How To Solve Writers Block: Conversation

How To Solve Writers Block: Conversation

By: Katy Ryan Schamberger
October 30, 2012

how to solve writer's blockAnyone who writes knows there’s not much worse than writer’s block. And how to solve writer’s block is something that many a writer wrestles with. At times, it seems like more than a mere block, instead resembling a temporary paralysis that seizes every creative fiber in your brain. And no matter how much you struggle to write, the page remains resolutely blank while you contemplate tearing your hair out—or perhaps a career change.

There are a number of solutions for writer’s block—and you’ve probably found something that works for you. Some people take a walk, some people switch to another task, some people push themselves to write whatever they’re thinking (and edit later).

I’ve found one particularly useful solution—and since I’m an incredibly nice person (contrary to what Shelly Kramer will tell you), I wanted to share my hard-earned wisdom. The secret? Conversation.

Take a recent bout of writer’s block that happened to me. I struggled to write a blog post for a client. In the scheme of relevant topics, this was an easy one. But for whatever reason, the words didn’t flow—in fact, they were stopped altogether. I did what I usually do—close the document, work on something else, then return to the post later. After two days passed, however, I realized this particular strain of writer’s block wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

On day #2 of writer’s block, Shelly called–stalking me incessantly as she’s wont to do. I’ll let you in on a secret. Anyone who knows her knows she hates to talk on the phone unless she’s in her car on her way to a meeting. Then, she gets bored, so she stalks people. Errr, I mean calls them. And me? I’m at the top of the list of favorite stalkerai. I love being special!

She asked me what was going on and I mentioned I was in the throes of a wicked case of writer’s block. She asked what I was working on and I unloaded. And guess what? That tiny bit of conversation solved the problem. She immediately suggested a completely different approach to the material that included crowdsourcing input from a handful of the client’s employees, then using that information to drive the direction of the post. Not only would it get more people personally invested in the content, but it would make the post itself more relevant and entertaining, too—talk about a win-win situation!

That’s exactly what I did—and with that 2-minute conversation, the writer’s block completely disappeared. It’s amazing what happens when you seek new perspective on a project or idea—and why you shouldn’t hesitate to have a quick pow-wow with a coworker, boss or friend when you’re feeling stuck.

In the past, I’ve been particularly guilty of feeling that asking for help or saying “I can’t do this” is a sign of weakness—when in fact, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned so far is that embracing your shortcomings is actually a sign of strength. My recent bout of writer’s block is a prime example. I could have wrestled with the post for another day and produced something that very likely would have been dry and mediocre. Instead, I had a brief conversation that produced new inspiration, not to mention a much better piece of content.

The lesson? If you have writer’s block, talk it out! It’s highly likely you’ll soon see the assignment in a new light, and, bam—you’ll be off and writing in no time.

Fellow writers, I want to hear from you. How do you banish writer’s block? (See what I did there? The whole crowdsourcing and conversation thing? Works every time!)

Image by humbert15 via Creative Commons

  • Katy, I would add to that, often it is also helpful to just recall related conversations you have had. What other people shared at the time, their concerns, priorities, or tricks, can be the spark that gets you back on track.

    Or give @ShellyKramer a call. Hopefully you send all of us her number. 🙂

  • ShellyKramer

    Hahahahaha. You’re a funny man, Eric. Funny, funny man. Katy is cavorting in Paris at the time of this publication. Who has the better job? (rhetorical).

    And yes, good advice. The former, not the latter!!

  • I don’t believe in Writer’s Block. I call it a myth and not just for linkbait purposes. That is because after years of working as a writer and editor I have never seen a time a where someone couldn’t come up with content.

    What has happened is they have allowed the internal editor beat them up and make them feel like there is no flow or rhythm to whatever they are writing. Call it a lack of confidence in what they are producing.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of doubt and frustration because they exist and happen more frequently than we might like.

    Writing is something that can be improved through practice and if you teach yourself how to write every day the discipline that comes with it often helps to break through the harder moments.

    Just my two cents.

  • ShellyKramer

    Good thoughts, Josh. In this case, however, I know that Katy was stuck. She didn’t like what she’d done–so it wasn’t a problem of not being able to come up with content. It was more like producing something that she didn’t love and didn’t feel was hitting the mark. That’s where it helped her to connect with someone else and talk it through.

    And I’m sure she has an answer too, but at the time of this publication, she’s traipsing through Europe on vacation. That hag. Thanks, though, for coming by – and I really appreciate hearing your POV. Always.

  • Hi Shelly,

    I understand that and agree with what you are saying. That internal editor can be nasty. I think sometimes we lack perspective about our own work and can be really hard on ourselves so talking it through with someone is really valuable.

    Wish I was on vacation, that sounds like a good time to me. Hope you are enjoying your Tuesday.

  • Leo Dirr

    I am completely speechless. I just have no idea what to say. #smooches

  • Something I’ve been dealing with this week. Thanks for sharing this. Time to get talking.

  • good one 🙂

  • great advice and I am sure that everyone has experienced it in some way. If you can’t get to someone to chat in person, I think online commenting and conversations even if they are on different topics might illicit a similar effect.

  • ShellyKramer

    Great advice as well. I often turn to my “Internet friends.”

  • Yup. The “internet friends’ who are part of an engaged online community are usually quite vocal about their opinons and love to share 🙂

  • ShellyKramer

    I know!!! They are wonderful, aren’t they??

  • I watch a sporting event, and that generally gets me all fired up to write an analogy – Had the good (Denver Broncos) with the bad (Dallas Cowboys) again this week!

    Sharing a glass of wine with my wife, or hitting a workout and the steam shower also can break loose some ideas…or at least some more cartilage, so I can whine about getting older.

  • Ha! That made me smile, Brian. And I agree about the wine – it can do wonders for the creative process, can’t it? I’m not even going to try a clever sports analogy. I’m a Chiefs fan — enough said, right?!

  • Couldn’t agree more, Abdallah! Appreciate your input!

  • Good luck, Amanda! How’s it going so far?

  • I’ll give you #smooches …. #kidding!!

  • Appreciate your insight, Josh! I can relate – my internal editor/critic can be quite a beast. Shelly was spot on – I had the idea and the framework, but the approach I had initially identified wasn’t going to deliver a great piece — and that’s something my internal editor can’t have! Thanks again for stopping by!

  • How about we set up a Shelly Kramer Help Hotline and we can all call her all day, every day so she can help us with our problems? I think that sounds like a brilliant idea! *running away as fast as I can*

  • Hey, I even managed to write about the Chiefs…on this blog! Of course, it was poking fun at myself for making bad assumptions 🙁

  • No Problem. Welcome back from your holidays!

  • ShellyKramer

    Super! What’s the name of that movie …. Catch Me If You Can ……. :))

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  • Great tip! I have a couple suggestions:
    1. Take a field trip – just getting out of your normal surroundings can get the creative juices flowing. For example, I write a column on branding for creative retailers (retail establishments that sell supplies to creative/crafty/artsy types) and sometimes the ideas just aren’t flowing. A quick trip to a local retailer always provides me with new material, or at least a lust of do’s and don’ts, I can share with my readers.
    2. Work out! A quick run, or even fast-paced walk always reinvigorates my mojo.
    3. Drive. Yes, just drive. I’m not sure why, but I get some of my best ideas while driving. Once I realized this, I started carrying a notepad with me so I could jot down ideas (after pulling over, of course), and I loaded a voice recorder app on my iPhone. No more losing my brilliant ideas! OK, some of them are at least somewhat genius.