A Pen, Paper and Perseverance; Hacking Writer’s Block
It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? What could be so hard about sitting down at a desk and writing, no physical exertion needed? Well, in fact, this is a problem that affects vast swathes of songwriters, writers and artists in general.
Procrastination in its various forms and guises has been recognised since the early dawn of civilisation; Plato pondered this phenomenon, seeing it as a form of cowardice, and advocated tackling it head on through perseverance alone. More recently, Steven Pressfield, in his bestselling book “The War of Art”, finds procrastination to be a form of what he aptly terms ‘resistance.’ In whatever form procrastination or writer’s block manifests itself in your own life, there are a number of ways that you can get the better of it. We’ll now take a look at some of my go-to strategies, here at One Thinking Man.
- The Art of Sitting Down
Again, it sounds too simple, right? But the next time you find yourself aware of your writer’s block, it’s more than likely that you’ve not even made it to your desk or notepad. For many of us there seems to be some sort of invisible hurdle as we reassure ourselves that we’ll get it done tomorrow, or the next day. So, without putting too much pressure on yourself, just agree that you’ll sit at the laptop for 5 minutes and write whatever comes into your head. 99% of the time you’ll get a word or a turn of phrase and you’ll end up staying there far longer. For some of us, though, it’s just having the discipline to put oneself in that position in the first place.
- Pomodoro technique
Once you’ve got into the habit of sitting at your workplace and getting to work, you may benefit from this crafty and seemingly simple technique. All it involves is using a timer (such as the on your phone) to break up your working day into more digestible chunks. There are endless variations on this theme but you might want to try, for example, 25 minutes on, a 5 minute break, then a further 25 minutes. By working in more concise periods, with the impetus of a timer, you’ll find your productivity ramping up.
- Be held accountable
Bar a few lucky ones, willpower is not something most of us hold in abundant quantities. To make your job a bit easier, and to lighten the load of willpower used, tell your friends, family, work colleagues, anyone(!) about an upcoming writing session or a new song you’re finishing. Human beings intrinsically do not like failing or letting people down, so by doing this, you should notice a surge in your motivation levels. You’ll also want to relay positive responses when friends ask you how that writing session went!
- Visualise your end result
We’ve all heard sports stars talk about how they visualise crossing the line in first place, or hitting the home run to secure the championship. Such a technique should not just be confined to sports, however, and can be used in any area of your life, especially writing. Use visualisation exercises when you wake up or go to bed to notch up your self-confidence and your can-do attitude. If for example you’re chasing a publishing deal with a specific label, see yourself signing on the dotted line, talking to your new boss, meeting the new employees – play it in your mind as if it’s a movie and you’re the lead role. Now I’m not saying that your future will play out exactly in this way, but by imagining it, in as specific a detail as possible, your subconscious mind will start to take these thoughts more seriously, setting ways to try and make them a reality.
- Go easy on yourself
As songwriters and artists who open up and show our songs and words to the world, we all inherently hold a degree of perfectionism. In moderate amounts, this is clearly crucial to our trade, but sometimes we can take it too far, and end up getting nothing done in the fear that it won’t be the best song of all time. It must be remembered that the majority of your favourite songs probably had any number of edits and changes along the way. With this is mind, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, thinking that it will be a failure if today you do not write the biggest hit of the year. Just be at ease with the fact that you’re going to get some ideas down that could potentially lead to something else, further down the line. By putting less pressure on yourself, you’ll be more creative, will take more risks in your ideas and writing, and will ultimately generate a higher turnover of material.
So, don’t delay any longer, start using these techniques today and squash that writer’s block before it has time to take hold!