11 Mind-Clearing Methods for Beating Writer’s Block
It doesn’t matter whether you actually write for a living or not. Sometimes the pipes freeze, the lights turn off—or whatever your preferred euphemism for writer’s block is.
Because life is cruel and unfair, it always seems like writer’s block hits at the worst possible time. Usually there’s a deadline involved. More often than not, it happens before you’ve even sat down to work. So if you’re currently banging your head against the wall and hoping for ideas that won’t come, give your brain a rest and try seeing if one of these eleven methods will help you beat writer’s block today.
1. Turn On (or Off) the Music.
This is completely subjective, but I love working to music. One of the big perks to my job as a freelancer is that unlike at my old job in a corporate office, I can plug in headphones and tune out distractions while listening to music I love. But sometimes, especially if I have a particularly tricky assignment at hand, such as writing a landing page, my brain can freeze up.
When this happens I find that it’s best to unplug my headphones for a bit, close my eyes, and just wait for an idea to break through the silence. Obviously, some people are the opposite. If you’re someone that doesn’t normally listen to music while working but you’re hitting the wall, try playing some instrumental music on whatever your favorite music app is.
2. Take a Walk.
Give your head a break and step away from the drawing board for a little bit. If you can, take a walk outside—the fresh air will wake you up if you’re tired (unless it’s super hot outside, then perhaps go for a walk inside your office). And getting the blood flowing in the rest of your body has been linked to improved cognitive skills.
3. Talk to Someone.
If you’re out of ideas, ask a colleague or friend of yours if they have any suggestions to help propel you out of the quagmire. There’s a reason that two heads are better than one—and it may be that they make you see something that was sitting right in front of you the whole time.
4. Take a Nap.
It could be that the reason you can’t seem to function is a matter of fatigue. At some point, drinking Red Bull or a shot of espresso won’t help you over the creativity hump. In that case, find somewhere quiet to rest and give yourself twenty or thirty minutes of shuteye. After all, if Google has invested millions in napping pods then surely the rest of us can squeeze in some workday sleepy-time, too.
5. Have a Snack.
Not to sound like your mom here, but when was the last time you had a decent meal for lunch? I stress “decent meal” because getting something greasy or heavy is probably not much better than eating nothing at all. There are tons of healthy superfoods that will keep you mentally nimble—here is a list of fifteen great foods that will help boost your productivity and keep you focused on the task at hand.
6. Shift Your Focus to a Different Task.
If it seems like your first priority assignment has been going nowhere for too long, drop it for a few minutes and move on to whatever is next. Keep in mind this doesn’t necessarily mean moving from one work-related project to the next one. Maybe all you need to do is send your landlord rent for next month, or order your lunch on your smartphone. Completing another task, even if it really isn’t that difficult, will create a positive sense of getting something done, which might be all it takes to snap you out of a creative funk.
I’m not sure how I feel about Eastern spiritual practices being co-opted to fit into our bustling Westernized workaholic lifestyles, but it seems like the sort of thing that could be useful, if not for fighting writer’s block, then in preventing it from happening as easily in the first place. If you can gain some semblance of control over the many empty thoughts flicking around your head—surely I’m not the only one dealing with this issue—then maybe you can utilized the mind-sharpening skills that come from regular meditation practice and have less difficulty focusing on getting work done.
8. Download a Focusing App.
When all else fails, don’t give yourself the option to log into Facebook, post to Instagram, or message your friends on Snapchat. There are a lot of useful apps available to help those who can’t help themselves. Freedom locks you out of particularly distracting apps when you’re trying your hardest to concentrate and don’t have the luxury of being sent down a Candy Crush deathspiral. Focus is a Mac-specific app that will not only block you from accessing websites, but even keep you from messing around on applications such as Mail. If you’re busy writing content online, WordPress offers a distraction-free tool that isolates the text page onscreen while temporarily vanishing everything else. And in MS word it’s easy to wipe away everything but the word processing document itself.
9. Write Literally the First Thing that Comes to Mind.
You would be surprised how fluid your ideas can be once you get the first one out. It can be completely unrelated to whatever your stated work goals are. If you’re writing an arts piece on a new gallery show but can’t think of anything other than the date you’re going out on later that evening, write your first few sentences about that (just remember to go back and delete that stuff when you’ve finished drafting your piece).
If you’re a graphic designer and can’t envision how to Photoshop a client’s product, sketch a bunch of stick figures having a beauty pageant, or perhaps running from a horde of velociraptors. Get creative!
10. Change Your Workspace.
Maybe you just need to switch seats and face a window instead of a wall. Perhaps a little more (or less) lighting will help you concentrate better. Or it could be that you need to pick up your work and move somewhere else, like a café or co-working space, to find your focus again.
11. Listen to the Rain.
Or maybe you just need to close your eyes for a few minutes and listen to the rain. Is it completely sunny outside, with nary a raindrop in sight? Then lucky for you, there’s this app.
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