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Dragging or pushing yourself to the computer? Too many posts starting with an apology for not having been around of late? The joy you first brought to blogging now a distant memory?
Looks like a case of blogger’s block. Don’t worry… there is a cure.
It’s largely a matter of making friends with your creative mind. The reason so many of us find this difficult is that our education has trained us to respond to problems only with linear, rational, conscious thought.
Willpower, discipline, and good old-fashioned work may squeeze another blog post out of you but to produce words effortlessly, to connect with the joy and optimism and inspiration which makes it all worthwhile, to be as good as you can be, you need to know how to nurture abstraction and your hard-working subconscious.
First off, stop focusing on your block and start thinking about establishing flow. Flow is that delectable condition where the words seem to appear of their own volition. Where all we writers have to do is turn up at the page and get ‘em down. Below are ten tried-and-tested methods – five daily practices, five writing practices – for keeping in flow, not just for the next blog post but for the rest of your writing life.
Establishing Flow Part One: Writing Practices
- Understand the stages of writing process. Any piece of writing moves through distinct, though not always separate, phases. I have seen so many writers who start to edit or judge their writing (stage 7) when they are only in the first draft (stage 4), or even the preparation (stage 2), point in the process — and thereby strangle their work before giving it full form. Delay the actual writing for as long as you can, until you can’t wait to get at it. At a minimum, never sit down at the computer until you have your beginning, your ending and your research notes in place.
- Change your timeframe. A blogger feels like the deadline is always now but this is a false pressure. It’s far more important to write something worthwhile than to post today just for the sake of it. Always give yourself more time than you think you’ll need.
- Drop your standards. Wherever there is block, there is fear. “I can’t say that.” “What if people laugh?” “This is garbage.” The only way to get beyond those carping inner voices is to give yourself permission to be bad. I love Annie Lamott’s suggestion of the “shitty first draft”: “The only way I can get anything written at all,” she says, “is to write really, really shitty first drafts… romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later”.
- Know when to stick with it and when to walk away. The thing about the unconscious is that it needs time to percolate some ideas (you know what they say about watched pots). You can’t bully the unconscious into producing on demand and that’s why every writer needs a physical, automatic task to turn to when focused, rational thought is not getting the goods. Peter Beadle fools around with his Gibson guitar. Barbara Ehrenreich does housework. Joe Survant plinks at squirrels with a BB gun. John Lennon took a bath. Find something for yourself — and enjoy.
- Leave a little ink in the well. This one from Hemingway. Don’t finish your day with your writing tasks complete. Stop in the middle of a sentence. Tomorrow, when you sit back down, you will pick up immediately from where you left off, without any time-wasting faffing about or tortuous analysis of what you’re doing and why.
Establishing Flow Part One: Daily Practices
- Consciously fill the well. Too many bloggers, holed up “working” or surfing, are locking themselves away from new experiences, sights and insights — and then they wonder what’s become of their imagination’s sense of play. After decades of trial and error with my own routine and observation of hundreds of writers and writing students, I now recommend three simple, daily practices as the most effective and time-efficient ways to keep our writing wells stocked and our ideas overflowing: 1. A good walk/jog (30 minutes or more); 2. A half-hour meditation session; and 3. Three early morning pages of F-R-E-E-writing.
- Read, read, read. I am always stunned by writing students who say they don’t read. Whatever kind of writing you aspire to do, however long you’ve been writing, however good you think you are, always search out and carefully read other writers that are good at what you aim to do.
- Get organized. All good writers have an organizational structure and a discipline that works for them – no matter how chaotic things might appear to others. So, right now, do whatever organizational task you’re currently leaving for later – tidy your desk, set up a filing system that works, write an outline – right now (The more you resist this task, the more you need to do it).
- Keep a notebook. Research has shown that creative people are creative because they respect the intuitions, ideas, snags on their attention that pass through all minds while less creative beings let them pass. Creative theorists call it capturing. The simplest, most effective capturing device is pen-and-paper, a notebook but you may prefer to use your cell phone or a more high-tech solution. Fine, so long as it is something small enough to carry everywhere. Make as many entries as possible each day– ideas, quotes, snatches of overheard dialogue, feelings, description. You won’t use everything but you don’t want to miss anything.
- Play. Creativity tutor and author of The Artist’s Way Juliet Cameron, recommends a weekly Artist’s Date, “an hour or longer weekly block of time spent on yourself and with yourself, doing something festive”, fun and creative. “Aquarium stores, museums, cathedrals, flea markets, or five and dimes… vintage films, lectures on the odd, the improbable, or merely interesting… musical performances by traveling Tibetan monks, a trip to acquire to come a riverside spot — any of these can function as an Artist Date.” This creates inflow, new images and perspectives and thoughts that are there when you need them, back at your desk.