yours, tiramisu

⭐ how i deal with "writer's block"

My written production has dropped off since the turn of the new year, and in my time away I've gone back and forth on how to address it. I try to be kind to myself when I don't write, but at the same time I recognize that my future self will thank me if some tough love gets me writing again. (I've never regretted writing in my life—only not writing.) In any case, the time away has been good to me. I've had a chance to reflect on my writing, and before long I find myself drawn back to the metaphorical typewriter, not out of obligation, but out of a genuine itch to transcribe my thoughts.

This break has me thinking at length about the creative slump, or "writer's block", as it's commonly known. I put that term in quotations because I believe it to be a myth. I meet many people who enjoy writing but always tell me they just "don't have anything to write about." When I feel the same way, I always go back to the same three strategies that have worked for me. I think many people would write more if they followed these as well.

Consume content that makes you think.

These days most people consume enough content—way too much, for that matter. The problem lies in that they're not consuming the right type of content. I'm guilty of this too. Too often I find myself mindlessly watching things out of boredom that don't teach me anything. But literature and art, especially older art that has withstood the test of time, frequently challenges the way I think and rarely fails to inspire me.

It follows, then, that for me consuming better content means less sports highlights, ten-second videos, and videogames, and replacing them with art in various mediums, books (both fiction and nonfiction), and long engaging conversations with friends. Naturally, this isn't a prescriptive list; these are just the things that provide me with a consistent flow of healthy food for thought. You'll need to decide what content inspires you and plants the creative seeds in your head. (Reflecting on what certain types of content make me think, feel, and do will tell you all you need to know here.)

A type of content that often gets overlooked is life experience. I write far more on my trips or right after them. Travel is one of the best ways to consume foreign content, to inspire awe, and to challenge your assumptions. Don't be afraid to use it.

Write something bad.

The late great Emmy-award-winning Stephen J. Cannell's first rule of writing was give yourself permission to be bad.

Every great writer who's ever lived has, on occasion, written garbage (in my case it happens all the time). It's okay to write garbage. You're a good critic, you'll fix it later. Shakespeare wrote garbage, Hemingway wrote garbage, Faulkner wrote garbage. It is okay. Every writer has bad days, or a day when he or she isn't connecting with the material.

My favorite analogy to describe the writing process runs along these lines:

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. ~ Louis L'Amour

All kinds of mud and gunk can come running out of the faucet when you first turn it on. The important part is to turn the faucet on, i.e. start writing. You have to write out all the bad stuff in order to start getting the good stuff.

When I don't know what to write about for this blog, I lower my expectations. I don't force myself to write well or to write a specific type of post. I start small, by doing something simple like logging what I did yesterday. Then I let myself wander and word vomit what's on my mind. At this point, usually water starts to flow freely from the tap. When I build up momentum like this, it's often easier to keep writing than it is to stop.

Don't confine yourself to a certain kind of writing. I tell myself that writing anything is good, whether it be a letter to a friend, blog post, or journal entry. What's most important is that you've written.

Let your mind wander.

I've left this point for last but nothing has solved as many of my creative slumps as taking a long walk in the woods, with no phone, music, or even a watch: just an optional notebook & pen. Being alone without distractions like music or language helps me hear the monologue in my head, which often has a lot of things to say once you listen to it. All you have to do after that is to coax those thoughts onto paper.

I imagine the mechanism behind this is a lot like the one that causes people to wake up with a solution to the problem they couldn't solve for hours the night before. You have to let your brain lie fallow in order for it to keep producing.

#creativity #english #writing