May 8

Kick your writer’s block in the next 30 minutes with 3 practical, proven methods

    Sometimes, you’re frustrated, can’t write, and just really need something right now that can get you back to writing. Here are 3 practical, actionable, proven methods to kick your writer’s block in 30 minutes or less.

    1. Take a walk – and it doesn’t even have to be outside.

    Yes, oldest advice in the book, but do you follow it? Research at Stanford University has proven that participants who took a walk and then returned to an idea-generating task “produced significantly more and subjectively better ideas than in their pre-exercise testing period” (Opezzo and Schwartz, 2014). You might think that walkers are inspired by the nature and the people outside, but not so; people who walked on a treadmill indoors experienced the same boost in creativity. It’s the physical act of walking that produces creativity. (For more about this study, in a quick, digestible form, check out the NY Times article about the study) So, even if you just pace up and down the hallway a bit, make sure to walk!

    2. Check your bad mood at the door.

    Social psychologists have studied how moods influence the brain’s ability to think creatively and generate ideas. People in a good mood “can provide a broader range of associations to a common word, recall more words that are related to one another, and solve problems more creatively” (Isen, 1987). And, yes, you can guess that people in a bad mood see the exact opposite happen in their lives.

    If you feel your bad mood weighing down your creativity. Take a moment to breathe and check in with yourself. Why are you in a bad mood? Is there anything you can actually do about your bad mood right now? Berkley has studied gratitude and found that taking 3 minutes to list things that are good, positive, and going well in your life can boost your mood significantly (Sheldon and Lyubomirsky, 2006). So, take out a piece of paper or open a new note on your computer and spend 3 minutes just dwelling on good, positive things in your life. The creativity will come.

    If all else fails, watch this youtube video of a poor kid who is delirious from novocaine, and be glad that you aren’t headed to a dental appointment right now:

    3. Talk to a friend or colleague

    Is there really anything more uplifting than having a good chat with a friend or colleague who inspires you? Psychologist Vera John-Steiner’s book, Creative Collaboration, challenges us to put aside the myth that the “best” creative thinking comes when we’re alone, locked up in our self-imposed solitary confinement. She takes us through how history’s most important ideas and discoveries came from people who had good friends or family members to talk to about their creative process.

    Call up your favorite, inspiring friend, tell her you're feeling a bit stuck, and ask if you can just chat with her a bit about your writing project. Ideally, your friend will ask thoughtful questions about your writing project and help you unravel why you’re feeling so frustrated. A half hour at a coffee shop or on Skype could leave you feeling refreshed and ready to get back to your project.

    In fact, I recommend that for every writing project, you have a friend, colleague, or accountability partner with whom you talk on a regular basis. I don’t mean that you should have someone who occasionally asks, “Hey, how’s that book coming?” I mean, you should ask a friend, colleague, or even writing coach to review your writing project regularly and talk with you about what’s going well and what has you feeling stuck. With this kind of regular collaboration, you’ll find yourself have writer’s block less and less often!

    Don’t have someone in your life who fits that bill? Shoot me an email, and you and I will Skype about your writing project. By far, my favorite part of being an editor is talking with you writers about your projects, so let’s chat sometime.

    So, if you’re feeling frustrated and need to refresh that creativity, here’s what you can do:

    • Take a walk.
    • Write a gratitude list.
    • Grab coffee or hop on Skype with an inspiring friend or colleague, someone who will ask deep, probing questions about your writing project.

    What about you?

    Give one of these tips a try, and let me know in the comments below how it went for you! Do you have any other ways that you jolt your creativity back into gear? Share with the Paper Raven community in the comments below!


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