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Connect with Your Creative Writer

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Do you have to complete a piece of writing but are putting it off? A report, a blog article, or a letter? Are you finding that the moment you sit down to write, your mind seems to go blank? Crap! Writers block! What can you do about it?

Although, the term writers block is popular, this feeling of blockage and mind blanking is not specific to writing, but of any creative feats. Other examples include, brainstorming for a new business, dancing, musical performances, music composition, painting or photography. I’ve personally experienced this during my photography work, blanking out as I stand in front of a client waiting for me for direction. I call these Creative Blocks, where your mind just comes up empty and you feel lost. It’s purely mental.

Through practice and observation, I’ve gotten pretty good at getting past these blank moments, and this article shares some insights for unlocking your creativity. Throughout the article, I will be using writing as the example, but keep in mind that it is equally applicable to any creative activity.

Creativity & Mental Blocks

Before digging into how we can unlock these creative blocks, here are some observations on the subject of feeling mentally blocked.

  • The more we Think about it, the worse it becomes. The more we think about not knowing what to write, the stronger the feeling of not knowing what to write, the harder is it to come up with creative and original content.
  • Creativity is a miraculous interaction of the mind and spirit. Regardless of how we label it, I believe it is inter-linked with spiritual realm of things (not religion). Talk to any exceptional artists and they’ll explain that the creative space is comparable to that of no-mind spiritual state. My brilliant cellist friend once explained it perfectly, “that place in you which is infinite and unexplainable and nothing physical can compare to that space. When I am in that place, all thoughts clear out. It’s just me and the field of infinity.
  • We all have the capacity within us to access this place of infinite creativity. However, what may be blocking us is our mind, our thoughts, the inner noise created by ourselves, consciously and unconsciously.
  • When we are working in that creative space, we are experiencing flow. We feel happy, content, and passionate. Time just flies. Think of the last time you were deeply in joy with writing, creating something or deeply immersed in a project. What did that feel like?
  • There is no such thing as “I am not a creative person“, it may only be the case because we keep telling ourselves that. Creativity is something that can be cultivated. We are born with access to the creative space, some of us may be more in-tuned to it, but it is never too late to get in touch with that side of ourselves.
  • When we need to produce something creative on a deadline, we may succumb to fear and start to procrastinate. Our thoughts get in the way sometimes, because we are afraid that we won’t be able to produce quality result in time, and so we push it away.

 

 

How to Overcome Writer’s Block

From my experience as a writer, I’ve learned that unless I was exceptionally inspired to write about a particular topic, I will experience writer’s block every single time. Sitting in front of a blank screen, my mind chatter would fire off random and discouraging thoughts. Ones like the following:

  • How should I start the article? Errr.. I donno.
  • How to structure the body? Can this article be as good as the last?
  • Crap, I don’t know what to do. I don’t feel very good.
  • I think I’m gonna check email. And to get a drink after that. I’ll delay this a bit more.

Can you relate? If so, you are not alone. It is quite normal to hear mind chattering. As widespread and as ‘normal’ as these self-destructive thoughts, they are not the problem. The problem is when we start to believe in these thoughts.

The secret to overcoming writer’s block is simple, and that is to just do it. Literally!

Here’s a simple stepped process that I follow when doing any sort of writing:

Step 1: Awareness – At any point during the following steps, you may be interrupted by your mind chatter yapping in the background. When you hear him or her, just say, Thank you for sharing. And continue on with what you’re doing.

Step 2 – Topic Selection – When selecting a topic, always choose one that you align with, closely. Preference goes to topics that you are personally experiencing now or in a recent past. Being able to emotionally connect with what you’re writing about is the seed for inserting that passion into your writing. Passion adds energy into a piece of writing and makes it come alive. If you do not connect with the available topics and you don’t have alternative options, visualize what it would feel like to be passionate about that topic.

