Five Tips for Avoiding Writer’s Block


Hi! Today I wanted to make another
writing video and I want to talk about writer’s block , even though I don’t
personally feel like I necessarily experience writer’s block in the sense
of sitting down wanting to write and being unable to. It’s more like I don’t
want to do the sitting down in the first place, and that is largely a matter of
falling in and out of the habit of writing, particularly because for me ,you
know, I play music and I perform stand-up comedy and I write and so I’m just sort
of always oscillating between like what is my primary focus artistically. And so
maybe you relate to those problems and we could talk about that, but I do have a handful of tools that I use to help myself when I just yeah I don’t
feel like sitting down in the first place, when it seems overwhelming or you
know just to change things up. So I want to talk about that today. So my first tip
is to set up the environment to suit your needs which i think is a matter of
time and practice because I feel like you have to try all sorts of things to
know what exactly is your best setting for writing. Like I used to very often
say, I’m gonna go write, and go to a library or coffee shop. Libraries were
okay, coffee shops really don’t work for me. I am NOT that person who wants like
background noise stimulation, but some people really do. So if you only ever
tried one thing like writing alone in your room, writing you know in a public
place, like try the other and try it enough times to know what works for you.
Because you know if you go to a coffee shop one day and it doesn’t work well,
maybe you’re just not in like the best mood for writing. You don’t really know. I
think it takes time to develop this and for me I’ve had to sort of fight the
urge to say, I’m gonna go leave my house and write somewhere else, because I feel
like that is just, for me that’s just more procrastinating. I just
need to sit down. And ultimately I like my own space where I can control the
noise level. Like sometimes I listen to background music but it’s my own
background music that I’ve chosen, some like either classical
music, or just music without lyrics. I really like Broken Social Scene for
writing too. Or lately I’ve been listening to lo-fi instrumental hip-hop music
for writing which is, it’s got a good pace but it’s also
like that in the background. So try different types of music, or you
know silence versus music, public versus private, you know just especially if
you’re sort of a new writer I would experiment with that and even like
location… you know…. lighting. I don’t know, I like candles for
writing. Writing tools too. I, for poetry I really like to write by hand, and even
for like short stories and essays I like to write by hand and then type it up and
the reason for that is because by the time I type it it’s it’s already a
second draft because I’m editing as I go. But lately I’ve been writing longer
things like have a very long term nonfiction project,
and a novel. And I kind of had to sadly abandon the handwriting for that because
it just wasn’t realistic. And that was hard. So I have like a lot
of loyalty to writing my hand, I like seeing the progress visually in my
notebook, of, like, look how many pages I wrote. And since deciding, nope, I
can’t do this for this like book length nonfiction project I’m working on, I have
made so much progress so fast. I don’t know if I should attribute it all to
writing on a computer, but it’s been really helpful. So that’s number one.
Setting, lighting, sound, that kind of thing. Number two is just to let go of
the guilt that you should be writing more often. Because, I don’t know where I
read this like quote or saying somewhere that said something along lines of,
like, beating yourself up for wasting time is just more wasted time. And I have
to think about that a lot because I do tend to beat myself up for a wasted time
or, you know, not writing enough. And it’s just not realistic. You can’t do
everything more than you already are. You, like, it’s early in the year. New year’s
resolutions come around and I’m, like, yeah, I should have read more, and I
should write more, and I should do comedy more, I should play music more and I
should see my friends, like you can’t do everything more. So unless there’s
something that you could drop, unless there’s something that you should not be
doing, just telling yourself “I should be writing more,” it’s like how how are you
realistically going to do? That is what you should be asking yourself if there’s
that habit that you have that you don’t like, that is a waste of time that you
can drop, I’m all for dropping it. But if there isn’t, then let go of a guilt
because guilt is not helping you. You know, it’s really really not. So that’s
number two, for dealing with writer’s block or just writer’s… difficulty.
Number three, this is sort of the NaNoWriMo philosophy, shutting off your
inner editor and just putting words on the page. You’ve probably heard a lot of
people argue for this. It is important when you’re having trouble and your
inner editor, critical voice, is getting so loud that it’s like paralyzing and I
actually just went to a reading last night at the Forbes library and Northampton,
which was excellent, three really great writers and one of them is Kelly link.
And she said something really interesting. This is third hand, she was
like quoting someone else, so I’m sorry I don’t remember who originally said this,
but last night Kelly link said, that not only is it important to like sometimes
listen to your critical voice and maybe sometimes not listen. Like, be aware
of your critical voice and in that way. She also said to like kind of have
another voice… I’m putting it in my own words, like, you have your critical voice.
