It is day-4 of a 5 day project that you should’ve finished by now. You have to pull an all-nighter but you cannot think of anything interesting to say. Don’t worry, you’re going to be okay despite that inner alarm telling you otherwise.
It may not be writer’s block. What may be happening is a lot like erectile dysfunction. The problem is not in your head, but a symptom of some other malady such as stress. In most cases, It’s not that you can’t make an idea or two work for your project. The problem is something else that exhibits as writer’s block or a limp brain. Any number of chemical imbalances can cause limp brain.
The question is, how do you overcome it to get some ideas laid and get paid? Here are 6 of my own tricks of the trade to help you out.
1. Clear your Mind
I always thought clearing my mind meant meditating and focusing on nothing, like a monk trying to find inner harmony. Truth is if you want to really clear your mind of all the trash, go in the opposite direction. Exercise is really the fastest way to get there.
If you don’t smoke, run. Run until the burn has come and gone and there’s little left of your reserves except what your will power can scrape off the bottom of your soul’s shoes.
If you don’t run, grab a stationary bike and pedal as hard as you can instead. As you come up on your third wind, there will be a moment of clarity that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. (Do run this plan by your physician first before diving right in.)
As soon as you’ve experienced this life altering state, hitch-hike back to your computer. You are ready, grasshopper.
2. Finding what is not there
If exercise is not your thing and you prefer sitting in your reclining chair, don’t sweat it. There are other ways to generate an original idea. For instance, check out a popular, mainstream news website and perform a search for the topic on which you’re supposed to write. Take notes and draw a line connecting the posts that are related, noting why.
Next, look into social media and see what topics are trending and what’s being said. Compare this to the news website results. Now for the most important part of this exercise… ignore it.
Throw all that work away. Look at the overall popularity of topics and comments and figure out what’s not been said. There’s something in the last 24 hours that’s been neglected and it is your job to point that out. The ideas are out there waiting for you!
3. Free Writing Exercise
My favorite idea-generating exercise is free writing. Take the topic you are struggling with and write it in bold letters across the top of five blank pieces of paper. Underline it and close your eyes for a moment, thinking about nothing but the topic.
Now forget it and just start writing. Start with random words in no particular order. In about a minute, you will begin to write sentences. They may be unrelated but they are sentences and that indicates progress.
Keep writing, regardless of what is happening around you. Within a few minutes, your subconscious mind will start giving you words related to the topic. When you get to page five, stop and read the last two pages. You’ll be amazed at what you find.
In essence, you are allowing your subconscious mind to take control of your hand and feed you the ideas buried under the surface. That chemical imbalance can’t stop your mind from coming up with ideas. It only prevents you from recognizing them through the clutter.
4. Where is Your Inspiration?
If you need to be inspired, turn to the person you’re in love with. If you’re not in a relationship right now, that’s okay. The fact is all of us have something that inspires us to be better than we think we are. Believe it or not, around these sources of inspiration – be they people, places or things – we’re at our best.
For me, an inspirational book or movie can bring out a man in me that wants to succeed. Do you know that point in a movie where the good guy has taken a severe beating for an hour and fifteen minutes and then catches in his hand, the fist that is flying in for the kill shot? “My turn,” our hero says and we’re ready to jump out of our seats and roar, “YEAH! Now somebody’s going to PAY!”
By the time the end credits roll, I’m passionately ready to write – or rumble. The movie, “Remember the Titans” is pretty uplifting for me.
5. Being Insanely Inane
Being ridiculous in content writing is not a wise thing to do except in the inspiration creation phase. If you can’t find an original idea in your brain, get ridiculous. Write the wildest and most inane prose that comes into your head that relates to the topic.
This form of free writing will surprise you. Once you have enough material, go through it and see just how much of that nonsense actually applies, if written in a different voice. Some of my best material came from being ridiculous and then editing the crazy out and turning it into something that makes sense.
6. Keeping Those Eyes Closed
Ironically enough, it was my wife who pointed out my greatest weakness when it comes to being blocked. She had recognized the trend years before but figured I would catch on myself.
"When was the last time you had more than a couple of hours of uninterrupted sleep?" she asked. Then it dawned on me. I had been writing for 14 hours and this was my MO(Modus Operandi).
“You work all night and all the next morning, only taking a break here and there, and then wonder why your brain is shutting down? You do this at least once a week and have been for years. You are 53 years old, for goodness sake. You need to sleep, and not that half-sleep, jump up in two-hours, energy drink induced semi-coma that you put yourself into, either. Get yourself some real sleep.”
Cramming 48 hours worth of work into 24-hour writing marathon will lead to some road closed signs along the way. If you’ve already gone through menopause or “manopuase,” you’re particularly susceptible to some-timers disease, where you forget to think sometimes. Sleep for a solid eight hours and call me in the morning.