Wednesday, May 28, 2014

how to cure writer's block

Today was a bit of a milestone for me - I finished my book. The introduction was, funnily enough, the last thing I wrote. For the past week I've been trying to get the words out, attempting to write what I was thinking without sounding contrived. It was a struggle and yes, I fought my way through. This isn't a new experience for me - whenever I'm writing for a new publication or client, writing about something I really care about, the words get stuck. I know why; my expectations are too high and I'm trying too hard but still, it's a process I have to work my way through - a process I'm well accustomed to.

I write from home, from this sunny spot to be precise, and for the past ten years I've had my fair share of writer's block. It comes at the most inappropriate times but, when it does appear, I do one (or more) of the following. I :

draw -  always using these pencils for their rich colour and woody scent (nothing else compares). I find drawing quite therapeutic, regardless of the fact that I almost always draw flowers; advanced, aren't I! If I spend some time creating pictures I find the words follow suit - sometimes.

take photos (hence the paper-wrapped pears above) - capturing images most definitely helps with writer's block and, if I'm lucky, it inspires fresh stories and new perspectives.

go for a walk - the act of leaving the project and moving my body is productive regardless of creative blockages. Fresh air does wonders as does the opportunity to get out of my head and into my body (I focus all my awareness on my feet hitting the footpath). By stretching out I'm releasing congestion in my body - physical and mental.

complete chores - sometimes hanging the washing on the line is all I need to get back into the right headspace. Household chores don't require much thought or creativity; I'm using my hands and being both practical and productive. I'm also clearing physical clutter that tends to pile up around me when I'm working - a distraction/annoyance in itself.

drink water - with a squeeze of lemon for added zing, sometimes I can't find the words simple because my brain is mush. Tea words wonders in the cooler months, too - to warm and induce comfort.

write something else - if I can't write one thing I can easily find the words for another. This happens a few times a week for me; hence I switch between projects to maintain some rhythm and creative inspiration.

say the sentence - this may sound odd but it's quite a practical way for me to get the words flowing. I imagine there is someone sitting opposite me (there usually is a little someone but he/she doesn't offer much constructive criticism) and I just tell them the words. When I turn a story into conversation it's easy for me to notice if something sounds authentic or trite.

step away, leave it behind, don't even think about it - instead of wallowing in frustration I close my laptop and literally forget about it for the rest of the day. Perhaps it comes from years of experience but I trust that the words will eventually come and the job will get done (it always does). I go to the beach, catch-up on home life, go out for coffee, do everything but think about the story.


  1. Such great ideas Jodi and ones I use regularly too. I love doing chores and writing in my head. I always come up with my best sentences at the washing line. Music (and a little dancing) always helps me too as does a nice bath. x

  2. I always say my sentences out loud - if it doesn't sound right when I read it aloud, I change it.
    I'm so excited for your book, Jodi!
    Ronnie xo

  3. I'm not one to comment often but I wanted to leave you a little note today - and step a bit out of my comfort zone. I find myself increasingly drawn to your blog as I am trying to lead a simple life after having been down with burnout syndrome - and I am working on crafting myself a career as a writer/micropreneur (in baby steps, as I teach full time and have 3,5 five year old twins).
    Well, I wanted to say that I greatly appreciate the work you do here, the quiet, relaxed and kind atmosphere on the blog, the focus on sustainability. I look forward to reading your book once it is published!
    Take care, Elisabeth

  4. Your blog is so enjoyable, I cannot wait to read your book! My favorite trick to writers block is to call my best friend and talk about what I'm writing. The more I talk, the easier it is for me write.

  5. These are lovely tips. (I wish I had a beach to go to!!) Writer's block is not so much a problem for me as procrastination. If I'm nervous about something, I'll avoid it as long as possible. If I get my butt in the chair and focus, then it's all good. ;)


  6. These are great tips! I always say sentences out loud and then I usually end up changing them based on that act. I'm excited for your book.

  7. Thank you for this great list of tips :o) And I realized I've used all of these more than once!

    The right kind of music can also help tremendously, as mentioned by Sophie - particularly piano solo in the appropriate mood: Keith Jarrett or Ludovico Einaudi are some of my favourite choices. Also a wonderful acoustic guitar player: Andy McKee, relaxing and stimulating at the same time.

    Also, when I feel blocked because my expectations are too high, I try to get in touch with why I wanted to share it all in the first place, the reason it is important in my life, and somehow it allows the truth of it to flow through me, as it's not just my ideas anymore - it's something that is much wider than me and that I feel grateful about. :o)

  8. I find all of these helpful.

    It's always great getting out and taking a walk. You never know what can inspire you.

    Thanks for sharing. :)

    Naturally Jes

  9. congratulations! this really is a big deal...such a great feeling to send that last version away. best wishes to you!

  10. I always find myself writing the introduction last, Jodi. My thesis general introduction has possibly been the trickiest thing to get down on paper.


  11. Great tips Jodi! I'm a big fan of walking, writing something else and hanging out the washing as well! Visiting via the Rewind.

  12. Greats tips and congrats on finishing your book!

  13. Good work on getting it done! I am commenting here instead of finishing a proposal for my Masters so while I would like to think that is writers block, it is more like procrastination :-)

  14. Introductions are HARD. I re-wrote the introduction of my book countless times and needed many walks, runs and showers to get the words to come out right!

    Congrats on finishing your book ... because finishing a book is ALSO hard!

  15. these are great tips!.. Especially the one about taking pictures. ;)

  16. I thought I was a loyal reader but I had no idea you were writing a book!

  17. Oh, never thought that drawing would help. Definitely will give it a try! Thanks for sharing these tips, Jodi! And good luck with the book! :)


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