13 Tips for Smashing Writer’s Block

Writer's Block title

You know those moments when you finally get to sit down at your laptop/writing pad/typewriter/chisel and tablet, and you’re so excited to start writing. I mean, it’s coursing through your veins while you try so hard to put it on the page, but then…. nothing.

It’s stressful. The emptiness seems so barren and devoid of life and so empty – purgatory of the page!

It can happen to anyone. Hell, it does happen to everyone! Writer’s or not, we all find ourselves stuck for creativity sometimes. Whether you’re Jones trying to close the Wang account, or the city council trying to think of new ways to encourage recycling, creativity can be a cruel mistress.

That said, it doesn’t have to control you. Blocks are often formed from fears; the fear of failure, of not being good enough, or of not knowing where you are going. Well I say smite that fear! Smite it until it is smitten! Or rather, harness that energy and flip it into something else.

Like any obstacle, it can be beaten, nay destroyed!

I smite thee!

I smite thee!

Switch Subjects

Changing tac is a great way to take some pressure off of you and give your brain a chance to switch gears. Are you a fan of ancient Greek History? Why not summarise a favourite passage of text regarding an aspect of that part of history. If you’re struggling to write a sci-fi story, why not try writing a quick horror piece instead?

The idea is to trick your brain. It will either see how hard something else is and settle into your original topic much easier, or by getting a start on writing something else, you can switch back to the original topic and watch the words flow!

Behold the power of my words!

Behold; the power of my words!

Flex

This can be anything from taking a walk to 100 stomach crunches. The trick is to do something that gets the blood pumping and forces you to focus on something else for a while. Kurt Vonnegut liked to do exercises like push ups and sit ups during his writing time so as to keep himself disciplined. Many authors preach the benefits of yoga on focusing the mind and getting the blood flowing.

According to TheTelegraph.com, Dan Brown likes to hang himself upside down from gravity boots! Go ahead, try it. We’ll wait.

In the end, you just want to find something that gets you moving. Anything. Fencing, amateur gymnastic, pole vault or even sex, find a way of getting your heart rate up.

“Writing really takes it out of you”

Do Something Dull

Wash the dishes, brush your hair, feed the cat, clean the fan, polish your shoes… it could be anything, so long as it’s dull and it’s easy. Some of the best ideas seem to come when you’re in the shower, as that is when your brain runs on autopilot and you can focus on being a little creative, just like the above tasks!

Obviously, don't over do it and bore yourself!

“This is how I get all my best ideas”

Get Your Hobby On

You must find something to do that isn’t linked to writing or reading. I know, I know. What else is there, right? You might enjoy carpentry (or simple whittling), kazoo, lion taming or LARPing. Whatever brings you joy outside of the world of words offers you a great break from your writing, and you should come back refreshed and revitalised, perhaps even with a fresh perspective and a ton of new ideas.

“As long as it’s gnarly, bro”

Change the Timings

Sometimes, it can be a simple matter of trying to write at the wrong time. I am a personal fan of the morning write, and many great authors were too. Hemingway used to believe that writing was the most important task of the day, and should therefore be done first, often rising as early as 5am. Of course, maybe your schedule requires a late night write, or afternoon scribbles. Change it up, check the results.

Harness your early morning energy to reach your peak! (pun intended, lolz)

Harness your early morning energy to reach your peak! (pun intended, lolz)

Freestyle

Literally, write anything. Write new words, structure sentences so they become nonsense, hit the keyboard with different parts of your body and see what words are formed. This is a great way to give you a feeling of comfort and familiarity at the keys, but also so you can see an empty page fill up (and remember that feeling of progress).

I normally sit and write out everything in my head for fifteen minutes straight, and then delete it. Once I’ve cleared the pipes of the mould and mildew, I’m ready for the good stuff to flow!

Plumb the depths of your creativity... (ok, no more puns)

Plumb the depths of your creativity… (ok, no more puns)

Get Superstitious, Baby!

Now, I’m not talking about blood sacrifice or chanting (though, by all means, I’m open to creative approaches to superstition too), but something a little smaller, such as wearing your lucky shorts or drinking a certain drink. According to TheTelegraph.com:

“Some writers find that they can only write in particular circumstances. Philip Pullman needs a ballpoint pen and lined A4 paper with two holes in it. Two. Not Four. Stephen King on the other hand starts his day with vitamins and tea before sitting down to write at exactly 8am. He needs to have the papers on his desk arranged in precisely the same way.”

Sometimes we can train ourselves to be most productive by giving ourselves certain mental cues. It can’t hurt to try.

