What to write when you can't even manage to compose a grocery list
I procrastinated writing this blog post. I had the idea, knew what I wanted to write, but somehow I just couldn’t sit down at the computer to do it.
I worried that what I had to say was boring and no one would read it. Failure. I had to make it perfect – each and every word! Should it be a list or just write paragraphs? I wasted about 20 minutes looking at blog templates. Decided on list.
“Just get on with it,” I told myself.
I can’t tell you how to magically move yourself from the couch to the chair at your desk -- but I can help you with what to do once you have accomplished that feat and are staring at a blank screen and blinking cursor.
📷 Words Beget Words: Just start writing anything about your article/story that is floating around in your head. This is like free-writing but you are confining yourself to writing about your story. If you have interviewed someone, start typing in your notes from the interview – that helped get me going when I was a newspaper reporter. Don’t know what the beginning of the scene or article should be? Just start at another point – the top will come to you as you write the middle or the end.
📷 Give Yourself a Deadline: Believe me; 15 years in daily journalism with a deadline hanging over my head pretty much cured me of writer’s block. The clock was always ticking. Even if you don’t have a blank spot on a page with your name on it dogging you, give yourself a deadline to write something. It does not have to be perfect. You can revise it later.
📷 Journal: Sometimes when I am really stuck, I just start free-writing in my journal – by hand with a pencil so I can erase my mistakes! Write about a book you are reading, describe the crazy lady stuffing her food in a suitcase in front of you in line at the grocery store. Graham Greene kept a dream journal.
📷 Do a Simple Chore: Vacuuming usually works for me. Notice I said simple – something you can quickly start and then put down when your muse arrives. Do not start reorganizing your closet or desk drawers. When I worked in a newsroom I would just clean up my desk a bit – make a neat pile of all the papers lying around, wipe down my key board and stash all my old notebooks out of sight.
📷 Change Your Location: When I am working at home and feel frustrated, I take my laptop into the kitchen or living room and work from there for a while. I have also gone to the local coffee shop or library. Some grocery stores also have eating/sitting areas where you plant yourself for a bit with a cup of coffee or a snack.
📷 Remind Yourself That You Actually Enjoy Writing: Well, once you get started anyway and especially when you are finished!
📷 Work on Another Creative Project: I keep a bunch of colored pencils lying around and when I can’t think of where to go next in my piece I will start doodling or coloring in one of those adult coloring books that have become popular. It is relaxing and helps me let my mind wander to a productive place.
If all else fails you can try this bedtime magic trick that writer Chuck Sambuchino swears works for him in desperate times.
Fill up a glass of water. Hold it up to your mouth and tell it that you intend to write brilliantly and beautifully. Drink half the water and set the glass on your night table. The next morning, before you do anything else, drink the rest of the water. Go straight to your computer and write for at least an hour without stopping.
I have not tried this.