Thanks to the Internet, almost everybody writes these days in some fashion. Over the past year, I have thought about writing quite a bit. In fact, some of my own reading has been about writing, if that makes any sense. I have even been listening to music about writing. (Back in October, I had seen this list of the top ten songs about writing, a list that includes the very cool Rush song Losing It.)
So, as 2009 comes to a close, I am left with the following writing-related thoughts entering the new year:
- How many words have I written (for my blog, other blogs, books, and emails)?
- How are some authors and bloggers so prolific?
- How I can keep generating (hopefully interesting) content?
So, I’ll wrap up 2009 with a post about my own five solutions to just about every writer’s biggest obstacle: writer’s block.
Find Your Muse
Two of my friends are professional writers: Jay Miletsky and Jim Harris. Every time that we have a conversation, the ideas start flowing. Of course, I don’t have this same rapport with everyone. Perhaps these connections stem from our having compatible personality types, similar ages, or odd fascinations with many of the same things. Regardless of why, finding a muse (or several if you can) is huge. The whole can be greater than the sum of the parts.
Find Your Sanctuary
Regardless of why, finding a muse (or several if you can) is huge.
Like many people, one of my top ten movies is The Shawshank Redemption. In one scene in the movie, Tim Robbins’ character (Andy Dufresne) locks himself in an office and blares classical music out of the speakers into the prison yard, ultimately getting sent to solitary confinement for this stunt. When he returns, he tells his friends that it was “the easiest time I’ve ever done.” Dufresne has a place inside his head that prison can’t touch. He has a safe place, a place that classical music can help him find.
Now, you don’t have to go to prison to find your sanctuary. Some of my friends zone out on the train commuting to Manhattan. As for me, I need my regular gym time to put my life in perspective and keep my demons in check (more on that below).
Whatever your escape, if you’re having a hard time churning out a paper, report, article, or blog post, go to your sanctuary. Once you return, things will probably seem clearer.
Channel Your Inner Demons
My inner demons can be the source of stress and occasionally regrettable behavior. Did I mention that often deal with people wildly resistant to change? I learned long ago that my demons are actually an amazing and prolific source of inspiration. For example, over the past holiday weekend, I recently wrote nearly 10,000 words in about twelve hours on a management topic because I was so incensed about it. Hey, it was cheaper than twelve hours of therapy and arguably just as helpful.
It’s not unlike Al Pacino in Heat (another one of my favorite flicks). Pacino tells his wife that he holds onto his anger. To paraphrase Al, “it keeps him sharp, on the edge, where I gotta be.” Well said.
The last thing I’ll ever do is force a blog post or topic. If I’m not drawn to a topic immediately, then I’ll abandon it—or at least attempt to give it a different treatment after a few days. I find that my best writing happens quickly, a sentiment that I understand more having recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink.
Increase Your Inputs
Finally, I have spoken with people who just can’t seem to find inspiration, to get over the hump. Two words: Go online. Watching videos, listening to podcasts, and reading others’ blogs and eBooks typically gives me more thoughts and ideas than I can possibly manage.
What works for you when you have writer’s block?
That’s a wrap on 2009. Thanks for reading and look for more great musings in 2010. Happy new year to all.
To paraphrase Captain James Tiberius Kirk from Star Trek V – The Final Frontier:
“Damn it, Dude, you’re a writer. You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They’re the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away! I need my pain!”
Therefore, I wholeheartedly agree with your advice to “channel your inner demons” – they can truly be your greatest muse – just as long as you channel them into creative energy that compels you to serve the common good of your community of readers – although I definitely acknowledge that sometimes the common good is best served by giving the community a swift kick in the common ass.
Instead of the typical Vulcan salutation: Dif-tor heh smusma (or for those not fluent in Vulcan: “Live long and prosper”) – I offer the following to greet all of us writers in the New Year:
“Write well and often.”
Good reminders for all of us. I’ll share this with my blogging team… Thanks!
Thanks for the responses, Crysta and Jim. I can’t think of anything else to add because I must have writer’s block. 🙂