About a week ago, my friend Lee gave me a nudge to ‘keep up the good blog!’. Very kind of him, but I had to admit ‘I’ve just really not felt very inspired lately’. His reply was even better than his first message, it read: ‘Buy a car, watch Gilmore! And convey thought into Helvetica!’
Now that’s exactly the kind of solution I can get onboard with!
I have read a lot of articles that try to help writers overcome this sort of rut and it’s a pressure that I am very familiar with. During my advertising degree especially, I was forever stressed about finding an idea good enough to present to the class, usually within 24 hours. Most of these self-help articles or videos offer advice that says something like: ‘Escape from people. Go to the countryside and surround yourself with solitude. Sit in front of your computer until the words come to you.’
Well, I don’t know about you, but sitting in front of a blank word document is the worst thing I can do. That and giving myself a tight deadline of course, closely followed by a migraine. Nothing like a bit of pressure to replace any thought process with pure panic!
Now, I’m totally stealing and adapting this well-known saying about love, but I think it works just as well here: “Good writing is like wind. If you have to force it, it’s probably shit.”
Forcing out words will sound like exactly that. Don’t limit yourself to stale thoughts. I can always tell when I’m proofreading posts and articles for clients, that they’ve just loosely elaborated on a rough list of bullet points because they’re not in the mood to entertain. I feel your frustration. It’s like checking the clock every five minutes in the middle of the night, to see how much potential sleep time you can still scrape together. You’re only further dooming your success in this situation.
So, here are 5 methods that I find help to inspire me, whether I’m fighting an internal battle for fresh ideas, or staring at a blank page to fulfil the needs of a client:
- Call or email somebody Quite often I find that just describing my problem helps me to come up with a solution or at least a clearer way of wording it. Talk to someone who has absolutely no idea about the topic you’re writing about. Simplifying the subject is the first step to getting the words to flow, you can always make it more entertaining later. Human beings are what keep me sane throughout the day, they keep me both motivated and inspired.
- Scroll through Twitter/read articles This depends greatly on the quality of people that you follow. Which in my case are very talented, or at least hilarious, creative people. I read articles that are posted, look at trending topics and laugh out loud at memes. This is probably the fastest way that I find inspiration because it’s not very time consuming. Unless you get stuck in the endless loop that is Buzzfeed, you might not finish that article but my God you’ll know which Game of Thrones character you most resemble.
- Watch a short comedy There are some great fast-paced comedies on Netflix and YouTube, stick on an episode of something cleverly written with an abundance of plot-twists and one-liners. Something like Scrubs or Big Bang Theory work well and only take up 25 minutes of your day. I make a cup of tea and absorb myself into someone else’s life for a while, often left contemplating why Sheldon has a better social life than I do.
- Visit a public place Sitting inside the same four walls will slowly send you crazy. People watching and overhearing conversations is always a good mind-opener, plus it brings a refreshing change of pace to your day. Don’t do this in a creepy way. Don’t just turn your chair around in Nero to join a table of students. They hate that… so I’ve heard. Ahem. Just sit with a notepad and solve their love afair problems from afar, living vicariously yet getting three times as much sleep.
- Have a bath As a last resort, I have a bath. I find that the bath is the one place my mind stops thinking about all of the things I have to do that day, later this week and sometime next year. While I’m in the bath, I can’t be rushing around doing other things. The only thing I have to worry about is leaving the conditioner in my hair as long as humanly possible. During this wait, my mind turns to reflect on things that I’ve learned or read recently. And that’s where the majority of my writing inspiration comes from.
If one of these steps fail me, then I simply move on to the next. I hope it works just as well for anyone else who is stuck for ideas. Thanks again for the nudge, Lee. Anyone else have any tips that help them to avoid the strain of Writer’s Block?