Whatever gets you in the zone

Whatever gets you in the zone

Read, read, read (and read)

Like an apprentice sculptor watching a master at work, you will get better just by being around such greats. Bury your nose in some classics, or churn through some schlock rubbish; it all matters. Read what you love, read what you hate. Read books by men, by women and by children. Read books about cats and books about dragons. Read in your genre and outside it. Read fiction and non-fiction. Everything will make you a batter writer. Everything. Whether it’s the instinct inside you to try to emulate the legends, or just an annoyance at a story written so poorly it hurts, you will find some form of fuel in there that will help your writing grow.

“See Emma, Gandalf does die”

Copywork

Why stop at reading, when you can full on plagiarise! We wrote before (here) about the benefits of using copywork as a warm up exercise before writing, but it can also be a fruitful way of battling writer’s block.

Essentially, you just copy parts of other’s work (making it gradually more difficult by forcing yourself to remember greater and greater amounts) and see how your remembered sentences compare to that of the original author. Some say it’s outdated, some say it’s fantastic. Whatever the case, it definitely gets you writing! Just don’t actually use other people’s work in your writing as that is stealing!

“Huh?”

Try Short Prompts

Sometimes, writer’s block comes from a place of intimidation at the overwhelming size of a task ahead of you. So start small. Give yourself little prompts that shouldn’t take you more than five minutes. You should write solidly for a short period of time, and then read back through. Some ideas:

  • What went through your mother’s head when she found out she was pregnant with you
  • Explain the colour red to an alien
  • Describe a photograph you have
  • Talk about a time you did something scary
  • Describe the ending of your favourite film

There are lots for you to choose from. WordPress has it’s own Daily Prompt site here, or even this one at Writer’s Digest. For those on Twitter, a simple search will bring up hundreds (literally) of writing prompt accounts to follow.

“I’ll give you writer’s block!”

Look Back

That’s right, stand on the precipice of writer’s block and turn back to look for work from your past. Stare into the eyes of old characters you have and immerse yourself in old scenes you’ve written. Sometimes it can be a cringefest to rummage through writing from your younger years, but sometimes this writing can give you a wealth of stimulus for new scratching. If you’re anything like me, you’ll start editing as you go and voila – you’re writing again! You never know what you’ll find…

“Monsters, Magic and Twinkies”

Change the Setting

I have a writing area set up in my apartment, while some writers prefer the company of others and so set up shop in a cafe or library. Wherever you write, perhaps experiment with writing in an unfamiliar location that has many aspects that are opposite to where you sit now. In fact, just simply not sitting might do you the world of good. You could try converting your desk into a standing desk, as sitting is actually really bad for us. The Art of Manliness has a great post here on how to set this up properly.

“I always stand when I create!”

Wander in Wonderment

This could be in a bookshop, in a library, a museum or even just your local community centre. They key is, you want to go somewhere that has an energy and also a little ambiance, and can give you the chance to occupy your mind with casual browsing.

After you’ve wandered for a time, you should start to feel ideas coming back to you. If this doesn’t happen, perhaps be a little more forceful with yourself and start to look for ideas. The bad ones may come thick and fast at first, but wading through these you will always lead to something better that you can build on. Challenge yourself to have five to ten new ideas before you are allowed to leave. If you really enjoy yourself, perhaps flesh them out with more detail (a character’s appearance, a hero’s monologue, a villain’s trait).

“How many good ideas I’ve had this week”

There are myriad things to try of course, so above is not supposed to be a definitive list of them all. What do you try? I have a friend who is obsessed with silence, and so uses ‘pink noise’ (like white noise but a lower frequency) recordings on YouTube to block her ears. I have another friend who believes in caffeine as the paramount stimulus, and so doesn’t even think about writing before having three cups of coffee…

Special thanks to Ambro, Apolonia, Chaiwat, criminalatt, David Castillo Dominici, imagerymajestic, khunaspix, phasinphoto, photostock, porbital, Serge Bertasius Photography, stockimages and vectorolie @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

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Why Blogger? 12 Reasons Why You Should Blog!

title giraffe

I started blogging for the main reason that I wanted a platform that forced me to write regularly, and gave me an avenue to research topics I found interesting in a format that forced me to be accurate and concise. So far at Itchy Quill we have looked at reading, travelling, gender roles in modern society, the history of symbols and the future, using this format.

Through my time in the blogosphere I have encountered other bloggers from many different backgrounds with many different motivations. My favourite blogs are a veritable mixed bag of randomness, from street poets to wannabe chefs, and travelling mums to deaf composers. There is a world of awesome out there to be explored, and so why not get a taste of it from the experiences of others? I’ve always believed reading is a gateway into adventure, giving you a unique insight into how someone else did something and this in turn gives you a grounding for your own escapades. Blogging is a microcosm of that, a peak into the unknown or a glance back at the adored. It’s a wink and a nod at life…

So, if you want to blog, but are not sure why, then let below be a list of some good reasons to try! If you already blog, but are stuck for ideas, then perhaps this list can help to inspire you. For the more advanced bloggers out there, where do you fit in?

