Okay, you got me.
I totally cheated with writing ‘writing block’. If I have to think too hard – is it writer’s block or writers’ block? – then I circumnavigate tricky grammar, because life’s too short, right?
Think this is blasphemy coming from an editor? Not at all. Nobody is born knowing grammar. It takes effort. And you know what’s more fun than effort? Ease.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
Dancing my lil’ tush off
As you’ll gather from a poke around my website, I’m all about encouraging self-expression and helping people find their voice.
Whether it’s hosting author interviews, writing my lil’ heart out, getting up in front of a group to teach about writing, dancing my lil’ tush off, editing print and ebooks, or even listening to writers express their frustrations, I get my kicks from letting people be heard.
It’s what I’m here to do in this lifetime. I reckon.
Expression is my jam.
So I was fascinated by something I read in Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why about where our emotions come from within the brain.
If you don’t know of Simon Sinek, check out his TEDx talk where he’ll enlighten you about six minutes in.
In a nutshell though and for the purposes of this post, I’ll tell you that our linguistic ability comes from a completely different part of the brain to our emotions.
In fact, the limbic brain, the part where we ‘feel’, has no capacity for language.
Gah! What? Expression isn’t even a thing?
Well, not quite that bad, but it’s no wonder that we have so much trouble with written expression. Particularly when it’s deeply personal, raw, impassioned, moving. Apparently, our minds house these abilities in different places, so being blocked when writing anything emotional seems almost obvious.
Can words ever do justice to feelings?
I’m not sure they can. There are writers, of course, who seem to articulate and conjure just the most perfect scenario that you empathise completely. I think that’s about the best that we can hope for: empathy through story-telling.
So the next time you’re sitting in front of that blank screen willing words onto the page but hating every utterance that comes to mind, relax. Now you know that being stuck with expressing your feelings is perfectly natural.
What techniques can you use to get something flowing?
Of course this doesn’t help if you actually need to get the damn thing written, right? And there are those occasions when words simply pour out of you, when the connections in your brain are sparking and zapping and zooming around, and your fingers can’t move quickly enough across the keys to get it all out.
How do we get more of those days?
Well, I’m no expert in brains and how they work. I just know that when I do these things, it’s like flicking a switch. Here are my 6 favourite ways to overcome writing blocks.
1 Have a change of scene
Step awaaaay from the machine. Get some fresh air. Go for a walk. Refresh and revive your body and mind and things will look very different. Don’t torture yourself with isolation.
An empty page is pretty much the least inspiring thing I can imagine.
2 Watch people
I’m addicted to people-watching. And don’t pretend you’re not!
The other day I wandered to some local shops and came back with three blog ideas just from observing the way people behave for half an hour. People are flipping captivating, aren’t they?
3 Switch media
Remember when you were told to write sentences in your early school years? With a pencil and a ruled exercise book. Remember when you would tearfully write letters to your beloved as a teenager? In girly bubble-writing, adorned with hearts.
Go back to that time when you were uncensored and let it all out.
Grab a beautiful journal, take it to your favourite cafe or park, and write uninhibitedly. Call me old-fashioned, but you can’t beat a pen and paper when it comes to creativity.
4 Turn to the arts
There is nothing like immersing yourself in other artists’ work to remember you’re an artist yourself. Listen to music. Sing. Read. Dance. Draw.
5 Force it
If in doubt, churn it out. If you have tried everything and are at your wits’ end, just friggin’ write, woman!
Get a coffee, a strong one, and sit down. You are not allowed to move until you hit your number, okay? Put your pen to the page or your fingers to the keys and see what happens. Give yourself permission. No-one has to see this.
Allow yourself to write total crap.
Reams and reams of absolute unrelatable, boring-as-fuck, unstructured, uncensored bollocks. Who cares if you don’t use a word of it? It’ll be more useful than a blank page every time.
6 Talk talk talk
Have conversations, call friends, chat, connect with real live human beings (and no, Facebook and Twitter don’t count!) When you start talking, sometimes you say things you didn’t know you felt.
If you don’t have someone to talk with in the moment, call me! (Seriously. Working from home is about zero fun without communication.)
Hop on the phone and talk all things books here.