Just as those last few pounds are hard to drop, those last few chapters, and especially those last few paragraphs are hard to write. If you want to keep your passion project passionate you should have some trusted habits to loosen up and let yourself NOT work on it.
That’s right, step away from your desk and put the pen down. There are certain kinds of breaks that actually help make the work better. When I’m stuck, experience has shown that there are several strategies I use to help me let go, before I get going again. Six to be specific:
- Dance – I admit it, sometimes I dance alone at home. Usually I do it with my one-year-old son, but sometimes I do it by myself. It’s a great way to shake out a new idea, especially when no other method works. Think about it, many people use music as inspiration, however if you’re going to dance alone, you’ve really got to like the song. You’ve somehow got to be inspired. It’s hard to feel frustrated or blocked while you’re dancing.
- Take a Long Walk – In fact, take a long exhausting walk, get new blood and oxygen pumping through your brain. Sometimes we forget that ideas are physical as well as mystical and studies have shown that when you can get a fresh flow of material through your brain, you are more likely to get a fresh flow of material on the page.
Get Your Subconscious on Your Side
- Question Your Dreams – Sometimes problems work themselves out if you let yourself “sleep on it.” Yet, that’s not often how it goes with writing. Lately I’ve tried a more direct approach. I set aside any creative problems I can’t solve during the day and write them in the form of a question. At night, I re-read the question when I’m on the cusp of sleep. When I wake up, I often get new insights, without torturing myself.
- Meditate – This may not be a quick fix, but it is a revolutionary one. It has been an on-going experiment of mine. By that I mean ten minutes a day, imitating what I’m supposed to be doing, less than perfect concentration, meditation experiment. But it has actually worked! Despite all my imperfections! As a result I’ve experienced less resistance and more clarity when writing. Considering my actual meditation abilities, that is nothing short of a miracle.
Never Face a Blank Page
- The Napkin Method – Now that you’ve created a storm of inspiration by moving around and loosening up the subconscious, it’s time to catch some rain drops. This is a classic practice I call the “napkin method.” You might want to carry around actual index cards in case there aren’t any napkins handy. Then remember to scribble ideas as they come to you, right outside the shower, in the midst of washing dishes, during your long, exhausting walk. By respecting your ideas enough to write them down, it encourages more ideas to pop into your head, and that’s where the real accumulation happens.
- Make a Binder – I’m a nerd. Actually I´m a teacher, but I´m also a nerd. I use binders for everything, because it creates a hospitable container for the avalanche of information that builds up in my brain. This is where I keep my napkins and research and little clips of inspiration. It makes the ethereal process of writing a little more tangible.
Although conventional wisdom advises you to ignore writer’s block and write through it, the fact is that any normal human brain needs a break. It also helps to have different ways to process material. What doesn’t help is reaching the point where the very sight of your keyboard produces noxious chemicals in your brain that make it impossible to get back to work. So test out some new habits. They might just become a regular part of your ever-evolving creative process.