How to boss the blank page - a guide to beating writer's block

Writer’s block. Just tapping out those words is enough to make my creativity recoil. If you’ve ever stared at a fresh Word document, the cursor blinking expectantly while you searched desperately for an opening sentence that didn’t make you nauseous, you’ll understand the true terror of a blank page. Here’s the techniques I use to show writer’s block who’s boss….

 

Write something

Ever heard of the saying, ‘like cures like’? It’s a good theory to explain why I turn to writing when I have writer’s block. Rather than agonising over my paralysing lack of inspiration, I grab a big, A4-sized notebook and brain dump for 30 minutes. I don’t worry about what I’m writing, I don’t read over it later, I just scribble down whatever thoughts are swimming through my mind at the time. For me, it seems to clear away the clutter to allow the juicy stuff to come on out. I picked up this technique from creativity bible The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, who recommends journalling longhand every day, first thing in the morning, to get stagnant thoughts flowing.

Move around

This tip might be an oldie, but it’s legit. A bunch of scientific research has shown that walking stimulates creativity and enhances problem-solving. So, if you’re stuck in front of your computer feeling totally lost for words, go get lost in real life. Take a long walk (or simply get up out of your seat – jumping and dancing are good, too) and let your mind wander. You might just score a lightbulb moment on the way.

Dress up

I love this advice Elizabeth Gilbert shares in her book Big Magic. She says that dressing up creates a sense of occasion that beckons brilliance to your desk. This one’s particularly poignant if, like me, you work from home and all too often find yourself schlepping around in whatever you picked up off the floor, matched back with cosy socks and a messy bun. You don’t have to put on a ball gown or a tux (unless you want to!), but try doing your hair or slipping on a frock that makes you feel happy. I miss the process of dressing for an office – choosing a fun outfit and doing my hair and makeup – so going through those motions can be enough to remind me that the work I do deserves my best self, both in appearance and performance.

Procrastinate

When all else fails, consider your block a chance to take a break. Sometimes words, like relationships, elude us when we’re chasing them too hard. If that’s the case, stop wasting time agonising over your blank page and play hard to get instead. Go bake a cake, clean your house, catch up on life admin or take yourself to your favourite café and flip through a magazine for an hour. When you’re least expecting it, the words you’ve been searching for will find you.

Tell me… How do you beat writer’s block?