Mind block is the number one problem every writer faces, and I’m no exception. I’m not surprised when I read about writers complaining that their mind went blank just as they thought they had something to write about. It can, and it will happen to anyone and everyone, even to non-writers who write dry and boring reports in their work.
“What was I thinking when I thought I had inspirations?”
“What was it that I said I wanted to write about?”
Common questions for many people.
I too faced many occasions when my mind went blank, and many times, I managed to wriggle out of this hated situation by religiously following a set of rules I implemented for myself. I thought it’d be great to share. I’m sure that many of you have been reading about the many ways experienced writers adopt to overcome this familiar nemesis. If you had and you are still at the same place where you were at after trying many different ways, perhaps you can consider Lawson’s Guide To Overcoming The Mental Hurdle. Who knows, what worked for me might work for you? Disclaimer: Not meant for people who are working as doctors, lawyers or corporate liaison officers.
#1 Eat Sweets
You’re not reading that wrong. Eating sweets, or food that can increase your blood sugar help in giving you better willpower to write.
More often than not, writers find themselves procrastinating (and that’s the major cause of not writing), and they will orchestrate a performance of “hey! My room’s messy” or “I think I need to tidy my desk”. Procrastination mainly comes from weak willpower, and our first step is to look at the reasons behind willpower’s weakness. No, it’s not just about focus only. You know that. Even if you think you are focus, and are confident that nothing is going to stop you from writing that piece of article that you’ve always wanted to publish, you’ll find yourself staring into the blank because nothing will come out of your mind. The connection between your brains and your fingers got lost temporarily, and when you decide to give up and go to bed, they’ll come. Trust me in this.
So, before you start writing, make sure that you have sufficient blood sugar by eating on time. Your body just can’t function well if you or your brains feel hungry.
#2 Talk to Yourself
I like this a lot, and I use this everytime even when I’m not writing.
Talking to yourself will give the outline of the article that you will be writing. Consider this: how do you want to bring your article or message across to the readers who are anxiously waiting for you to publish new contents? Do you want a Shakespearey way of speech, or you prefer to give your readers a more personal touch? Do you from time to time, imagine yourself standing on a stage, in front of thousands of people giving a speech? If you did, and you still do, then it’s a good way you can use to outline your writing. Human brains consist of many different versions, or perspectives. When you talk to yourself, you’ll bring two versions of you together. One would be the side that wanted to share the information; the other would be the listener listening to what you wanted to share. Both act as very good rehearsal partners, and through talking to yourself, you will find that you will be able to better bring out what you want to write about.
Take note of the 3rd party though, and that is your critical self. It will, by all means, pull you into the pool of fear. That critical self of yours will be the one stopping you from writing. So, the best way to counter it is to kill it. Face it and fight it until you are able to focus on writing and nothing else. Note that I am not telling you to ignore it, because ignoring will only draw you to it more. So the clever thing to do will be to face it, feel it, then tell it to go away. Remember, even if there are hundreds of people who dislike your posts, there will be thousands who will love what you are sharing.
Forget the big words; throw away the thoughts of having to write like butterflies in the park, or wavy silk clothes sliding down the skin of a beautiful woman. Everyone’s version of good writing differs, and others’ will always seem to be better than yours. Your aim is to bring your message to your reader, not showing them that you are a walking dictionary. Gain your confidence by understanding this.
#3 Find Your Own Voice
Everyone has a voice when they write, and you have your unique voice too.
Tip: Your voice should be the voice when you speak to your inner self.
Many writers – myself in the past included – tend to observe other writers’ way of writing, specifically their “writing voice” as specimens for them to follow. Don’t do that. Everyone is special; you are too. There will be, and trust me when I say this, people loving your “voice” in your writings. They are out there; you just need to give them time to find you. Your writing “voice” is your own identity in the writing world, and you should be proud of it. Find it, and keep it close to you without doing dramatic changes to it.
#4 Fix a Writing Process
This is important.
Fixing a writing process will determine how you bring your articles from your brains to real life through the publish button. Many people will have their different ways, so I’m not going to tell you to stick to what I use to confidently tackle mental block. However, you can take my process as an example, and see if it works for you.