Step 3 – Brainstorm & Capture Random Ideas – Spend 5-10 minutes to list out everything you can possibly talk about for this topic. List out all ideas, thoughts, sentences that come to you. List in bullet points and do so as fast as possible. Do not judge the thoughts that come to you, write everything down. No editing, just listing. Don’t worry about spelling, structure, or grammar. You can always delete them later. The point of this step is getting as many ideas down as possible. Also, this step helps you to get into the flow and rhythm of creative thinking.

Step 4 – Roughly Organized the Flow – See if you can move some of the thoughts from last step into meaningful groupings. It doesn’t have to be perfect or finalized. This step helps you to organize your thoughts a bit and starts to create a sense of logical flow.

flower-cherry-bloosm.jpg
Photo by Katsuaki Shoda

Step 5 – Jumping Over the Block – Start writing your opening paragraph without too much editing. Your first attempt might suck, and you will hear yourself shouting that in your head. Ignore them and continue to write without caring about how it sounds. Don’t bother erasing, just keep going. If you want to rephrase a paragraph, just write it above the old paragraph without removing the old paragraph. No perfection here, we’re just getting thoughts in paragraph form. Don’t worry about tweaking, do that later. The point of this step is to create the article flow.

I’ve found that often time, we get stuck at properly re-wording a sentence. In the end, we’ve spent so much time tweaking every detail that we still don’t know how the writing will flow. The important point here is to just write and get your ideas down in paragraph form, regardless of how sloppy or casual a paragraph may sound. You can always come back to perfect the paragraphs later, or re-write them once you have the important ideas down.

Step 6: Going with the Flow – After doing step 5 for a while, you will find an emotional connection with your writing. For me, this typically takes about 3-5 paragraphs of just writing without editing, at which point, words and nicely phrased sentences would flow out of me, effortlessly. Now, follow that flow. Either continue to write the rest of the article draft, or go back to re-phrase previously written paragraphs.

Step 7: Keep a Scratch Pad – As you come up with better ways of re-phrasing ideas, take your old wordings and paste them into a separate file known as the scratch pad. For example, I keep a file on my laptop called “blah.doc” which acts as my scratch pad of random paragraphs and sentences during writing. As useless as they may seem, they can pose as a pointer to the original idea. Even if the original phrasing is rough around the edges and not presentable, keeping the words mean no ideas are lost.

Step 8: Rephrasing & Trimming the Extra Pounds – Go through the article several times. At each sentence, ask yourself whether you can better phrase the sentence using less words? Add clarifying sentences only when you feel that it adds to the article. Do paragraphs sound verbose and not add value to your writing? If so, cut it out.

 

Tips for Unlocking Creativity

In addition to the steps above, here are the habits and tips which have helped me get more in-tuned with my inner creativity:

