed quickly and effortlessly doesn’t mean everything you write will flow at that speed. Accept that stuck is sometimes part of the creative process. As painful as it may be, let the river flow slowly if it needs to.
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
The next time you’re sitting in front of your computer pulling your hair out in clumps because you have no earthly idea how to proceed, stop and correctly assess the situation. Your problem likely isn’t the nothingness we normally associate with writer’s block.
You know what the real problem is. The abundance of information and ideas is causing writer’s log jam.
Use these seven tips to get back on track quickly, and get those great ideas flowing again.
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