What do you do when you have writer’s block? Check out the essay title. That’s really all you can do. Write shit. Then write some more shit, and hopefully by the end you’ve got something you can salvage. There You can stop reading now! (Wait no! Don’t go I have plugs at the end of this article) Look we all have better things to do than talk about writers block. I have a short story I should be writing. It’s awesome! It’s about the one metal kid in a sleepy little town with the strictest noise ordinances in the country. It’s going to be hilarious, like John Kennedy Tole for 90s kids. But it ain’t getting written tonight, because somebody pissed away all their writing time playing Animal Crossing this week. (It was Andrew, Andrew pissed away all of his writing time) No, tonight we’re going to explore the most cliche and well trod of artistic problems.
Everybody talks about writer’s block, prose writers, musicians, comedians, poets… Painters maybe… (I know dick about painting) Methods of combating this scourge on the artistic mind may differ art form to art form but I think there are a few tips that can be appropriated by anybody. So, you know, here they are I guess:
1. Get a job in your chosen field
Ok, easier said than done. The arts may be the closest thing to a meritocracy in society and spots are limited. But if you can swing a gig, any gig, take the opportunity. Truth is I hardly ever get writer’s block anymore because I got a job as a reporter when I was 20 and journalism beat it out of me. When you work at a newspaper (Yeah those still exist barely) if a story doesn’t get finished by press time you could be out on your ass. This holds true for pretty much any job where you aren’t working for yourself. If you can find a terrible job in the field you want, take it. Long term that will bash the bad habits out of your head. Of course, in my case the benefit of print journalism is by the time you sit down to write the content is already collected you just have to plug in your quotes and make sure you didn’t spell anybody’s name wrong. When it comes to “creative writing” (or music, poetry, comedy etc. I didn’t forget about you guys) things get a bit more complicated.
2. Walk it off
Every once in a while the words just won’t come. Sometimes it’s a plot point my brain just can’t seem to get past, sometimes it’s simple ADD punting ideas off the inside of my skull instead of through the goalposts and every once in a while it’s just simple insecurity (and I’m not insecure about admitting that at all). When this happens I get up and take a walk. Don’t listen to a podcast. Hell, maybe don’t even listen to music. Just walk. We live in a world of constant stimuli, and god I love it, but sometimes that shit gets in the way. So detox for an hour or three. Walk til you feel better. Most of the time I don’t even think about my story, I just exist for a bit, and when I sit back down in front of my laptop, I can think again… Usually.
3. Write shit for a while
Of course if that doesn’t work you might have to resort to something I absolutely loathe. Free Writing. Yes, yes, all the big important books say every writer should do it, some even say you should do it every day, but honestly I hate it. Self-indulgent drivel that goes nowhere holds absolutely no appeal to me. I’ve never found it cathartic and it usually makes me want to torch my notebook. BUT when the chips are down and you can’t make headway on something that actually matters, sometimes you’ve just got to grit your teeth and get the bad words out of your system. This is especially helpful if there’s been an extended break from writing.
4. Lie to yourself
But at the end of the day the best way to get the ideas flowing (for me) is to pretend I have a deadline. That’s basically the whole reason I have this blog in the first place. It turns out nobody actually told me I have to do this every week, but I do it because I lied and told myself this was a job. It’s the same reason why (when the world isn’t a contagious horror show) I go to comedy open mics. Nothing makes you want to write more than seeing your friends’ dead-eyed stares as you rip through the same 5 jokes you’ve been doing for 3 months. Maybe a daily goal is what you need. 500 words, or 3 new jokes or 4 new lines of poetry. (Full disclosure, I also know dick about poetry.) Personally, I like weekly goals, because, well I like to lie to myself and pretend I’m living a freewheeling rock n’ roll lifestyle. (I’m actually very boring… like you wouldn’t want to hang out with me boring) Do some tinkering around with deadlines and long and short term goals. Figure out what is practical for you. And when you fail to meet those goals (don’t worry, you will) don’t get sad and quit working for 6 months like I did for most of my 20s. Just make some adjustments and get back to work. This is art, it’s not heart surgery, you’re allowed to fail.
Other than that all I can really say is stop being a whiny baby and do the work. (I’m only being mean because intimacy scares me, please don’t leave) The only difference between an artist and everybody else is that an artist (wait for it) does art. So no matter how you’re feeling just sit down in front of your keyboard and start typing (or blow into your tuba or whatever). Is it bad? Who gives a shit. That’s what revision is for. But revision is a topic for another time (Probably not though, I hate it more than free writing).
Should there be a couple more tips on this list? Probably, but nobody is paying me for this shit so four is all you get. Feel free to post your own methods for murdering writers block in the comments. God knows I could use the algorithm boost. Until next time, subscribe to Mindfulofmadness.com so I can feel good about myself and follow my persnickety ass on twitter @drewjokeringram and on instagram @andrewingram88. And check out my comedy album “This Was A Bad Idea on Spotify and iTunes because, well, narcissism. Cheers!