  1. Follow Your Heart – Being inspired and passionate about what you’re creating is like swimming with the waves, they help push you in the direction you want to go without too much extra effort. Equally, when you’re creating something you don’t have much passion for, is like swimming against the waves, you can get back on the shore, but you’ll have to work a lot harder, while spending more energy doing so.
  2. Tell the Truth – If you aim for truth without letting your ego take center stage, you will find that brilliance results as a side effect to your efforts. Practice candidness and speaking honestly, your authenticity will shine through and people will know because they too can feel it. Here’s a sweet quote you might like:
    • Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring two pence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” ~ C.S Lewis
  3. Keep a Notebook at all Times – Always carry some form of paper and pen with you. You will never know what strokes of inspiration you’ll encounter as you enter the realms of everyday life.
  4. Writing Down Ideas – We tend to get creative ideas during the week at times when we are not in front of the computer. Make a habit of writing everything down in your notebook, everything from inspirational quotes, to ideas that strike you, to personal thoughts and observations. For example, for this blog, I keep a doc containing a list of topics for future articles, and I add to this list whenever I feel that passion kicking in my heart about some new topic.
  5. Inviting Creativity – When we get ideas, often our mind is so loud that we don’t notice them. Even when we notice these ideas, we start judging them. We would come up with reasons why they wouldn’t work. However, when we do this, we are really sending messages to our unconscious mind that we’re not interested in receiving notices of creative ideas. And we stop receiving them as often. Make a habit of seeking creative ideas, and create a space that welcomes them without judgment when they come, noting them down and give gratitude for having received them.
  6. Give it Time – Send out a clear intention on what you would like to create and think about it over the next few days. You’ll find that once the intent is sent, you’ll start receiving related ideas at random times. Make sure you write everything down as it comes. You’ll be thankful you did.
  7. Establish an Enjoyable Routine – We are creatures of habits and we are strongly subjective to associations. It’s a good idea to create a routine or ritual around when you write or do anything creative. With time, your mind will associate the routine with falling into a creative space. My personal routine is: having hot tea, listening to ambient music without singing, and having a blanket or my little dog covering my lap. It’s true! :)
  8. Meditate – I cannot emphasize enough the benefits meditation and spending alone time for gaining mental clarity and easier access to your creative space. There are some fantastic guided meditation audio at Zencast, free of charge. For starters, just start with 5-10 minutes of silent time every morning with complete focus on your breath.
  9. Practice, Practice, Practice – The more we do something, the better we get. Period. Not only do we get better, it becomes easier, or rather, we adapt to it. The more opportunity we spend in that creative space, the easier it will be to fall into it next time. It’s like anything else.camera-hanging.jpgPhoto by Katsuaki Shoda
  10. Exposure – If you want to be good at something, expose yourself to it as much as possible. If you want to become a better writer, read powerful and inspirational writing, often. If you want to be a photographer, check out publications from photographers whose work you connect with, or inspires you. Find someone with the kind of results you want, and model the positive traits they have. Assimilate these traits and develop them into your own style.
  11. Remove Distractions – There’s nothing like being interrupted while you’re in the zone. Once you are interrupted, you need to spend extra time in order to get yourself back in that state again. If you’re about to get in your creative zone, it’s a good idea to get rid of all potential interruptions. Turn off the TV, put your phone on mute, don’t answer the door, put pets in another room, let your spouse known what you’re up to, etc.
  12. Just Be Yourself – When you try hard to sound good, you’ll come off sounding unauthentic, and people are sensitive to that. Don’t try to be anything, just BE. Be in the moment as you are, right now. And from where we are, see what unfolds in this moment.
  13. Cross-train – Think of the creative space as an infinite field of energy and intelligence. The activities we consider to be creative endeavors, such as writing, drawing, dancing or playing instruments, are simply tools that give us glimpses into that space. And when we practice other creative activities, we access different channels to the same stream of energy. Try doing something creative that frightens you or you don’t have much experience with. Go dancing or take a salsa class if dancing isn’t your thing. If you don’t think you’re a good writer, write a personal letter to yourself, make it introspective and intimate. If you feel that the best you can draw are stick figures, you have to check out this book: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and workbook. Phenomenal book on developing the creative side of your brain.

 

What do you do that makes you feel creative? Got any tips for how to get in touch with this beautiful state we know as creativity? See you in the comments below! Talk soon.

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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88 thoughts on Connect with Your Creative Writer

  1. RJ

    What a happy circumstance, I just came back from the store with a pocket notebook to carry around at all times when an idea pops into my head so I can write it down and flesh it out a little bit. That has always been my biggest problem – being out and about when I think of an idea but nothing to write it on with. I wonder how many post ideas I’ve lost this way? I also seem to come up with a lot of ideas in the shower. Hmmm…a white board and marker in the shower perhaps?
    Great article Tina ^_^

    ******************
    REPLY:

    You can get one of those waterproof voice recorders. :)

    I usually repeat the thought until I can jump out of the shower to write them down.

    Tina

  2. That’s an excellent article :)

    I didn’t know about zencast – so thank you – will be checking it out soon :)

    P.S. – Dugg!