Start your adventure today!

Take that first step... see where it takes you

Take that first step… see where it takes you

Helping People

I put this as number one because I want to start on a positive note; the helping of others. The ‘helping’ type of blogs are normally written by people who fall often into two categories; those who are trained in a certain area and want to help those who could benefit from their training, and those who have experienced something and want to share their experiences so as to help others in similar situations. A common example would be some of the wonderful work being done online to help mental health. There are countless blogs here, but that is just the start.

There are many blogs that talk about the ups and down of parenthood, of moving to a new country, or offer tips on certain kinds of work (such as ESL Teaching and Bartending). Sharing is caring, people! Go ahead, right now, write a  problem of yours into Google along with the word blog, and see the links that come up. Within a few seconds, you’ve connected with a stranger whose reality reflects yours. You may not agree with them, but sometimes even seeing ‘how not’ can remind us of ‘how to’. It’s the global conversation, happening every day.

See, blogging is a community. It builds bridges between people from all walks of life and reminds us that we are not alone. Whatever may be happening in your life right now, there is always going to be someone online who feels your pain and has shared their experience. Reaching out to others can be hugely beneficial, and connecting with other people so as to unite against such issues can be a wonderful start on the road to recovery.

“Dr Blogger here, how can I help you?”

You Can Share Ideas and Thoughts

The creative mindset is one that is heavily represented in social media, especially within the realms of Twitter and Pinterest. Many creatives will have links from their social media accounts to their blogs, which are places that give them the chance to showcase their talent for the world to see. Seeing the work of others can be hugely inspiring, as can having a forum to share your own.

Blogging naturally brings people with similar ideas and hobbies together, as the best audience for your blog will be people who share your passions. This can start a snowball effect on your work as it builds steam and energy from feedback and collaboration.

Find your posse

Find your posse…

It’s a Place To Make Snobservations

That’s right, you snotty little tyrant, you. If silently judging from afar just doesn’t quite give you the satisfaction it used to, perhaps unleashing your poisoned vitriol upon the internet will take your internal bitterness to a new level?

Of course, not all of us have such negative energy to spread around the world. Perhaps you long to divulge some peace and love, or you have some whimsical outlook on experiences you feel the internet could benefit from. Go for it!

“How does KFC run out of chickeeeeeeeeen!!!”

Dear Diary… Reflection

These could be two separate ideas, as to reflect is not necessarily to diary. Using your blog as a kind of online diary is a great way to keep it accessible. I have some good friends here in Taiwan who use their blog as a way of keeping folks back home in touch with what they have been up to. There’s no reason why this can’t be the case for those living closer to their nearest and dearest too.

The act of reflection, for some such an integral part of why they keep a diary in the first place, is also something that blogging offers. See, when posting situations or experiences onto the internet in this fashion, you are putting it into a domain where anyone can access it. Sometimes, the impartial view of a stranger can help to give you fresh perspective, or give you feedback on something that may link to their own life and the two of you can both gain a mutual benefit from your shared story.

Of course, don’t forget that as it’s online, people can read everything…

“Dear Diary, I’m still having that dream where I murder my friends”

Improve Your Writing

As a writer, what better practice is there to hone your craft than to write!? I mean, scribbling away odes and novellas is another way, of course, but blogging gives you regular practice that forces you to be strict on daily/weekly/monthly posts, and means you must edit and research it quickly. On top of this, just knowing that your work will be viewed by others means you will have to be more thorough and more appealing, giving you practice in the art of receiving criticism (or, sometimes, in receiving praise) and of marketing yourself through your words.

If you’re not a writer though, blogging can still help you improve your writing skills. I know many bloggers here in Taiwan who blog in English, even though their first language is Chinese, purely as a way of practising and feeling more confident using it.

Find out what your Words are Worth, understanding what the Dickens is so Austen-tacious about blogging. It really Shakes your Peares!

“Wordplay!”

Become an Expert

The word ‘expert’ gets thrown around a lot these days, especially on Twitter. Oh my, you can’t throw a digital stone without hitting a ‘Social Media Expert’ or ‘Marketing Guru’. It’s become rather laughable. The problem is, if you do have a skill, blogging about it is actually a wonderful thing to do! If you are one of the genuine few with something to offer, you should share it!

