Tips For Pushing Through Writer’s Block & When You’re Just Plain Stuck

I wrote on Monday about writer’s block.

Actually, it was a post about depression, which always gives me writer’s block, which in turn gives me depression. It’s like being depressed because you’re overweight, or are you overweight because you’re depressed?  Which comes first, the chicken or the ham sandwich? Hell if I know. All I know is whether you’re a writer or not, we all have times we’re stuck. I call it creative paralysis.

I got a lot of texts, calls, emails, and messages about last Monday’s post. You can read it here if you missed it. I’m sure some of those calls and texts were from people  in the “How serious is this?” state of mind. Don’t worry. I’m just fine. A little down, but not out.

For me, not being able to plod forward is difficult. I’m a plodder. Other people lay in bed and Netflix their blues away. I plod forward, smiling, and working it away. It’s very Puritanical, weird because I’m Jewish.

One thing that helps me when I just can’t….anything, is having some tools I can rely on to at least attempt to plod forward

So I wanted to share what I do when I’m stuck. When I can’t write. When I can’t plod forward.

If you’re more than stuck, like you’re really depressed, please get help. There’s no shame in talking to someone about what’s in your head.The thought of paying someone to listen to you for an hour and tell you’re right should be incentive enough. And, you’ll feel better. No one ever said, “I feel worse after taking care of myself.”

In the meantime, here’s what I do when I can’t write. Feel free to apply it to anything that’s making you stuck, blue, or down in the dumps.

 1: Do the hardest things first in your day. You can learn about what you prioritize by how you schedule your time. If writing is last on your to-do list, it’s probably never going to happen. The dishes in the sink and the laundry that beckon can all wait. 

2: Be honest with yourself. Paralysis comes from unexpressed rage, anger, fear. (All of them for me!) So what aren’t you expressing? Be honest with yourself, even if you never write the answer down.

3: Set a Timer. Schedule your time and stick to it. Even if you don’t write a good word, you will eventually. But you won’t, if you never sit down to write. Apply this to whatever you’re not getting done. Work, exercise, all of it.

4: Make An Outline. Sometimes the fear of the blank page is what holds you back so take away the blank page. Create an outline and stick to it. It’s much easier to be creative within a structure. So give yourself one.

5: Turn Off All Your Inputs. Good lord turn off your phone, text chime, Facebook notifications, emails, carrier pigeons, doorbells, to–do lists, and the 10,000 other ways we are inputted in to distraction. Answer the phone if it’s your kid’s school calling or the winning lotto ticket is yours, but everything else can wait and will live without you for a few precious hours.

6: Live Your Life. If you spend all your life writing, you won’t have anything to write about. Go make terrible mistakes, say inappropriate things, eavesdrop on delicious conversations, but take copious notes. Life gives you your stories.

7: Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Wasting Time. Sometimes you just can’t. So you shouldn’t. There’s always tomorrow. Until then, scroll through Instagram to your heart’s content and binge watch Netflix until your queue is empty. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

8: Have At Least One Person Who Knows The Truth. Whether it’s your husband, best friend, therapist, someone…tell someone you’re stuck. Chances are you’ll be a little less stuck when you talk about it. And, they’ve probably been there themselves and may have a tip or two you can borrow.

9: Pretend.  A lot of people have big dreams and even bigger self doubt. You don’t actually have to believe in yourself to get something done. You just have to pretend like you do. Trust me, I do it every day.

10. Break All The Rules.  I hate when people say “real writers write every day.”  Uh, maybe.  This writer doesn’t. This writer has laundry to fold and Zappos boxes to send back.  Too many rules can make anyone feel unproductive so do what you love in a way that you love it. Every day, or not.

Written Tuesday May 9th, morning, while avoiding a pile of bills, listening to nothing but the sound of my neighbor’s construction. Los Angeles, California.

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