  3. What a great post – so many good ideas!! I especially like Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain – I am not an artist and can’t draw my way out of a paper bag. However, the techniques in this book force you to shut down that annoying left-brain chatter and I find the work like meditating with a pencil. Very calming and the results always surprise me!

  4. Tina,

    Nice article on creativity and how to amp it up. Very comprehensive article. Well done. The quote by C.S. Lewis is awesome; I’ve used it before and love seeing others use it too.

    Here’s the best quote on writer’s block I’ve ever read, courtesy of Robert Ringer. I can’t really add anything to it, so I’ll just pass it on. Ringer says:

    “What separates professional writers from amateurs is that they take action and start putting words on the computer regardless of whether or not they are motivated. In my experience, after I force myself to start writing, a seamless transition takes place and I become motivated.

    When you force yourself to write, it stimulates your brain and body cells and gets your creative juices flowing. And that, in turn, revs up your motivation. It’s the only way I know to combat procrastination. Writing is not about the future. Writing is about putting your hands on the keyboard now.”

    ***********************
    REPLY

    Wow! That’s beautiful and so perfect. Thank you for sharing Jesse. This is going directly into my quote book. :)

    Tina

  5. I really like your concepts of creativity. It is true that we connect with a flow; something already there; already perfectly expressed, if we can only clear the path for that to take place. Your advice to just begin writing without concern for how it sounds is probably the most effect way out of creative block.

    As Goethe said: “Engage, and the mind grows heated. Begin, and the work will be completed.”

    In painting, the most important stroke is the very first one — then it is no longer a “blank” canvas.

    Cheers,
    John

  6. I think the most challenging step in creating an impressive blog post is the process of brainstorming for the main points of the post. Once I have the primary points down, filling in the blanks is a breeze.

    I attack each blog post like this:

    1. What do I want to write about? I come up with a catchy title (first draft of the title anyways).

    2. What are the main points I intend to deliver to my audience? I write a lot of lists, so my next step is to come up with my main bullet points.

    3. Start filling in the blanks.

    4. Research online to come up with references and further information for my bullet points.

    5. Proofread and edit title if needed.

    Great topic Tina! Very useful information! ;-)

  7. Tina,

    You’ve touched on every writer’s enigma. I really like the way you’ve simplified the entire process and provided valuable introspection.
    You’re the best. :)

    Shilpan

  8. Amazing article Tina. And timely too. I enjoyed it very much. Reading that it is common to face a difficult period for topics we are not completely passionate about is a relief I must say. :)

    I avoid using the term ‘writer’s block’ at all costs. Once I label my state as “a writer’s block”, I have noticed that the state simply extends. As if, by naming it so, I am blaming my block for being unproductive and not myself – I lose power over the situation. I simply say that today my pace is slow and that writing will come with some difficulty.

    I am most creative when I am fresh and relaxed. I have written in length about reaching this state at : 11 Refreshing Ways to Find Your Own Sanctuary

    Anytime I find myself staring at blank screen for too long, I simply take a break. I walk around, thinking about what all would I like to write about. I start grouping thoughts in my mind. After a while, I sit to write again. If I can write 5-6 bullet points easily, I get in a flow. And reach the creativity within automatically.

  9. Great article! In fact, you articulated many tips that I use myself when I want to write an article. When I’m stuck for ideas, I also prefer to just shut down my PC, go meditate or spend quiet time to connect with my inner creativity.

    Dugg and stumbled!

    Thanks for sharing,
    Evelyn

  10. Funny that this article finds me right as I am writing my autobiography for dental school. Thanks for the tips Tina.

  11. Cross-training is key; I loved that point. You’ve got to live life to be able to write about life. I do best when I write as soon as I get the kernel of an idea. If I don’t write it quickly, the next time I try to touch on it will likely lead to a creativity block. This isn’t always realistic, so getting down key points and phrases is enough–this is where the notebook really comes in handy. Then, I let it stew and try to come up with new insight to add. It doesn’t always work, but it’s not half bad.

