When stuck, take a walk
Writer’s block comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s a little brain-blip, where it seems impossible to think anymore and your brain itself seems to hurt. This experience of writer’s block is fairly easily handled. Usually taking a short break will do it. Many (many) years ago in college, we used to call this process taking a “psych break.” And our methods were as varied as the person needing the break: Take a walk, a nap, or a swim. Run the perimeter of the campus. Eat something. Don’t eat something, but get a cup of tea or a coffee. Read another subject. Get a shower. Watch 30 minutes of TV. When my husband gets stuck in professional writing, he gets his brain back in gear by heading for the sofa and closing his eyes; his hard drive of a brain whirrs in the background whether he sleeps or not, and he gets back up ready to work. I swim or walk. So much of my thinking is done in the “doing” mode. Getting a little stuck usually takes a little action (or inaction, as it may be). One key, however, is to return to the writing task when the psych break is done! Another key is to change modalities: If you’re trying to type and it’s not working, pick up a pencil. If you’re handwriting on a notepad and it’s not working, verbalize your ideas through your cell phone’s speech-to-text app or using Dragon® NaturallySpeaking or something similar. Talk out the problem to a writing coach who can serve as secretary and take dictation of your your ideas. Share ideas with friends, who also may need a break. Of course, sometimes writer’s block is a bigger issue, a full-blown, out and out case of WRITER’S BLOCK, where there is no getting past the blank page or one sentence keeps begging to be reworked and you just have to keep going and the paper will never be done on time and the . . . . That size writer’s block calls for an immediate appointment with your coach, so she or he can help you get moving again!

Action Steps:

  1. If you’re blocked and can’t make the ideas flow, change positions. Get a different chair or sit on the sofa or bed. Turn off the music or turn on the music or change the style of music. Dance. Run. Walk. Shadow box. Hula hoop. You get the idea: do something different. Then, return to writing.
  2. If you’ve tried those options, change writing venues. Move from the computer to the page, from the page to a voice recorder, from the voice recorder to a live talk with someone who cares about your writing—like a coach. Then, return to writing.
  3. Stare that blank page in the eye and defeat it by scribbling, writing a list, writing stream-of-conscious thoughts, journaling, or doing other common brainstorming activities. Turn off the computer screen and just type without seeing what you’re writing. Wait until after you’ve written to review and consider it. Then, return to writing.
  4. If all else fails, you may be too tired or distracted to write at that time, and you may need to change tasks. Move from writing to math by balancing your checkbook. Clean up the kitchen and put away all debris on the counters. Clean off your desk. Take out the recycling. Walk the dog. The idea here is to do something that will free up writing time in the near future. Then, return to writing.
  5. Writer’s block can be pretty serious especially when there’s a degree or a job for which the writing is being prepared. It’s not a mental illness, but writer’s block can come from deep parts of our past experiences with writing or from subconscious thoughts about ourselves, our topics, or even our committees and/or editors. Take what the block is telling you seriously by giving it attention, taking a break if needed, and talking about it with a skilled writing coach who can help you figure out what’s going on. Then, once again, return to writing.