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12 Creative Secrets to Beat Writer’s Block

By Tiffany Monhollon

If you write much, chances are you’ve dealt with it. Some call it writer’s block, others label it burnout, some dub it lack of inspiration. But no matter what you call it or how much you write, chances are, you’ve had your moments with it.

The thing is, since writing is a creative process, there is no one solution that will cure it every time. But tapping into your creative spirit is a good place to start. Not sure how? Start with these 12 tips.

Finding Inspiration

1. Read a great book. Fiction, preferably. I’ve stumbled on a new author I love, and in the last two months or so, read about eight of her books. Incredible not because it’s voracious (I grew up devouring books) but because in the last several years, I’ve been lucky to “find time” to read four or five a year. I felt guilty at first to be reading that much, with so many other demands on my time. But turns out, my brain craved the escape, and in return, handed me a gift: new ideas, new inspiration, better tone, improved voice. My writing – and creativity, have never been better.

2. Write something else. Poetry, perhaps. A letter to a friend – or enemy. Pen an eloquent grocery list. Type out your favorite childhood bedtime story. Switching up your writing style with these other forms can help you find and focus your voice in new ways. But it will also help you pull elements into your writing you may never have known it was missing: rhythm, assonance, consonance. Character, emotion, detail. Perspective, vision, clarity.

3. Write somewhere else. Go outside. Sit at your kitchen table. Find a quiet spot in a local café. Hang out among the stuffed animals in your child’s room. Face your chair in another direction. Changing where you write has an interesting power. Especially if you pay attention. It can be absolutely inspirational. What might you experience? New colors, forgotten memories, pleasant aromas, startling textures, interesting sounds. Place is powerful because of its impact on each of our senses, so tap into all of them and let your own creative spirit inspire you.

Writing in Reality

4. Take a break. In reality, sometimes, your writing creativity just gets tired. Creativity is much like a muscle: when you don’t use it, it can atrophy, taking time and practice to build back skill, and then develop endurance. But when you overuse it or don’t treat it with respect, you are vulnerable to strains and tears that can put it out of commission until it’s had time to heal. So even if your creativity isn’t broken, it’s important to treat let it rest sometimes. And if it is, give it the rest it needs so it can heal and you can get back to peak condition. But the other way creativity is like a muscle is that there are many types of creativity we all have, so you can – and should – still exercise your creativity, but maybe just using a different muscle, like cooking or music or play.

5. Hang out. Writing can be a lonely process. Writers often tend to isolate themselves, pour into their words, and tunnel in until they find when they come up for air, there’s no one there to relate to. So make sure you’re putting top priority on your personal relationships. But beyond that, have the courage to share your writing process with others. Toss ideas around with friends, or ask for feedback from people you trust. Opening up your creative process to others can be like plugging into a power source. Sure, your ideas may be great on their own, but they may be even better with the help of others.

6. Forget your niche. I have a love-hate relationship with the very concept of a niche. From a strategy perspective, it makes sense to have one topic that you focus on and write about, especially if you’re blogging. But from a reality perspective, it can be really taxing on the creative mind to focus too specifically in one area. Sometimes, your creativity will lead you into other areas, and trying to force it back “on track” is a sure way to shut it down completely. So instead, forget about the niche when you sit down to write. Write where your creativity is leading you. If you let your mind go, you may be surprised to watch where it leads – and it may be right back to your niche, but in a way you never would have thought possible. So, trust your creative instinct. You can worry about your niche later.

Changing Tactics

7. Change formats. The simple act of putting pen to paper is at times enough to get my writing creativity flowing. When you stare too long at a computer screen, it’s easy to lose creative momentum. So pull out your favorite paper. Jott down notes with a colored pen. Get crazy: bring out the markers, crayons, or paint. If you prefer to stay plugged in, change the font face or size you’re typing in. Create a word cloud picture to give your ideas and words unexpected order or form.

8. Write out loud. Have you ever noticed that when you write a story, it often sounds different than when you tell it to someone? The same is true with ideas. When you keep them within your head, the job of pulling out what’s needed can be tough, especially if you’re dealing with a pool of ideas. So find a friend and talk it out before you write. Put yourself in front of an audience and record yourself, and write from there. Talk into a tape recorder. Interview yourself Q&A style. Brainstorm ideas out loud in your car on the way home. Get talking about your ideas, and you’ll hear them grow and develop with your own ears.

9. Apply the 10-minute rule. If you’re having trouble starting, sorting out your ideas, or deciding where to start, stop what you’re doing, clear your mind, choose a focus, and write for 10 minutes. Don’t stop to think. Don’t edit your ideas before they hit paper or pixels. Don’t change word choice or sentence structure. Ignore the wiggly red lines of spelling mistakes. Just write, solid, for 10 minutes. You may find your efforts have taken you in a direction you didn’t expect but are happy to be going. You may glean one sentence or nugget that inspires your true starting point. You may find that you still don’t have a place to start. But trust me, you’ll find something. And any movement is better than the inaction you had before. And most likely, once your creative juices are going, you’ll find your flow in no time.

Embracing Freedom

10. Make it real. Take your idea out into the wide open fields of imagination and give it breath, life, reality. Tell a real story, or make one up to illustrate your ideas. Build metaphors from the ground up using inspiration from the world around you. As a writer, the way you write about an idea is your gift to it, and to the world.