  12. My favorite tip for almost anything:

    JUST DO IT. :)

    So I completely agree when you say “Start writing your opening paragraph without too much editing.”

    Just starting without over-thinking and over-analyzing is often the best way to go.

  13. Nice one Tina..
    Lines saying about “acting with your core identity”
    and being yourself are really superb…

  14. Bravo. What to add?? I will say, when writing something, it’s always beneficial to give it time. If you have an article you’re writing, write it over a few days if possible! You see things over a few days you do not necessarily see in one sitting or even over one day. As I like to refer to it, “let it stew.” Just like a good lamb stew, the flavors develop over time :) Yummy.

  15. Tip #12 – yes. Being is creating, creating moments of Life as lived by you. The work is best when its intent is to capture those moments and nothing else.

    Peace.

  16. “The secret to overcoming writer’s block is simple, and that is to just do it. Literally!”

    I’m reminded of the recent visit of a japanese martial arts sensei. We were working on using a short sword versus a naginata (like a long spear/halbeard). Everyone was thinking about how they can get in close to the opponent, past the naginata. But whenever an attack came they found themselves backing away frantically trying to block.

    Then sensei stepped in. The first cut came and by the time it reached him he was already inside and heading for the opponent.

    Sure he is extremely well-trained. But clearly there was only one thing he was going to do. He was going to do it!

    This is the approach I used for drafting a post today. Martial arts are wonderful.

    That’s a nice process you have Tina.

  17. What fantastic advice! All very good, Tina!

    I agree with Vered – “just doing it” is probably the most important thing. Next on the list for me is to give ourselves permission to write badly. Maybe even making a point of writing complete crap. It turns off the inner editor, the one that worries about what other people think or whether what we’re saying is any good.

    I always let my posts percolate in my brain for a while. When I sit down to write, I usually don’t know where it’s going to go, but I always learn something!

    Blessings,
    Andrea

  18. A long time ago I didn’t think much of ‘free-writing’—that practice of writing-without-judging. I tended to write well on most first attempts, and unfortunately that led me to think that I had to write well on the first attempt. Eventually I learned better, and ‘got’ the ways in which free-writing opens up our minds and our creativity, helping us to come up with things that our inner critics might dismiss out of hand. While it’s important to exercise quality control on something we put out for public consumption, there’s no need to start out putting restrictions on ourselves. If we do, after all, how can we come up with things that are truly new & different?

  19. I always believe writer’s block is just a story we run on our mind.

    Rather than delaying, I find it is helpful to engage in something that will move me closer to writing.

    Thanks for that, now I have a systematical (and better) way to fight it.

  20. Roy Tock

    Tina, thanks for the article! It was yet another wonderful, well reasoned post.

    Another one of my favorite articles on the topic is from Scott Berkun at .

  21. Jon

    I love the talk of ‘creative space’, ‘no-mind’, and ‘place of infinite creativity’. You’ve put into words what so many creative people feel when they are in that ‘zone’. It’s very difficult to explain until one experiences it regularly.

    I want to add another great way to re-ignite your creative juices: take a simple weekend retreat. Most of us spend our weekends busy with friends, family, or our projects, but we don’t often give ourselves a full weekend off. Letting yourself be completely alone for a few days in a quiet, natural place, out of the city, and without thinking about your creative projects, can be a great way to give those mental blocks time to melt away.

  22. Thanks for the article. I’ve been working off and on for about a year on a movie screenplay and am stuck at exactly the mid-point. I’ll take your advice and get it done.

  23. Anthony

    Fantastic. Although I have had my stints as writers, and enjoy a script or two when I’m into it-my main drive is as an animator.

    Ever since I was like one or two these epic episodes just flow right to me, and the ideas can be hilarious, beautiful, moving, happy, or sad. It’s like that plane you mentioned! It’s entertainment that no movie could give, because it comes from within.

    It’s when I go to my laptop, and try to write down summaries of the ideas that I have trouble DESPITE having JUST pictured the damn thing! Thanks.

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