#100DaysOfFoodBlogging, Thought Nuggets

‘Mise en Place’ for Preventing Writer’s Block

'Mise en Place'

[This is post #015 towards #100DaysOfFoodBlogging, our goal to do 100 posts in 100 days as part of The 100 Day Project.]

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?

5.  Coffee.

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.

#100DaysOfFoodBlogging, Thought Nuggets

The Recipe for Writer’s Block


[This is post #008 towards #100DaysOfFoodBlogging, our goal to do 100 posts in 100 days as part of The 100 Day Project.]

As Tina and I have just rounded out the first eight posts towards our goal of #100DaysofFoodBlogging, blogger friend, Emma @ Fork and Good recently posted “Curse of the blogger’s block,” an honest look at why she hasn’t been posting as much recently due to her war with writer’s block. Let’s hope blogger’s block isn’t contagious…after all, we do have 92 more posts to go!

Emma’s post inspired me to think about my own run-ins with that evil block of the writer. Historically, I haven’t dealt with the same “staring at the blank page” form of writer’s block that most people describe. Rather at my worst, I haven’t even gotten to the point of staring at the blank page, because I’m too busy “working on the idea in my head.” Likely story.

Over the years, I’ve been able to mostly quiet the demon, simply by understanding it. And the best way to understand it, is to know where it comes from; i.e. what’s the recipe for writer’s block?

Get it? Food blog? Recipe? Okay, it is a stretch…

In my experience, writer’s block is simply a way our subconscious works to avoid failure. For example, if I don’t write this post, then I don’t risk someone hating it, and therefore I cannot fail. AND I can use that free time for working on more ideas in my head. See, win-win!

This fear of failure is a result of not believing what we’re writing is good enough, and is a created by a desire for perfection. The late and great author / screenwriter / TV producer Stephen J. Cannell talks about this in the video below:

Cannell says it perfectly when he states that writer’s block is caused by “the desire to be perfect.”

With this desire to be perfect comes self-censorship. We start judging everything we write and before long we’re simply not writing, because by not writing we can’t write something imperfect. And if we don’t write something imperfect we can’t fail.

Once you realize what’s causing writer’s block, it’s much easier to fight. The solution is to create an environment that welcomes–and even encourages–failure.

Hence, our #100DaysofFoodBlogging challenge to ourselves. Because we’re cranking out posts everyday, there’s an unspoken idea that by putting out a post day after day for 100 straight days, it would be impossible to expect that every single one will be perfect. The goal isn’t to have 100 perfect posts. It also flips around the definition of failure, because by the nature of this thing we only fail if we don’t do 100 posts. Thus, 100 awful posts is still a success. It’s a pretty sweet deal that ends up stopping writer’s block before it starts.

It also helps to remember that…

You are NOT out of good ideas.

You will NOT never write again.

You have written before and you will write again.

You will fail.

And you will fail again.

And then 30 more times before you succeed.

 That’s okay, because failing is fun

…and perfection is boring.

(And if you need proof that failing is fun, check out Emma’s Food Photography Blunders series. Failure never looked so good.)