Have you ever experienced writer’s block? Can you recall the last time you opened a new blank page with enthusiasm and a deadline but as soon as you started to record your thoughts your mind became a blank slate? I know how that goes. Insecurity kicks in followed up quickly by his favorite teammates, excuses and procrastination. That paper is still blank. That deadline still exists. And somehow you’ve got to come up with a great idea and start writing. But how do you get over the hump? Here are a few exercises to help you get unstuck and in to the flow so you can write with confidence and ease.
Writing Exercise #1:
FREE YOUR MIND
Free writing is a simple form of letting your thoughts be expressed without judgment or concern about proper sentence structure or spelling errors. Write whatever is on your mind. Let it go. Think of it like unclogging a drain. You’ve got to remove whatever it is that’s blocking the flow. Write without lifting your pen from paper for at least 10 minutes.
Now, go for a walk outside and breath the fresh air, whether it’s summer, spring, fall or winter right now, go out and let the fresh air invigorate you. If the weather permits, go for a brisk walk for at least 20 minutes and let the blood flow and pump through your veins. While your walking (or running or skipping) keep your mind free of any thoughts. Forget about deadlines. Forget about blank pages. Forget about what you thought you knew. Let it go. Feel your body come to life. If you can’t get outside, then stay inside but do jumping jacks, or run up and down the stairs, do push ups, burpees, squats, jump rope, dance or do yoga. Again, give yourself 20 minutes to get the blood flowing and free your mind. Listen to your breath and feel your body get warm.
Do you feel like some of sludge has passed and do you feel more in the flow now? Okay, now is the time. Start writing and don’t stop for at least 30 minutes. Write what’s on your mind. Don’t edit. Don’t worry about who’s going to read it. Just get your thoughts out.
Writing Exercise #2
If you’re anything like I am, I struggle with writing for a general audience. I know in general who my audience is, but I just have a hard time finding my voice as easily as I could if I were speaking with a friend. Add the additional challenge of speaking about technical topics and I’ve already lost most of my audience. So, I use stories and metaphors as much as possible. But sometimes I still can’t seem to find my voice and I find myself channeling some stodgy old college professor who speaks at an auditorium of faceless students who aren’t engaged or engaging. So, how do we get past this dilemma of not knowing the right tone, the right voice, how to engage an otherwise faceless audience? Get creative!
I was reminded of a fun writing exercise my grandma used to do for my sister and I when we were kids visiting their parsonage in a small town in North Dakota. If you haven’t already picked up on the clues, summers there were boring with a capitol B. But, grandma was creative and she knew how to entertain us. The writing exercise that I loved so much was as simple as this. She would tear up small pieces of paper and write short phrases on those pieces of paper. She’d toss the paper into a bowl and then she’d set the timer. My sister and I would pull a little piece of writing inspiration from that bowl and write timed short stories. I recall feeling so proud because I realized that I was actually pretty good at telling stories and my grandma would encourage me by proudly sharing my stories with anyone who would listen.
Funny thing is, I recently attended a writing workshop and guess what writing exercise they used to loosen up our creative writing brain? You guessed it! We got to pull little pieces of inspiration from that bowl and write a timed short story. That same confidence and pride I felt as a child quickly resurfaced as I found my voice though storytelling.
The moral of the story here is to write for fun to find your voice. And let that voice shine through no matter if you’re writing an email to a colleague, a letter to a friend or an e-book for the faceless masses. Be creative and let that light shine through.
Writing Exercise #3
This is as simple as creating an outline. All of the great writers do it and so should you. An outline will make sure that the ideas that you want to express will gel while giving you the freedom to jot everything down without worrying about the minutia quite yet. If you are rusty in creating outlines here’s a quick little exercise to demonstrate the simplest of outlines.
- Topic 1
- Topic 2
- Topic 3
As my English instructor would say, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Then tell them. Then tell them what you’ve told them”.
Okay, now the fun part begins. You try. Write down a simple outline on your own topic of interest.
I can’t wrap up this exercise without exposing the fact that I follow my own advice and I only share it because it works. This morning started out with a brisk walk. I didn’t journal, but I did free write for 30 minutes. Those 30 minutes turned into 1000 words. And those 1000 words turned into a chapter in my e-book, a lesson in my blogging course, a blog post on my website, a teaser in my email newsletter, and a teaser on my social profiles. These 30 minutes and 1000 words will reach no less than 2000 sets of eyes. Hopefully you will be inspired now to write. Let another 1000 words to be written and shared and and inspire another reader.
What are you working on now?
What are some ways that you overcome writer’s block?