Last week’s post, The Recipe for Writer’s Block, covered (in my opinion) what writer’s block is and what causes it. Like the old G.I. Joe saying goes, “Knowing is half the battle.”
But what about the other half?
I think being aware of what causes writer’s block goes a long way, but there are also other small things that can be done to help prevent it before it strikes. So, much like a chef takes pride in their mise en place, which prepares them for the task/meal/night ahead, writers can also take steps to ensure their writing muse keeps on musing.
Here are five things I do that naturally prevent writer’s block:
1. When an idea strikes, write it down IMMEDIATELY.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) I work at a computer for my day job, so if an idea strikes during 9-5 I normally send myself a quick email with the idea and any other relevant bullet points. This serves a couple purposes. First, you eliminate the risk of losing the idea to other random thoughts (like which doughnut I’m going to buy from Astro Doughnuts). Second, by seeing it written down it has more life to it and creates more ownership on eventually following through. At lunch or at night I tend to log into our blog and start the idea as a draft post. It doesn’t necessarily have to be fully thought out, just enough that the idea is conveyed. Over time this helps prevent writer’s block, because every time I log into our blog, I see a list of draft posts waiting to be finished. I’d much rather have the issue of having too many ideas to choose from than too few. Just like doughnuts.
2. Learn to write anywhere.
Although I haven’t done it recently, there was a period where I would write in my car during my lunch breaks. It actually worked quite well as a little writing bubble. No distractions from people. No wifi. No excuses. Most of my writing now is done at my desk at work during lunch, on the couch at home, or at the kitchen table. But I love to mix it up occasionally and work from coffee shops or restaurants. Writing is great because you can do it anywhere. However, in the early stages of writing, I think it’s easy to become fascinated with finding that “perfect” place to write. One with sweeping views of mountains and the ocean, a cup of tea, and 72 degree weather while birds serenade you like you’ve already won a Pulitzer. The problem is if you believe that you can only write under certain circumstances, then you will wait for those circumstances. And over time, this waiting ferments, but instead of turning into something delicious like kimchi, it turns into writer’s block.
3. Surround yourself with other writers.
In much the same way that watching David Chang eat ramen on Mind of a Chef will make you crave ramen, by surrounding yourself with other writers you will crave writing. And if you truly crave it, writer’s block won’t be able to touch you. Twitter is a good source of finding other writers to connect with, but it doesn’t hurt to have closer friends that write as well. It doesn’t have to be the same type of writing, either. A novelist, screenwriter, and blogger might work in different ways, but the act of writing is the same. A cup of coffee and the question, “So, what are you writing these days?” can go a long way to creating a dialogue that fosters creativity. And at the very least you can guilt your friend into writing more surfing blog posts. Isn’t that right, MICHAEL?
4. Invest in a good laptop.
Okay, I’m not saying that you have to have the best computer money can buy to be a writer. And in no way am I insinuating that having a great laptop will make you a great writer. However, by having a laptop that you love, that’s fast, and doesn’t crash, you will look forward to writing more than if you’re running an IBM from ’92. Plus, if it has decent battery life, then you’ll have no problem carrying it around everywhere you go, which will facilitate #2. Would a chef prepare a great meal with dull knives?
Writer’s block loves to take naps.
Everyone’s mise en place is different and what works for me, might not work for you. What’s useful is knowing what helps you prevent writer’s block. If anyone has any tips, share ’em in the comments so we can stop writer’s block together.