We all have our moments of feeling ‘stuck on stupid’.
Like when you feel as if your brain is just a soggy, mushy mush of cells and brain matter, with nothing sparking along the synapses. No signs of visible life. Maybe an alien thought wiggles around here and there, but quickly flits out of sight.
Kind of like Mars! Only less outer-spacey and more oozy and gory.
Your only recourse to solve the problem is to surf the net… check your email… Twitter your friends… and basically get a whole lot of nothing done.
Or maybe you’re trying to begin your day, and feel like you have a river full of ideas floating around up there, bursting to break free… but they all seem to be stuck behind a huge dam with nary a crack in sight to let them flow OUT already.
I feel ya.
It’s not that I’m lazy, far from it—I am, after all, working for myself with fiscal obligations. If I don’t work, my bills don’t get paid. Well, maybe they still get paid but I end up having to skip my weekly lunches out and that makes me totally cranky.
That said, I’m also human and there are days when just nothing flows from my brain. I mean NOTHING.
Like… you could shout into my left ear and the sound would likely just echo around in there before flying out my right ear, never to be heard again. Or maybe it’d just drown in the oozy gory mush, and kiss the light of day a fond farewell. Who knows?
Why does this happen?
Sometimes, it’s because of sheer exhaustion. Other times, it’s because I’m just stuck like Chuck and my mind comes up with a blank.
Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
But you can’t exactly tell your client “Hey sorry man, I couldn’t finish your project ‘cause I’m stuck like Chuck and can’t think of anything to write”. At least not in my world.
That’s why I admire newspaper columnists who churn out articles on a daily basis. It’s hard work. You have exactly 24 hours to write something you can be proud of. And you have to write a new masterpiece each and every day.
Sure, many in my field do that, too—some only have a couple of hours to turn in work. Heck, I’ve had projects where the words had to be written in an hour or less! NOT fun, let me tell you.
But still, the point is, there will be days when you’re off and can’t think of a single thing to write about—but you still need to be a professional and produce something. Gag.
So what can you do?
I vote go dancing. Or eat candy. Or eat candy and THEN go dancing. And don’t forget to do the hand jive and take pictures because I want to see.
No, seriously there are a few things you can do to help move things along. Here are some of the things I do to get my creative juices going, so to speak, when I’m stuck and can’t seem to move forward with a writing project. Break that dam baby!
- 1. I read.
And read and read and read and read. Someone or something is bound to inspire me. Or at least make me laugh.
I go to my favorite blogs and read what my peers are writing about. Many times, I go to news sites to read about what’s happening in other parts of the world.
I also spend quite some time on Twitter, trying to see what people are talking about. I click on the links that they pass on, hoping that something funny or interesting will come up that tickles my fancy.
- 2. I write.
If reading fails, I do an exercise I learned in school. I open a blank page and type whatever comes out of my head—even if they are total brain spasms that make no sense. And I don’t stop writing.
When you do this exercise, don’t be obsessive-compulsive about what you’re writing. Don’t worry about grammar or typographical errors or the quality of the material. Just keep writing. When one trail of thought ends, start another one. And then another one. Then another one.
Get the picture?
Think Dory in Finding Nemo… swimming, swimming, just keep swimming. Wait, did I get that right?
Anyway, just keep writing. The objective is to get everything out of your brain and on to paper like a big mind dump because sometimes, the topic is right there at the very back of your brain and you just need to unload first to get it out.
And in case you’re wondering, brain spasms and off the wall thoughts can give you LOTS of interesting material to write about. Just sayin’.
- 3. I talk to peers.
When reading and writing doesn’t work, talk to your peers. Keep the conversation quick; otherwise, you might get lazy and drop everything.
Perhaps a friend has a quirky story to share. Or maybe a Twitter friend posted something funny and you have something to add. Then it builds from there. Often times, it’s the mundane things that will get you writing.
- 4. I go about my day.
We all have bills to pay. If I’m stuck, I can’t let the work pile up so I move on with my day, even if it’s completely unrelated to work. There are times you’ll be hit with inspiration in the middle of a task completely unrelated to your actual project you were working on.
Like when you’re raking the leaves, cleaning the kitchen or using the loo. That last one happens to me a lot.
Darn inconvenient I might add.
So when in the loo I’m thinking of keeping a notebook and pen on my sink just for those ‘special’ emergencies.
- 5. I nap.
Sometimes while writing even!
Getting stuck can often be caused by a tired and cluttered mind. There is nothing like a fresh start to get things in the proper perspective. Naps are perfect.
And it’s effective! I’ve proven it many times!
Seriously, I’ll sit at my desk and begin writing in my sleep… not really a full sleep of course but that half awake/ half asleep mode that happens sometimes. Sounds funny I know, but it works for me and maybe it could work for you too. Or you could be traditional, and nap on the bed and write after. Your call my friend.
And if nothing STILL comes up? Then you’re in BIG trouble! You’re fired even.
Relax. Something will always come up. You’re writing for a reason, whether it’s because you’re a freelancer and it’s what you do… you’re a blogger trying to grow your little piece of Internet real estate… or you’re a business owner that simply has to write as part of your business ‘job description’.
And yes there could be more scenarios than just those three, but c’mon do I have to do ALL your thinking for you!?
Fact is, there will always be days like that; it’s normal. But I do try my best to avoid them, because it’s hard to deal with, and you should too if you can.
You can start by trying to plan your day, your week and if you can your month ahead of time. That can help enormously.
I also like to jot down potential article topics. I note down phrases or words or observations on my iPhone. (Really, whatever did I do without an iPhone?)
I keep photos and bookmark interesting websites that I’d like to comment on or write about. OneNote is a great program for this.
And, lastly but most importantly, I just live life. I take everything in and find the charm in those little day-to-day, innocuous moments.
Yes, it might be a sickly sweet cliché, (gag again) but it works.
Because for me, the best writing I’ve ever read to this day talks about those seemingly unimportant details in the writer’s life… that ONLY become significant and momentous after careful reflection and extensive pondering.
Oh and LOTS of coffee.
Now how’s about that nap?