11. Act like a creator. We often hear there’s nothing new under the sun. But what we forget is that this is not a statement of banality; it’s a challenge to use your own senses, perspective, and vision to make old things new. That, after all, is what the process of being creative truly is.

12. Write your way. There are countless tips to help you write better, stronger, more creatively. There are rules and guidelines and tipsheets and stylebooks and on and on and on. This post is just one of those resources. But where the rubber meets the road in writing is that – and how – you apply these ideas. And that is up to you. There is no one formula. No right or wrong. Instead of being held back by that, embrace it. Create your own rules – or throw them all out. Write how, when, why, what, where you want to. Just write.

Realizing Your Power

These 12 tips are just a starting point to harnessing your writing creativity. It’s really easy to write about the problem, to think, to brainstorm, to postulate. And a lot harder to act on it. The funny thing is, the action is what’s important.

The true power in writing with creativity is you.

You and you along will determine what you do from here. So, what are you waiting for?

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Check out 14 comments on this post where it’s syndicated at BrazenCareerist. 

By Tiffany Monhollon | July 31, 2008

Topics: Authenticity, Blogging, Tips, Writing |

18 Responses to “12 Creative Secrets to Beat Writer’s Block”

  1. Glenn Says:
    August 1st, 2008 at 1:01 am

    This may be less about creativity and more about the writing process as a whole, but I saw an interview with Zadie Smith a while back in which she encouraged writer’s to put down their work for at least a month, or longer.

    “It’s an unfortunate thing, but it turns out that the perfect state of mind to edit your novel is two years after it’s published, ten minutes before you go on stage at a literary festival. At that moment every redundant phrase, each show-off, pointless metaphor, all of the pieces of dead wood, stupidity, vanity, and tedium are distressingly obvious to you.”

    Anyways, I love your final three tips — embrace that freedom, and the possibilities are without end.

  2. Tiffany Monhollon Says:
    August 1st, 2008 at 2:26 am

    I love that quote! This is part of what makes the writing process for bloggers so difficult. You’re under constant pressure to create… TODAY! Not a month from now. So taking breaks when you can is key.

    I used to try to post 4-5 times week, and it was helpful in building content and establishing my presence, but there’s no way I could sustain that now without just being a lazysphere blogger, like Steve Rubel has diagnosed. I’m sure I could if I didn’t have a full-time job that is writing and editing-heavy, but that’s just not my reality.

    I challenge myself to add value with every post I write and let my content stand for itself. It’s also much more rewarding that way, I’ve found, than just posting for the sake of posting.

  3. Justin Levy Says:
    August 3rd, 2008 at 1:09 am

    I enjoyed this post as I relate to many of your tips beyond a way to beat writer’s block.

    Many of the tips you wrote about I use to help increase overall productivity or help me attack a project that I’m having trouble with. Such things as working from somewhere else and taking a break are my 2 favorite things to do when I’m hitting a wall. Sometimes moving from the couch to outside or a local coffee shop will help increase my productivity.

    Throughout the day I take many breaks and will just take a short walk around the office or stretch. I have found that I get more done throughout the day by focusing on having short bursts of productivity followed by a 2-5 minute break then just sitting there and forcing myself to work on something.

    -Justin

  4. Weekly Roundup: Posts from the PR World [8/2/08] « That’s Great PR! Blog Says:
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  5. Shawn Says:
    August 4th, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Great advice. I actually find inspiration from Rick Rubin, a record producer. He’s produced some of the best albums of the past 20 years and the range of artists he’s worked with is mind boggling. When I need to get those creative juices flowing, I pull out a picture of Rick.

  6. Kate Torrens Says:
    August 4th, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    It is a perfect piece of advice that may be useful if use it in a right way

  7. Tiffany Monhollon Says:
    August 5th, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    @ Justin - I love the idea of taking these tips and applying them to other areas beyond writing. Great thought, Justin. Thanks!

    @ Shawn - Inspiration is a wonderful thing. Get it where you find it, and tap into it as often as you need.

    @ Kate - Thanks. What ways are you thinking you might use it?

  8. Kate Torrens Says:
    August 8th, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Tiffany, one can use your tips when should overwhelm his laziness, find new ideas and thoughts ;)

  9. Simon Says:
    August 8th, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    The majority of these wonderful tips assist me in increasing my overall productivity. I think the most useful are taking a break, reading a book and going out. The above-mentioned pointers help me to find rest and inspiration

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  12. Jim Estill Says:
    September 5th, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    Great advice. One trick I use I call “planting the seed”. I brainstorm, make notes for 5 minutes then I leave it and go about my day.

    Usually when I come back to writing, it flows freely again because I “Planted the Seed”.

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    September 7th, 2008 at 3:10 am

    great blog! I’ll subscribe!

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  16. Pankaj Says:
    September 16th, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Amazing post! As web copy writing is a part of my job, and considering the volume of writing i have to do, i often get a sense of burnout and stagnation. Some of your tips have already worked for me (read an inspiring book), write about “something else” (my personal blog is an outlet). Surely going to try the other tips!

  17. anurag Says:
    October 17th, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    good 1 ..i like ur approach ..thanx for sharing.

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