Have you ever been in desperate need of something to write about? Have you ever been on the edge of busting a block and said, “I just need something to write about?” Well, I never have. Seems I have a gene that is overactive in the area of keyboard babble that never lets me down. My problem is that I am like a cat chasing a laser dot. I am led wherever my mind wants to take me at any time it desires. I will be focused on the greatest story line ever and then I will be working on a poem trying to figure out how I got there.
Focus is the challenge, especially when deadlines are involved. I have a few tools in my war chest that I would like to share with you and would invite anyone to share theirs with us. We can be contacted through any of our social media feeds.
A no brainer. No one works their best when they are tired or hyped on caffeine laced syrups in a can. I will admit that some really funky ideas arise from an energy drink induced delirium but it also has the tendency to exacerbate the focus issue. It tends to turn your head space into a pinball machine. A good rest just makes everything easier to manage.
Wait, before you hang up, let me explain. Exercise is not a swear word. I looked it up in the dictionary, “mental or spiritual activity esp. as practice to develop a skill, perform an activity or function.” Of course, some of the practices and theories of exercise do apply to this definition. In exercise, a person repeats a task to develop strength, endurance, etc. by incrementally increasing the intensity or length of the particular activity that specifically targets the necessary body parts that need the development required for them to meet their goal. It is the same with focus, but different. With exercise you can set a time, date, and place. Writing urges can take you at any time, day, or place. I limit myself to writing time and times per day. If a random idea takes me and it seems to have merit, I will jot down the details in a file dedicated to just those notes. I do not use cocktail napkins or the back of my hand anymore. The file keeps them in one place and eliminates the excuse of looking for a better idea I had last week while shooting pool four bottles of genius juice into an alcoholic stupor. When I sit down to write (with my file just a couple of clicks away) I only allow myself a certain amount of time. It is an amount of time I know is less than I like to write for. When the alarm goes off, I shut down the laptop immediately. I can go back my set number of times a day (which is the same number of times everyday set at an amount to satisfy the need but not to tire) but I can never stay longer than the appointed time. I incrementally increase the time weekly until I come to a point where my mind has wandered off down the road of inexplicable doom, elation, disaster, and gold mines. When it happens, I go back two weeks and stay at that time for a week or so before progressing. Between the writing times is also key. Once the keyboard is down, I have to stay away from it for at least the time I spent at it, sometimes a bit longer. This duration is incrementally decreased as the amount of time spent at the keyboard is increased. Intensity increases while rest time decreases. Same as physical exercise but different. I find this system keeps my mind from running away. When I leave the keyboard, I leave still thinking about what I was writing. When I come back, I am ready to either reread and edit what I wrote earlier, or continue writing on the same thread I left. I also find this way very useful when working on multiple projects concurrently. When I leave the keyboard, I put that work aside and start into one of my other ventures when I come back. It makes it easier to split up the work evenly and get everything done in a more efficient and timely matter.
- Exercise Redux:
Yep, I am going to put in a pitch for physical exercise. As a personal trainer it is my sworn duty to shamelessly push the advantages of physical activity. It works. It doesn’t have to be much to make a difference. If you find your mind in a different realm halfway through your allotted time, get up and walk around the room bringing your knees up as high as you can with every step, do some push-ups, or dance like you just don’t care. Sometimes I will just stand up and wiggle as many body parts as possible for a minute. The blood circulates and oxygen is delivered. Trust me on this, wiggling is just too much fun to pass up, especially if you are in the library.
Good food low in sugar and carbohydrates before writing, in moderate amounts is key. No highs, no crashes, and no thunder crushing stomach rumbles is what you are aiming for. Along with this, water. You need water to keep the food digesting and to keep your blood from turning into toothpaste. Feed a fever, starve a cold, and properly nourish a writer’s brain.
- The last tool:
Attend workshops and writing events. Talk to like minded people, take part in group exercises, get feedback on your material, and let your mind go with other people in the room. It has done wonders for me. I am an introvert, an antisocial slug, a hermit, but I go because it brings me back to my dark corner of solitude with tips and tricks I want to apply to my writing, which keeps me centered on my writing for my allotted time.
These work for me. Maybe they will for you. If you are of the writer’s block side, I would have to recommend trying these tools too. Maybe by placing your writing time within parameters and applying sleep, diet, and exercise, when you are not attending workshops, something will break for you. I can see it happening.
If all else fails, read a good book.
And just so you don’t forget, Bolotie has a writing workshop from six to eight on the last Wednesday of the month, except December, in the English department’s They will definitely all cure your writing ills.