10 ways to beat writer’s block

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Even the best writers get blocked sometimes…

Up until this year, my approach to my own content marketing has been a recipe of whim and inspiration with a dash of resistance. My posts were almost more sporadic than sprinkles on a cupcake!

Planning never has been one of my strengths, my free spirit finds it too oppressive. Yet I do like a certain amount of routine and work well with deadlines and accountability. That prompted me to begin working with a writing coach and I now have a daily writing practice where I spend anywhere from 5-20 minutes writing each morning, sometimes longer if I really get into it. I experiment with different prompts, lists, speed-writing or even journaling. I might hand-write a blog post or letter to my list, or daydream while I sip my morning coffee. You see, by having this practice, life feels good.

And there’s many reasons for that — scientific and esoteric. But for now, I’m simply going to help you discover how to find your words when they just don’t seem to be coming…

1.  Acknowledge the resistance and breathe around it

Firstly, go easy on yourself. Even the most articulate and seasoned professional writers can end up with a blank page staring back at them. What’s important is that you don’t let this eat away at your confidence. If you catch yourself thinking limiting or critical thoughts, it’s helpful to recognise that and treat yourself with compassion. Those thoughts aren’t true. But they do serve to keep that block steadfast in your way. In her book The Universe has your Back, Gabrielle Bernstein acknowledges how all thinking produces form at some point:

When you think positive and loving thoughts, you feel good. But when you focus your words and thoughts on lack, judgement, and separation, you feel terrible. Your energy is your greatest source of power.

Use your energy to your advantage. Stand up, have a stretch, grab a pen and notepad and opt for a change of scenery. Take yourself off to a café, a park, the beach (which is my favourite) or any place that inspires you. Then say to yourself, okay creativity, let’s go play!

2.  Write about something else

It may not be what you had planned in your content marketing schedule, but give yourself permission to venture off course from time to time. Turn away from the keyboard and grab a pen and a notebook. Take 5 deep breaths, which helps dilate the blood vessels and capillaries to deliver more oxygen to your brain and helps you think clearer. The breath also helps to calibrate your energy throughout the rest of your body, supporting you to feel more grounded and purposeful. Now start by writing one thing you know then just keep writing, scribbling down any ideas, knowledge, insights — whatever comes to the surface. It may be structured or unstructured, paragraphs or bullet points. Put grammar, spelling, sentence structure and personal critique on the shelf for now. You’re the only one who will see this draft, so allow for error. Play, create, scribble, doodle, and explore. Let your creativity take you on a journey and be open to where it leads.

3.  Practice Emotional Awareness

Every cell of our body — from top to toe — has what Candice Pert PhD refers to as “molecules of emotion“. These molecules signal the blood vessels in our brain to constrict or dilate in response to our emotional experience, which impacts the delivery of glucose and oxygen. Author and speaker, Janet Connor, explains how this impacts our writing.

If our emotions are blocked due to denial, repression or trauma, the blood flow can become chronically restricted, depriving the frontal cortex of vital nourishment. This can leave you foggy and less alert.

Emotions carry energy that needs to be processed and discharged. So grab your pen and journal and write about whatever’s going on for you — the circumstances, how it made you feel, anything you’ve learned through the experience, etc. Curl up under the duvet and watch a movie if you want to, or go to the gym and work it out of your system. Allow yourself to move through your experience in whatever way you need to and honour your process.

4.  Nourishment

The brain’s only food is glucose. That’s why we can often crave sugar for energy to keep going. Though, I think we all know by now what sugar-laden foods can do to our energy levels. It’s all good for an hour or two until we fall in a heap and go back for more. Peak, drop, peak, drop. It’s a roller coaster I’ve been on more times than I can count! It goes without saying, balanced nutrition is vital for optimum performance. If you’re having a blank moment, check in with when you last ate. Without food, my brain feels like it’s taking a siesta while I’m still trying to get stuff done and a healthy meal seems to light me back up again. Often I’ll catch myself relying on coffee in an attempt to wake up, but inevitably I have too much caffeine and end up feeling worse. Proper nourishment is a much better option.

5.  Alpha, Beta, Theta Brainwaves

There are 4 types of brainwaves (though I won’t talk about delta waves because they’re the slowest, reserved for our deep sleep states). The 3 that influence our creativity are alpha, beta and theta. The fastest is beta. When we get caught in the busyness of life or find ourselves wanting “more, more, more”, we’re in a beta state. It is associated with work, stress and function. This is often fantastic for productivity and multi-tasking, but if we want to connect with our audience and not just talk AT them, we need to slow down and invite more alpha into our lives. Associated with calmness, creativity and connection, alpha is a slower frequency. Remember those times when you feel completely in the flow where everything feels effortless? This is an alpha state. When we write, we often start out in beta mode then move into alpha. The experience of hand-writing enhances this state because of its visceral qualities. It can also move us into theta, a slower more mindful state often associated with meditation. In this state, our creativity can become mystical! If you’re not one for slowing down or meditating, try listening to Tahlee Rouillin’s Sonesence meditones while you write. She is truly gifted.

