Three tips to eliminate writer's block

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Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012 8:00 pm

Your head is foggy and everything you write ends up looking like bland oatmeal. A bathroom break and a cup of coffee later, and you're still struggling to write the first sentence. Writer's block is an enemy that authors everywhere combat on a daily basis, sometimes getting so bad as to shut down an entire day's worth of work. And while some methods to rid this issue are anecdotal remedies, others are scientifically proven to get your creative juices flowing again.

Here are three potential treatments for your dreadful case of writer's block:

Stream-of-consciousness scribbling:

Most of the time, the ideas for your writing are half-formed in your head, but are much too abstract to understand. One useful thing to do when faced with writer's block is to write down on a piece of paper all of the nonsense in your head at that moment. A study reported by the Wall Street Journal showed that writing your thoughts down on paper instead of a computer can affect idea composition and development. Customize your pad of paper with a logo or unique image to make the paper more familiar to you and therefore easier to be creative and write your thoughts down. Sometimes personalized note pads can beat out keyboards.

One quick exercise is to take five minutes and write down everything that pops into your head. Don't take your pen from the paper. If your mind goes blank, repeat whichever word is stuck in your head until you come up with something different. Once you're done, see if you wrote something that would work for your piece. If not, try writing your piece again, hopefully with a clearer mind.

Sweat it out:

While a respite from writing gives you time to relax and de-stress, going on a walk or bike ride won't just get you outside, it will potentially increase your brain power. A study at the University of Illinois showed that exercising on a regular basis can significantly improve brain function. In other words, it helps your mind form cohesive ideas.

The next time you're stuck with your thesis or can't figure out how to begin your business proposal, hit the pool, hit the weights, or hit the sidewalk and get a quick workout in. Even if it requires working for an extra half-hour at the end of the day, it will be well worth it.

Take a step back:

While reading and writing have often been touted as the best ways to keep your brain active, actually taking time away from digital devices such as the computer or the smartphone has been scientifically measured to significantly help people learn better and come up with new ideas.

While it may seem counter intuitive, step away from your writing for a day or so (if you don't have an impending deadline) and do nothing related to your writing project. This will hopefully give your brain time to decompress and formulate concrete thoughts.

While these three tactics may help you, the absolute best thing to do is to listen to yourself. If you're forcing the writing, chances are it won't be that great. When you know you've hit a mental block, the worst thing to do is to continue with the writing process. Taking swift action is what will ultimately bring you back into a calm and creative state of mind.

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