Everyone has that everyone has that voice in their head. Sometimes it’s
productive and telling you, you need to cut this line of dialogue, and
sometimes it’s not productive and telling you you suck. And so listen
when it’s helpful and don’t listen when it’s not. But also, she was arguing that
you should essentially have another voice in your head that’s saying: yes
this is good, or you’re like, this is what I need, I need more of this, do more of
this. And that, you know, this is a mental process, writing is a mental process and
I just can really see how psychologically it would be helpful to not
only say, ooh maybe you don’t do so much of this, and,
yes this, I’m on the right track. This is good. I need to do more of
this. And to identify that and like almost give yourself a pat on the back
or just mentally solidify the idea that yeah, I want more of this. Like, muse? This kind of a thing. So that was number three. Shut off your inner editor and/or
listen to, you know, whatever you want to call that other voice that is like
cheering you on. Tour cheerleader? I don’t know. Number four, gathering
inspiration. This might be sort of obvious, but there’s lots of different
ways to think of it. I read The Artist’s Way, by, I forgot who wrote that book. I’ll
put the information in the description. I read that book a few years ago. I didn’t
do the whole thing, like, you’re supposed- it’s a very interactive book and a
lot of people get together for like a class or you know a group, a
workshop who like do the artists way style of writing. Or whatever, it can
work for visual art, any kind of art . And it did
not work. I just didn’t feel like it worked for me. But I did like this one
thing from that book, which was that the author was saying that basically you
know you have like your tank of inspiration, and when you create, you use
up some of it, like it gets lower. You’re, you’re running out to some extent. And
you need to go out and do things, like, whatever inspires you. Go to a museum, go
to a concert, go outside. Talk to friends, whatever like fills your artistic bucket
that is not creating in itself. And I think that’s helpful advice, particularly
for me, when I get into the mindset of like oh I’m a writer and that means I
need to not, like, not go outside, and not hanging out my friends, and not do
those things which are often the inspiration for writing in the first
place right? I feel like I have even, just, you know, a conversation with a friend
that like sparks a new idea and if I had just said, “no I need to sit home and
write,” then I wouldn’t have had that conversation. So like finding a balance
between creating and refilling your like bucket of inspiration or however you’re
going to think about it. Number five, if nothing else is working? Prompts.
So that might seem obvious, but promps are great. I really like, for mostly prose, nonfiction, actually mostly fiction, there’s this book The 3 a.m. Epiphany
that’s full of prompts that I really like. And if you don’t want to buy a book,
I would just go to the Poets and Writers website because they have prompts in all
genres. They have poetry prompts, fiction prompts, and creative nonfiction prompts
that are really good and more like the kind of thing that you would get in a in
a creative writing class. Not to be a snob, but I just feel like there’s a lots, if you just go to google and type “writing prompts” like there’s a lot of, to me very uninspiring, boring prompts out there. So I would recommend
either that book, which I will also link to in the description, or Poets and
Writers website which I will also link to in the description. So, and sometimes
I can be really resistant to prompts, and I can be really resistant to being
told externally: we’re gonna write right now. But so one of the like…I just
want to talk very briefly about this experience I had in a creative writing
class where I showed up and I was all ready to talk about the work that
we were workshopping or what have you and the readings that we did and our
professor was like we’re gonna write for 10 minutes. And I just remember being so
disappointed, I don’t feel like it right now, this is not a good time, I don’t
have anything. And then I wrote about like something that I had seen, again,
outside, gathering inspiration from life, over the weekend or the previous
day or something, and I wrote this thing and it came out like almost perfect. i
edited a couple words and that was actually the first thing I ever got
published anywhere, this prose poem called Dolls that’s really creepy
about this woman who pretends her doll is real baby. But anyway. And that was a really good experience for me because I was so resistant to writing in
that moment, that attitude of like this isn’t a good time or place,
there’s people here, we’re in class, I don’t want to do this, like so resistant.
But I felt like I had to, this is obligatory and in class there’s always
that fear of like…Is he gonna ask us to read this afterwards? So I guess I was
taking it kind of seriously. And so that basically taught me like
yeah being told or telling yourself like nope we’re gonna write right now, doesn’t
matter if you don’t feel like it ,you never know what is going to happen. And so you
can’t really be a good judge of whether this is a good time or not a good time. You can feel really inspired and produce a bunch of crap and you can feel really
uninspired and write one of the best things you’ve ever written or one of the
least-edited things you’ve ever written that just comes out perfect. Which like
hardly ever- that’s happened to me like twice. So yeah and prompts can be the
same way. If you read this prompt, you’re like, what could that possibly do for me,
I’m supposed to be working on this short story, this novel, you want me to
respond to this prompt? And it could be magical.
You really have no idea you just you don’t know until you try. So those are my
five tips: setting. Experiment with your setting. Let go of the guilt that you
should be writing more often. Shut off your inner editor. Gather some
inspiration. And if all else fails, respond to some props, which I will link
in the description. And please like this video if you liked it, subscribe if you
like my videos in general, and respond in some way if you like this. I’m
trying to gain feedback on the writing video, since I mostly make videos about
lucid dreaming. I don’t know if people are interested in hearing me talk about
writing mor,e or don’t care. Let me know and I’ll see you next time.

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