07 Jan 7 Quick Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block
Along with my business and political work, I am also a writer and artist. Even though I have created tons of articles, published a bunch of children’s booksand many paintings over the years, there still comes a moment at the start of a project when I find myself consumed with doubt. My mind goes as blank as the page or canvas I am staring at, and my confidence is replaced with crashing doubt.
Over time I learned the creative equivalent of writer’s block is quite a common thing. In fact, many successful artists and writers are known to be prone to it – just check out this article on Medium.com for some great examples. Knowing this fact, means I now embrace the block, in fact, I strangely find myself welcoming it. That’s because I know it will pass and once it does, I will be in full creative flow.
In saying that, when writing a proposal or preparing a pitch, I am aware that for many people this fear can be even more intense. Unlike an author or artist, you don’t have the luxury of time to regain your flow. You often need to get it back in hours, not weeks, and the clock is ticking.
So unlike the great authors like Stephen King – who famously wrote in his (excellent) book ‘On Writing’ that his writers’ block led to a four-month period of not writing, drinking beer, and watching soap operas – you probably need to get on with it as soon as possible. Like right now!
So beyond reassuring you that your writers’ block will pass, I wanted to share some practical tips that don’t involve months of torment, and you can use right now to tap into the inner creative genius that is hiding away.
So here goes with some, super fast tips that I can verify work (for me, at least!) for getting over writers’ block immediately:
1. Believe in yourself
Yes, this sounds a bit cheesy, but it’s still true. Remember, you are creating this idea or content for a reason. Either because other people believe in you to do it, and/or because you have something important to share. So don’t let fear stop you from being your best.
I’m not saying this just to be nice either, psychologists have produced research on the power of self-belief, and shown that what you think about yourself is a huge influencer in what you will achieve. A great book on this is ‘The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others’ by Tali Sharot. I highly recommend it.
2. Rip stuff up
I recently found that a technique I have used in workshops for years can also be powerful enough to break creative blocks in individuals too.
The technique is fast and straightforward. Firstly get a pile of old magazines, then give yourself just 2-3 minutes to rip up as many images as you can of images putting them into relevant groups to the thing you are stuck on. For example, if you were trying to come up with creative ideas for to inspire your prospective clients’ customers, the ripped images could be put into groups of ‘Stuff the customer would hate’, ‘Stuff the customer would love right now’ and ‘Stuff the customer would be inspired by’.
I have found that the act of ripping magazines up and creating a semi-organised mess based on gut instinct alone, seems to open up the mind to new ideas. In fact, I once had a workshop attendee tell me it was like they had ‘lit a fuse on a creative bomb with ideas exploding all over the place!’. The truth is, even if none of the ideas makes their way into the final proposal or pitch, the mere act of doing the activity will help you break that creative block.
3. Plagiarise, well, sort of
Mark Twain once famously said “There is no such thing as a new idea.” which leads to my next tip for breaking the creative block. Sometimes it helps to start with something that exists. So instead of staring at a blank screen or page, try taking something from an old document and editing it, or do a search online for related content and use this as a basis for your thinking. I find that editing something until it no longer resembles what I started with can be easier than trying to start from scratch.
So don’t be afraid that you need to reinvent the wheel every time. Build upon existing foundations and then take them in a new direction. You will be surprised how well that works.
4. Get Drawing
This Ted talk by Tim Brown refers to an excellent exercise called the ’30 Circles Test’ which was developed by Bob McKim who was a creativity researcher in the ’60s and ’70s and led the Stanford Design Program.
At the heart of the exercise is to transform the circles into as many objects as you can in a limited amount of time, e.g. under one minute. The task is a great way to kick your brain into creative mode and get yourself unstuck creatively.
5. Ask yourself ‘What Would Chuck Norris Do?’
Ok, you might think I am being a bit silly now, but there is a truth to this. The approach has many names including the ‘Teleportation Method’ and ‘Walk In Someone Else’s Shoes’ technique, but the principle is the same. Take some time to just think through someone else’s mind for a few moments. How would they solve the problem, what would they write, how would they approach it?
An extension of this technique is to imagine yourself in the pitch itself, but instead of being the person pitching, put yourself in the shoes of one of the clients watching the pitch. Think about the story you would want to hear, how would you want to feel and what you would like to know about. Write this down and use it to create a framework for your thinking.
Getting your mind to see things from a different perspective can be a great way to open up new thinking and will karate chop your writers’ block into two (Chuck Norris style).
6. Do it badly, like really badly
You may have heard the quote by General George Patton that ““A good plan today is better than a perfect one tomorrow”, which has been paraphrased over time to ‘Done is better than perfect’. Well, I use a technique that takes this to the extreme, and strangely works.
I believe writer’s block can often be caused by what I call the ‘perfectionist’s paralysis’, i.e. the need to get it 100% right from the start means every time the writers starts writing the lack of perfection stop them getting anywhere.
So I like to turn this on it’s head, and instead of trying to get to good, try to get to bad, like really bad. Give yourself just ten minutes to write something that is literally the worst you can do, make errors, come up with terrible ideas, just make it embarrassingly bad – the only rule is it has to be truly awful.
After ten minutes, stop and destroy it. That’s right, delete it or shred it, but don’t let it ever see the light of day.
Now take a short break and return to what you need to do. I assure you, more often than not, the ideas will flow more freely, and your writers’ block will have disappeared or at least your creative cobwebs will have disappeared.
7. Create a story you want to hear
I appreciate this is a rather ironic statement when talking about writer’s block – as most writer’s block is related to writing a story! However, this technique is really great for getting your creative juices flowing really quickly for your proposal or pitch. It’s really simple too. Pick up a newspaper or magazine and randomly circle five words. From those five words try and create a story that relates to your proposal or pitch. The challenge of doing this can do wonders for your thinking.
Another great technique is to buy a set of dice called Story Cubes. These look similar to normal dice but each side has an image related to telling a story. You simply roll the dice and then create a story based on the images that appear on the story cubes. It can be fun but also has a serious point by forcing you to think differently, which is the essential component to breaking through the creative barriers you have put in your mind’s way.
You can find more ideas tackling for increasing your creativity including a template for the 30 circles test and a dedicated list of ’69 ideas for when you’re stuck for ideas’ in our newly launched product “How To Win: The Ultimate Professional Pitch Guide”.
If you want some advice or find out more about how we can help you tap into your inner pitch creative, get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0800 029 3739. You can also book a free introductory consultation.