Can’t write? Every creative person suffers from major and minor blocks. You need a creative strategy to deal with yours.
By the way, everyone (whether you consider yourself a writer or not) suffers creative resistance. If you’re convinced you “can’t write,” that’s resistance.
A creative strategy helps you to write, even if you’re convinced you can’t
Unfortunately, if you’re a professional writer, you can’t afford to indulge your moods. Just like a bricklayer who’s not in the mood to lay bricks, you have to do what you do.
Writing involves emotions, and some are deadly.
Want to get into the mood to write? Here’s a simple strategy.
1. Get into the mood to write, right now
This is my favorite creative strategy: a writing exercise to get into the mood to write. You’ll change your mood: your state of mind.
First, write down exactly how you’re feeling, with the date and the time.
Then write for ten minutes—write about anything at all—keep writing, don’t stop. Write I can’t write, if nothing else comes to mind.
Then write down how you’re feeling again.
This simple exercise will convince you that you don’t need to be in the mood to write: the act of writing creates a “writing” mood.
Want another creative strategy? Let go of judgment. Improvise; pretend. Be spontaneous.
2. Be spontaneous: write without judgment
Can you write without judging yourself, just for today?
Write, and decide you’ll accept whatever you write, no matter how useless or nonsensical.
I know it’s difficult. I used to be the Queen of Judgment.
Judging almost killed my first commissioned novel—the memory lingers. I told myself: I have to do the best I can. It has to be the best thing I’ve even written. This nonsense guaranteed writer’s block.
I spent weeks (literally) on the first couple of paragraphs. Then I edited them out.
Finally, I managed to move on…. And deleted the first two chapters, simply because I was in a judgmental mood. It took me years to realize that judgment kills creativity.
Judgment cripples you, so that you write little, or can’t write at all. So, choose. Either write, and deal with judging “good? bad?” later, when you’re editing, or you can cripple yourself.
I was trying to write a great first paragraph and first scene, and that’s impossible when you’re in the middle of writing.
Good news: the longer you write, the less judgmental you become. You’ll realize that your writing is what it is, on any given day. Always, the writing you thought of as “rubbish” writing, has a reason for existence. It either creates inspiration for better ideas, or it’s a lot better than you thought it was.
Today, just let your writing be, and write.
3. Make a little list: lists are easy, fun, and you’ll write more
Try creating a little list before you start writing today.
Let’s say you’re writing a scene in your novel.
Without thinking, make a list of ten nouns: morning, sun, argument, temper, gun, fireman, surprise, chair, foot, paper. Ray Bradbury knew the value of lists.
You don’t need to use your word lists in your writing. On the other hand, you may find that one of the words kicks off a new train of thought, and takes your scene into a different direction.
Use lists for fiction and nonfiction.
They’re an excellent creative strategy, and help you to subdue creative anxiety.
4. Subdue your creative anxiety—it’s a normal part of the creative process
The scientists point out that to be creative people need to think differently, and this may be genetic. The main reason for the connection between anxiety and creativity is imagination.
Taken to the limit, anxiety can grow into panic attacks.
Have you ever suffered from panic attacks?
They’re horrible. You’re convinced that you’re having a heart attack, and because they often occur in a public place (I used to get them in supermarkets) the sensation that you need to STOP what’s happening makes the attacks worse.
My panic attacks occurred less often when I started telling myself: “OK, it’s fine. I’ll have a heart attack right here, right now, and in the meantime, I’ll just focus on my breathing…”
Finally, after a few weeks of my “OK, so it’s a heart attack… Breathe…” attitude, the panic attacks went away forever.
Chances are you won’t have a panic attack when it’s time to write—but you may feel uncomfortable: concerned, even worried, when there’s no real reason.
Here’s the thing about sudden unexplained anxiety: we tend to ascribe reasons to it to justify it to ourselves. Those reasons may be nonsense, but they persist. You tell yourself lies about your writing.
You’re convinced the lies are true:
- This is a stupid plot. It’s nonsense. My characters are even stupider than the stupid plot.
- I can’t write this. I need to tell (my boss, my client, my editor) that I can’t do it…
- What’s the point of writing when I have a headache? I can’t write. I’m not well…
An so on, and so forth.
You need at least one creative strategy
Try one of the strategies above.
Does it help? Share your experiences on social media. I’d love to hear about them.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.