You don’t have to do this on purpose, because if you talk to yourself often, it’ll come like water flowing through your hair when rain falls on your head (no pun intended). Once you have 2 versions of you – one to share, and the other to give opinions – you’ll find that you can write about almost everything, from the ants crawling on the floor to the neighbour who flashed her boobs at you when she was high. Everything.
b) Discuss among the 2 versions of you in your mind, and ignore the critical self that is holding you back
Recognise that there is a friend – the other version of you – living in your mind. This friend will image the readers of your blog / article. Saw something interesting when you were having lunch, or buying your groceries? Share it with your friend. He or she will listen, and they’ll tell you if it’s going to be fun.
c) Jot the points on to a notebook
For this, I suggest that you bring along a notebook along with you everywhere you go. I do, and you can too.
You have to understand that whatever that comes to your mind is going to be short-lived. You can have a witty and clever conversation with the friend in your brain, and that exchange will be gone by the time you sit down in front of your computer. So before it goes away, jot it down.
Some writers that I know of carry a voice recorder with them everywhere they go, and whenever they have something flashing in their mind, they’ll press “record” and just speak their mind literally into the recorder. A playback at a later time will remind them of what they wanted to say, and they’ll come to life through their writings when it’s time to work.
Fact is, there are many ways for this, and you WILL be able to find one way that suits you most. Experiment is the word.
d) Just dump (Or download as many call it)
Dump everything that’s on your mind into a draft and nothing else.
Forget about grammars, to hell with typos and common sense. Just DUMP everything that you want to write about into a draft. Pour them out before your brain juice dissolves them. The shaping part comes later.
e) Connect the dots
Are you writing about happened to Uncle Joe? Or was that example extracted from your last high school gathering?
Was that last sentence ambiguous? Could there be misinterpretation to what you were writing?
Then lift your fingers and write like how you speak. Anticipate the questions on your readers’ minds, and connect them to bring your readers into your world. I’m not telling you to write a full essay for every points that you are writing, but if it’s possible, a brief introduction, write-up, or side points will be nice. Your readers ARE your friends who want to know more about you and what you are writing about.
f) Shaping up
Read and re-read, and shape your writing one sentence at a time. Fix the errors that you WILL find and amend them. I know it’ll be tiring for your eyes, but I assure you that once it gets appreciated (such as going viral), all the hard work will be worthwhile. It’ll not benefit you, and it’ll be detrimental even, if you rush things through, so take your time. Read a sentence, think about the best way to phrase the message, and rewrite before deleting the earlier draft. Like how a log gets carved into a statue, the piece of shapeless wood is exactly what you first need, and useless pieces will have to be discarded as you carve and shape it.
Once you have your process fixed, the next thing you should do is to follow your process, and start writing.
Your writing will NOT improve if you don’t write, and worse, it WILL deteriorate. The more you write, the easier it is to overcome mind block. Some people – and I know some personally – likes to brag about how much they love to write, but they never did, and I never had the privilege to see even one paragraph from them. I’m not talking about Facebook status updates, in case you are wondering.
Your grammar will not improve if you don’t write, and you will not have fluency if you stay put where you are. As many would have heard of this: A runner is a runner because he or she runs; a writer is a writer because he or she writes. This is pretty much what you need to understand about practising to build your confidence, so that the dreaded mental hurdle stays away.
We train ourselves to do something better, by doing the same thing over and over again. Like doing pull-ups everyday so that you increase your repetition maximum, or playing the piano regularly so that you can play a beautiful piece for people around you. If your wish is to write better, then you need to write, and write constantly. Bear in mind that there are no shortcuts for this; you will only reap the fruits of labour through hard work. Writing is not a special skill that we can have by just popping a “skill pill” into our mouth (why isn’t anyone inventing this already? We have the technology!).
Andy Lawson is the average man on the street that you’ll not even trouble yourself looking at him if he passes by you. He’s sensitive to bullshit, and he hates mediocrity in most people. He is the author of his self-published book: Facts and Fiction of Fengshui: Facts that Masters are NOT Telling You. He doesn’t have Facebook or Twitter, because he hates to be associated with people who tend to be passive-aggressive online, but he does have a very limited set of vocabularies, terrible grammar, a twisted mind that makes himself God in his own twisted world and an ability to communicate with people who wish to be his friend.