In seventh grade I had an English teacher named Mr. Reed. His class transformed me completely, and to this day is the most positive influence I've ever had from the California public education experience. When I started the seventh grade, I was ill-equipped to be the straight-A student my parents so hoped I would be. My English was dense, with a lot of misspelled words and a strange accent other kids couldn't place. On the first week of the semester, Mr. Reed told us we should find a book to read from the class library. This is how we'd begin the first few minutes of class every day. But I didn't read books! In a panic, I grabbed a dictionary and started learning words. I'd decided to learn at least one interesting word per day, so that I could add my favorites to the bottom of our weekly keyword quiz.
It wasn't long before Mr. Reed noticed my efforts at improving my English. One day during SSR (silent sustained reading), he asked me to come to his desk. "Hey Marina, I noticed you've been adding extra words at the bottom of the keyword quizzes... who's teaching them to you?" Embarrassed, I told him I'd been reading the dictionary every day and writing my favorite words into my class notebook. I was surprised to see his reaction. I remember it like it was yesterday... he leaned back in his chair for a minute, staring at me in silence, then said "You know what? I have an idea. I think you'll learn a lot more if you read a story book. You can keep writing down words you like or don't understand, then you and I will go over them at the end of the week. What do you think?"
He handed me the second Harry Potter book. I took the clunky hardcover back to my desk and started reading. By the end of chapter one I was in love! A few weeks went by before we started learning to write essays in class. But my English still wasn't very good and I didn't understand what a format was or how long a paragraph could be. I was struggling to keep up with the rest of the class until Mr. Reed asked me to stay after class. He told me I should write a one page essay each week about Harry Potter. Nervous, I told him I didn't know how to write one, so he made a drawing on the white board. Suddenly everything made sense.
Later that year I went to win second place in a county poetry contest, then getting straight-A grades in English until I actually considered making writing my career! In the end I decided not to go to journalism school, but I did keep writing. I've been blogging since 8th grade, can you believe it? That's ten years! Ten years I've been publishing my thoughts and opinions on the internet and I just can't stop. But being a writer comes with its ups and downs. Sometimes you're on a roll and you can't stop. Words flow freely and everything feels great. Other days you just sit there and think about what you should write, but nothing comes out. Every sentence you write is just crap. Run-on sentences, bad structure, scattered thoughts... we've all been there.
But having writer's block doesn't make you any better or worse at writing. If anything, it gives you time to improve your observations and analytic skills. Being a blogger is a lot like being a journalist... you've got to be able to shake it off to keep things going! Keep scrolling to find my list of ways to kill writer's block ;)
What you can do to overcome writer's block:
Step away from the computer. This is the first and probably most obvious step. You know you want to write, but the ideas aren't flowing as you'd like them to. Restart your brain on the subject by stepping away and putting your mind to some other task like cooking a meal, walking the dog, or chores.
Let's get physical. Go for a run, do some sit-ups, whatever fitness activity you prefer! I'm not much of a "gym" person, so something like these goofy dance routines is much more my speed.
Get buzzed. Okay, I'm not trying to endorse alcoholism or any other unhealthy behavior, but I know from personal experience this works for me. A little bit of rum in my tea or whiskey in my coffee is just enough to loosen up the anxiety around the whole "I have no good ideas," thing. If you don't do booze, perhaps try a little caffeine or matcha tea.
Go to a cafe. If you can, take your writing tools and go outside. Change tables, get off the sofa, take a trip to your favorite cafe, whatever it is that's different to your regular routine. For me, the cafe setting is just the right amount of pressure and ambient noise.
Choose a soundtrack. If like me, you hate absolute silence, try listening to some ambient sounds. I personally prefer to listen to playlists of instrumental music, specifically hip hop instrumentals. But don't even think about having the TV on unless you've got it on mute.
Write on paper. Seriously. The way we think when we write on paper is different than when we type on a computer. This time, instead of writing your work in full detail, try drawing up an outline of what it is you want to say. If color coding helps, go for it!
Try writing something else. Something that helps motivate me to write music and blog posts is my diary. I've got a few pages in there of my favorite writing prompts and inspirations. No matter what genre you're delving into, taking your mind off the subject by writing something else may just give you a different insight on your original idea. If you're into daily rituals, this is a good one to add to your daily writing routine. Just pick a new prompt to write on daily for at least 15 minutes.
Let other writers inspire you. If you're writing a song or a blog, chances are it's been written about before. Do a little search for the topic you're about to cover and see how others are sharing the topic. It's okay to steal ideas, as long as you tell them from your own perspective. Hell, you can even quote the other blogger as long as you're courteous and leave a linkback as credit.
Change the subject. There are about a million posts with lists of blog post ideas for fashion bloggers, beauty bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, mom bloggers, whatever. Go ahead and click through a few to find some topics that interest you. Save them as drafts in your blogging platform and try to add at least two sentences for each topic. This will get your creative juices flowing.
Do the blogger thing. The blogging community is actually a pretty welcoming place, believe it or not. Especially for newer bloggers! Although I highly recommend you close the Facebook tab and keep your phone far away while trying to write, I do encourage anyone to get on Twitter and just start a conversation with another blogger. Probably the best conversation starter is a Twitter chat. It's a great way to gain insight and even a few followers.
Get educated. This is a weird one, but it actually inspired this blog post. Today as I was just awakening from a frustrated afternoon nap, I went straight to YouTube to try and find something to get my mind off writing. I stumbled upon a Ted talk about a woman who'd escaped North Korea. I definitely recommend watching some of the Ted Talks because not only are you distracting yourself, but you might just learn something as well.
Give yourself a deadline. No matter what deadline you give yourself for your piece, it won't work unless you're actually committed. I already know that my blog posts get the most traction in the evening hours when Europe is browsing before bed and America is scrolling on its way to work. Whenever I'm having trouble writing, 9pm is the latest deadline for a blog post. Evening also happens to be my "golden hour," when words seem to flow the most freely. It took a lot of trial and error to find it, so I recommend you experiment with this as well.
Switch up your content. Like journalists, bloggers often get stuck writing in a certain style. Maybe it's lists, maybe it's personal posts, and maybe it's a standard essay format. Well, whatever it is, switch it up! Some format options are: informational or instructional, checklist (like this post), interviews, case study, profile, problem posts, critique posts, satirical, poetic, wishlist, etc.