Fixing old bike engines? Pokemon collector? Butterfly circus? Whatever your poison, indulge your inner nerd and share your knowledge. You’ll be amazed how quickly you find a niche within a community and start to learn more and share more. Just by having a blog, you’ll be researching and learning, just for the benefit of your posts. This will translate to acquired knowledge and before you know it, you’ll be the paramount mind on contemporary dragon raising in the South of England! Boo yeah!

Find them a meaningful career, obviously!

Find them a meaningful career, obviously!

The Blogo-Social Network

Ok, so we’ve already talked rather at length about how community is the foundation of blogging, and vis a vie you will encounter a myriad range of different people and blogs. Truth be told, a lot of the people you encounter will be into similar fields as you, as one of the soul reasons they will stumble upon your blog is that they were looking for something like it.

Using these connections wisely can build a truly beneficial network over time. Many authors, graphic designers and artists use blogging for this very reason, so as to meet others in their industry and connect for the good of both their careers. Being part of a community means being part of something greater than the sum of what is yours and only yours. Use the internet for what it was meant for; the coming together of humanity!

In a good way... coming together 'in a good way' (not pictured)

In a good way… coming together ‘in a good way’ (not pictured)

To Make Money

Making money from your blog is not as easy as simply wanting it, but it shouldn’t take long for the truly dedicated to start to see money coming in from advertising. It is very, very hard to make a lot of money form your blog. Those that make steady revenue tend to be people who are furiously motivated and committed to their blog. That said, it is totally possible to make the big bucks from your blog. To see a list of ways to ‘monetize’ (their words, not mine) your blog, visit this link on about.com for five tips to stimulate cash flow.

Don't let it compromise your artistic integrity though...

Don’t let it compromise your artistic integrity though…

It’s Easy

Really, it is. There are tons of places you can go to find free hosting, and most blogging websites now offer free design and layout templates, with themes that can be customized to fit your blogs vibe. What’s stopping you? Giving it a try gives you the chance to cross something else off of your bucket list, and slowly work towards your ultimate goal of being an awesome you!

You could spend as little as 20 minutes a week posting up some thoughts, and then watch as your circle of influence grows steadily over time.

Check out this post on stylecaster.com to see their choice of The 10 Best Free Blog Sites.

“Me done maked ma bloog!”

To Learn New Skills

Since starting my blog I’ve had to sharpen up on writing skills, practice harvesting research in a swift fashion, find out where to find free photographs, teach myself how to edit my own photography on Photoshop, and also polished up on licensing law with regards to the internet! All skills that are totally transferable to other activities of mine! On top of this, I’ve had to take my twitter game to the next level (follow us here) and master certain other media packages to help showcase my work.

Just from reading the blogs of others I have learned a bit about living in different countries, which non-European authors are worth checking out, how to stay fit, and countless other skills and tit-bits of knowledge.

Who knows what you’ll learn, and how it might change you…

“The greatest wastes are unused talents and untried ideas”. – Unknown

Elvis Kung Fu anyone?

Elvis Kung Fu anyone?

It Builds Confidence

The internet can be a pretty nasty place at times, especially since trolls enjoy wandering from forum to forum, dropping racist, homophobic, sexist malevolence. At other times, people who are genuinely nice in the physical world can be right vipers when it comes to critical feedback and comments.

Responding to these, and developing the thick skin needed to tolerate it without lowering yourself to it, is a self-empowering and rather fulfilling part of blogging. Knowing that you can air your view, and then face down opposition to it in a mature way will help you feel much more at peace with yourself. Most of all, just taking the steps to put yourself out there, about whatever it is that you feel inspired to do so, is a genuinely fantastic experience.

Let that confidence flow…

“Take that, society”

It Might Change The World

Can blogging change the world? Of course it can! If you are someone writing about the impending doom of a zombie apocalypse, why not make the most of it and establish a blog on how to survive? You could go as far as offering tips on negotiating with zombies, finding an antidote in a crisis, and how to out run the undead. These are all fun to read now, but in the future they could very well change the world!

On a smaller note, know that sometimes your blog could be the inspiration someone needs to change their life, and that could be invaluable to a stranger in the trajectory of their personal success. Just look at this story of how two school girls changed their school life.

That’s the point. Blogging puts people around the world in touch with each other on such a potentially detailed and personal level that genuine bonds can be made, and why wouldn’t these change the world?

Who knows what may come from your words...

Who knows what may come from your words…?

The best part; comments! Feel free to comment below and let’s get a conversation going about blogging!

If you know of any great examples of different blogs that are worth checking out, please leave a link in the comments below too!

Special thanks to 1shots, artur84, David Castillo Dominici, holohololand, imagerymajestic, phasinphoto, Photokanok, siraphat, stockimages, vectorolie and winnond @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015