How to Smash Through Mental Barriers

    mental barriers - hand against window

    Note: This is a guest post from James Chartrand of Men with Pens, known for her sharp-shooting advice to writers.

    It’s all been said. It’s been written before. We feel like we’re just rehashing the same old story everyone else has written. And inspiration dies like leaves falling from trees in autumn.

    There are ways to find inspiration again. Most suggest taking a break, setting down the pen and paper to do other activities for a while. Reading a book is a good way to give our brains a rest. Going for a walk is another; any physical activity boosts creativity.

    What if inspiration still doesn’t come? What if you take a break, read a book, get active and still come up blank when you sit down to write?

    In most cases, all you have to do is look within to find the inspiration you need. Easy? No. Necessary? Yes.

    Our mind plays tricks on us all the time. The events we’ve lived and the experiences we’ve had create perception issues. We filter our world through fears and self-set messages that fool us into believing lies we find comfortable.

    “They’ll think this is silly… No one will want to read this. It’s not interesting enough, not different enough. I’m boring. I’m not a good writer. I shouldn’t be doing this… I’ll never finish. I never finish anything. I’m wasting my life. Why can’t I come up with something good for once?”

    Many of you may recognize some of your fears in these phrases. They’re common ones, thoughts that even the best writers get from time to time. We could even say that they’re inspired thoughts, negative messages fed by fears that get the best of us.

    So what do you do? How do you break through the mental barriers that hold you back to release the words you once loved?

    Simulate a scenario

    Think of all the possible outcomes and look at the worst-case scenarios. If you write something and no one likes it, what do you feel might happen? What is the worst consequence you can think of? What is the best consequence, too? What would you do if these consequences occurred?

    Consider the likelihood of each outcome as well and weigh the chances of you taking a risk. You may see that by objective thought, your fears aren’t really founded in reality – then take that risk and give it a try.

    Make it an experiment and analyze the results. Learn from the outcome you achieve. Did you have a negative outcome? If so, why? What will you do better next time? Did you have a positive result? How does that contradict what you believed? How does it make you feel?

    Validate your feelings

    We all tend to avoid feelings that make us uncomfortable. We don’t particularly enjoy thinking about what scares us or makes us sad, and we avoid considering why we feel that way. Who knows what we might uncover?

    Well, that’s the point right there – who knows what you might discover if you look your fears in the eye and say to yourself, “Okay, I’m terrified of rejection.” It’s part of you, so accept that you have this fear. Then befriend the fear and treat it like a person that needs you to overcome this obstacle. By taking the focus off you and placing it in a third-party perspective, you’ll often find the courage you need to break through.

    Confirm your reality

    Most of our perceptions of the world aren’t accurate and we make huge assumptions about what people think of us (and what they aren’t telling us). But the truth is that these assumptions are, in most cases, completely false.

    A good way to realign our thoughts with a more realistic view is to use confirmation as a fantastic tool. Do you think your work is boring or not good at all? The minute you have that thought, be accountable for taking action. Find an objective person you trust to immediately to tell you the truth.

    Don’t make assumptions on what other people think. The minute you start to imagine what others believe, seize the moment and ask a trusted person to tell you the truth. Confirm reality and remind yourself of this reality every time the whispered messages start. You’ll soon begin to eliminate them and feel confident about the truth.

    Smash Through Your Mental Barriers

    These three tips may seem like a bunch of psychological mumbo-jumbo, but they’re actually good ways to break out of negative self-talk that holds you back. That’s key to finding inspiration for writing, because only confidence and freedom lets us truly release our minds go to explore what we can create.

    And when you do that, you’ll find inspiration – and you’ll also have the confidence to write.

    About the Author: Need more inspiration to break free and become a better writer? James Chartrand can help. Visit her blog at Men with Pens for great advice on writing with confidence.

    About the author

      James Chartrand

      James Chartrand is a Top Ten blogger and an advocate for stress-free writing that gets results. Learn how to write content that really works, build rapport with readers, and fill your magical hat with money with the Damn Fine Words writing course for business owners. It's Write to Done approved!

    • Julia says:

      Wow, the guy in that photo needs a pedicure! Yuck!

    • Liz says:

      I mostly write on deadline so mostly I simply have to start, even if I’m not inspired. One of the things I tell my own kids, when they’re stuck with their writing a paper for school, is if you can’t find the beginning, skip to another section. Start in the middle; the opening will come later. That’s very difficult for beginners to do, I’ve found, but it really does work for me.

