Whether you’re a writer of fiction, non-fiction, or both, there will be times when you feel “stuck”. I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I do believe in writer’s constipation. I have found at this point, trying to force it will often cause more problems than it solves, although at times you just have to put your head down and power through it.
There is no “cure” for writer’s constipation – chances are you’ll encounter this uncomfortable state of affairs more than once in your freelancing career, but there are some things you can do that may have the same effect as a bran-loaded muffin. The next time you find yourself stopped up, so to speak, try one of these methods and see if you can’t get yourself moving again in the right direction.
Turn off the time sinks. That’s right. Turn off Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, etc. Oh sure, you can justify it by saying, “I’m networking, and that’s part of the job,” and it’s true. However, if you can’t get your articles, chapters, or other work written because someone just sent you a cool new app on FB, or you’ve gotten a notice of a new follower on Twitter, it’s time to pull the plug. Set aside a specific time for networking every day, and stick to it. Trust me, you won’t miss anything that you can’t catch up on later, and you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish. In the same vein, close down the chat programs. If your friends don’t understand why you can’t spend an hour chatting, they don’t understand your job. Educate them politely, and schedule free time for a good chat session when you can participate without sacrificing valuable work time.
Turn off outside distractions. Turn off the phone, turn off the television. Turn off the music, even, to give yourself a chance to think without any distraction whatsoever. Hear that? Yeah, that’s called “quiet”, and it’s wonderful. It might be difficult for you to shut the phone down especially if you have children or parents to worry about, but an hour or two a day won’t hurt. If you can’t turn the phone off because of possible emergency calls, at least screen them and only answer if there IS an emergency.
Change your tools and venue. Sometimes, the old ways work best. If you’re used to working on a keyboard, grab a pen and a pad of paper instead – you know, that round thing filled with ink and that stuff made out of trees? Change your location. Instead of working at your desk, try working at the kitchen table, the local coffee shop, the library, from bed. You might be totally surprised at how a simple change can loosen up the thinking process.
Work more than one project at a time. Freelancing is a juggling act in the best and worst of times, and you most likely have more than one project going, anyway. If one has you bugged up, unless you’re up against a hard deadline, put it aside and pull out the next thing. If you don’t have another project to work on, pull out a sheet of paper (or open another document in your word processor program) and free write for ten minutes about anything that comes into your mind. Sometimes, all there is to doing it is to – that’s right – do it.
Take a time out. Walk around the block. Eat lunch anywhere else but at your desk (don’t play; I know you eat lunch at your desk almost every day.) Take a drive; work out for thirty minutes, read a book. Or how about this – take a day off! Freelancers are notorious for working long, crazy hours, and that seems to be a requisite of the job. However, if you don’t take some time off, you’re going to burn out. Guaranteed. So, take a break and don’t feel guilty. You will be pleasantly surprised how a well-timed break, interaction with other people in person, and relaxing away from the job will rejuvenate and energize, making you that much better at your job.
The next time you find yourself constipated, try one of these suggestions. Some of them might be as uncomfortable as eating a bowl of twigs and bran, or they might be as tasty as a fresh-baked muffin. Either way, the goal is to get the words moving, and any or all of these suggestions should do just that.
If you have any suggestions of your own that have worked for you, please share them!