6.  Move your body

Dance, stretch, exercise, take the dog for a walk… whatever you feel like, for 10, 20 or 30 minutes. You’d probably spend that time looking at a blinking cursor and scrolling through your social media anyway! Some of my best ideas come when I’m out and about. My creativity gets stimulated by different colours and sounds, the fresh air breathes new life into my lungs, and my heart rate increases to pump more blood and oxygen through my body and brain, increasing my alertness and joie de vivre. When I come back to my desk with a fresh cup of organic tea, I always feel better than when I left.

7.  Write to one person

Who is your ideal reader? This might be an avatar you’ve created or a dream client you love working with. You might have a few different ones, depending on the work you do (or aspire to do). Visualise them in your mind as you sit down to write. They may be real or imagined. Take a few deeper-than-normal breaths to let the oxygen expand your mind (remember point 3) and soften your mouth into a gentle smile. Think of it as if you’re writing a letter to this one person only. You might even start off with “Dear friend…” or refer to them by name. This practice invites intimacy and connection into your writing, and helps to eliminate limiting beliefs that may be keeping the block in place. In this space, you can let go of everything the experts say you should be doing. This is a special dialogue between two people. The critique and expansion can come later, or not at all. It is totally up to you. For more on this practice, read Deb Norton’s Ideal Reader practice for self-conscious writers.

8.  Phone a friend

Take the previous exercise one step further and actually reach out to a friend to run some ideas by them. When two people come together, magic can happen. We engage and bounce of each other’s energy and a second person’s ideas and perspectives can provide us with new material we may not have otherwise thought of. Ask your friend if he or she doesn’t mind if your conversation is recorded and that way you can be free to speak without trying to take notes or remember what was said. Think of the topic you want to write about and ask them what their experience has been, or what has challenged them, or if there are any related obstacles they’ve overcome. Find out what their opinion is and what informed their perspective. You’ll not only enjoy catching up with a friend, you’ll take away new ideas and possibly even leads to follow up and deepen your writing.

9.  Call comparison for what it is 

All any of us can ever do, is our best. As humans, we are wired for survival but we have the added complication of cognitive processing, limiting beliefs, and old stories. When we experience resistance, it is usually related to fear on some level. We have a primal instinct to stay safe (and avoid the tiger lurking in the bushes). By putting ourselves out there, allowing ourselves to be seen, we open ourselves to vulnerability — the most courageous act of all. It feels risky and unsafe because it’s beyond the confines of what we know. After all, what if we try our best and fail? (But what if you don’t try…?) When we see other people in our industry taking risks and succeeding, it can trigger a whole variety of limiting beliefs we’ve carried with us through our lives: “I’m not good enough”, “I suck at this”, “I’m hopeless”, “I look stupid”… However, we can choose to either let that feeling feed those beliefs and bring us down, or we can be inspired by what’s possible. Revisit Gabby Bernstein’s quote in point 1. It’s all about perspective. So when you next find yourself in comparison mode, witness it and call it for what it is. Another person’s activities or successes can NEVER define your own.

10.  If everything else fails

Finally, if everything else fails, try this approach by Author & Novelist Brian Moreland. I love it! Like all of us at some point, there are times when his creative muse abandons him too; exit stage left. When all of your attempts to relieve your writer’s block fall short, you could try his “Glass of Water Technique”. Before you go to bed, fill a glass of water and kindly speak your intention into it. Drink half and then place it on your nightstand or on a windowsill to receive the moon’s energy. First thing in the morning, drink the remaining water and do this for 3 days in a row. He swears by it! Now, I really support this technique. Have you read the Healing Power of Water? In his groundbreaking research, Dr Masaru Emoto photographed the molecular structure of water under various conditions. He discovered how water molecules exposed to loving words formed brilliant, complex and colourful snowflake patterns, whereas water exposed to negative words formed incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors. When you take a look at some of the images, you’ll realise this practice isn’t as “woo woo” as it might first sound!

I hope this post has given you some juicy ideas to help make your content marketing a little more meaningful. I would love you to share it and if there’s anything I can do to help you in your journey, please feel free to get in touch. I provide content advice and support to thought leaders, professionals and entrepreneurs worldwide.