      Rejection is a part of most writers’ lives, too, and I have come across a web site that sort of celebrates that. It’s My Dream is Dead but I’m Not and it was created by a writer whose book has been rejected by many, many NYC publishers. She’s holding a funeral for her unpublished book! Finally, a burial ground for all the phenomenal books out there that are killed, instead of published.

    • Grace says:

      Sometimes it helps to have a list of categories? Each week I have set the challenge to write about five different things: Relationship with self, other people, lifehacks, the Earth, and Words.

      Then each Sunday I sit down and sketch out the basics of each post. Knowing that I’ve given myself permission NOT to write on that day somehow frees up the flow. Doing that I’ve got a prompt when I do start in earnest.

      I’ve also found that old advice of ‘gum glue’ really helps when I write. If I’m THERE, somehow it always happens.

      Good post! Thanks! Grace.

    • In reading your post I realize that I am guilty of sometimes writing with the reader in mind rather than writing what I want to say. I think it’s important to write for your intended audience of course, but it’s equally important to relay the message that speaks to you as a writer. With this in mind, it’s easy to get stumped and lose focus so I appreciate your words and suggestions.

    • I’ve never found the advice “go for a walk” or “take a break” helpful. I once took a break that lasted almost 10 years. Breaks are easy. The only way to attract Inspiration is to be sitting in front of the page when she shows up. The best ice breaker for me is to type aimlessly. Type anything. Don’t try to write the story, gossip about the characters. Fantasize about the setting. I think–at least for me–since I am a writer writing is the only way to break up writer’s block.

    • Ross says:

      Hi, thanks for these ideas – they are quite different to the traditional school of thought: “just take a break and get your mind off it” etc – I’ll be referring back to this post for several re-reads, I’m sure! Cheers.

    • Mel T says:

      Stumbled James. Fantastic advice!

      Although my problem isn’t inspiration, it’s getting my writing completed quickly and efficiently.

    • Jim Bessey says:

      James, this is great advice. Only half “mumbo-jumbo” and the other half “this really works.”

      I’ve found the best inspiration for writing on the calmest, loneliest mornings of summer. No interruptions, no distractions, a soft breeze in the trees, and a hot cup of coffee on the metal table by my camp chair. Those are the times I believe in myself as a writer and the words just flow.

      Too bad summer’s so short and mornings like that are so fleeting. Thanks for some great block-breakers for all the other times.

      ~Jim, at Just Camping Out

    • For me, reading a book or running, helps me to get the ball rolling. I need to find a change of pace. Having outlets is helpful. During those moments, fresh ideas come! I have to clear my mind of the clutter. If I’m pissed off or uncomfortable about a situation, for me, I have to deal with it and move on. A clear mind leads to clear writing.

    • Great inspiration which I needed right now. It’s been a bad week for my writing and I was disappointed that my word count for NaNoWriMo were so low (partly because I was presenting at an academic conference, which distracted me, partly because of other reasons). I really appreciate this advice. I think I fear rejection. This is my first novel and I worry that it won’t be good enough and no one will like it. It is hard to be confident all of the time. I will have to work past this fear and write the novel. Then I can worry about making it good enough.

    • Trevor says:

      Great post. Your mind needs a rest every once in a while. It’s not always work work work! Step back and see your options!

    • Greg says:

      I think one issue that hasn’t been touched on in regards to this idea of inspiration is audience and “to what end.”

      In other words, one never writes without the intention of it being read by an audience. Given this, the objective is simple: find an audience. A writers workshop, friends, agents, showrunners, other bloggers, etc., etc., etc. If it’s a group of friends or fellow writers, you will want to impress them and get their feedback and revel in the writing chatter. If it’s a business audience, then your reason for impressing them will be obvious (more work and making a living off of this awesome skill).

      Off of this note you must think, Why am I writing? The obvious answer is going to be, Well because it’s how I express myself, I must et al. But think of it in business terms too: I am writing in order to get a book deal/land on a sitcom/sell my HBO pilot/make a name for myself in the blogosphere.

      Once you have these specific goals in place (the more specific the better) you will have much more motivation to write, more fuel left to burn in those times when you don’t necessarily feel like getting yourself into that writing mindset. Always have perspective on the big picture.

      Remember what Chuck Close says about inspiration: Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up.

    • Thank you for these great ideas James. I’ll have to bookmark this post and come back to it the next time my Muse goes on strike.

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