It doesn’t help with that clock on the corner of your computer screen does it? It doesn’t matter whether you are leaning back against your chair angrily at 11.32 pm, trying to write an essay due for school the next day, or even working on an assignment from Content Hourlies.
You may have found yourself stressing yourself out, staring at a blank screen that seems to swallow words whole as soon as they begin to color the page. It could be you don’t know how to start this epic piece of literature: it could change the world, be used in the biggest newsletter of all time, maybe it could even impress the client so much that they fly you out first-class just to congratulate you in person. I’m still waiting for the latter.
Yet somehow you still find yourself rocking in that curiously hard chair, watching that cursed blinking cursor count away the seconds and still the clock in the corner mocks your efforts. Yet you dare not think you have writer’s block, believing it makes it come true and saying it aloud? Well, I don’t want those kind of nightmares.
But don’t worry
You’re not alone, such is the nature of writing it would be wrong to think that these problems are only experienced by the few. I know that these problems can occur at any time, which is why I have put together a few exercises to help manage your stress and overcome those obstacles in the road that stop you from writing at your best.
So here are the things to do if you’re stressed:
- Pinpoint the problems. Sometimes stress can come from any number of variables, anything from overdue bills to troubles with family, to even something as unusual as diet problems. These aren’t things you can change overnight but if you put pen to paper and identify the issues you are having and set a simple target of beginning to change them, then you are setting change in motion and you might be able to relieve some of the pressure on yourself. Remember that the first step is often the hardest.
- Do something physical to take your mind off the problem and to give your brain a rest. It all may sound silly but changing the task at hand can give your mind a little room to breathe. If you have a small task that doesn’t require much thinking but takes your attention away from the writing, then completing a simple objective can give you a small win and put you in the right mindset to complete the assignment. I like to give a quick clean to a room that could use a spruce up, do the washing up that I almost deliberately leave to the last moment or perhaps a short jog could clear the stress away.
- Make a connection. We all know the distractions of having a device connected to the vast world of the internet and though it may seem like procrastination, it’s not, consider it a mental therapy – a revitalisation. Today’s social media is a boon to reconnecting with those lost in the miles between homes, if you can find someone you know you can depend on to crack you up, who doesn’t hate you for not liking their Instagram pictures of last night’s dinner then why not reach out? Come back to the screen with a serene smile on your face as opposed to a stressed out hateful stare.
- Limit the drugs. Not to intrude too much into your lives, but to create a healthy lifestyle the rule of thumb is to reduce the intake of unhealthy products in our diets. But we needn’t limit those ideas to physical health only, our mental health is affected by many of the drugs that we take everyday without real consideration. Without being preachy, we should try to limit the amount of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other detrimental products in our diets. They can affect the way our mind works which will in turn hurt the writing process, so if possible, try to go without during those writing sessions. For me my weakness was sugary drinks, mostly Redbull, but I discovered that the energy it gave me was short-lived and it was immensely addictive.
Things to do if you’ve got writer’s block:
- Write something else. If you’re having trouble with an assignment, you may be too focused on the task at hand and overcomplicating your writing by thinking way too much. Try changing platforms to something that lets you write without boundaries, it could be for your own blog, a short story, a poem or even just an account of your day. Writing can be therapeutic and sometimes the cure can be as similar as the ailment.
- Make notes. Not everything is written perfectly from start to finish on the page, jotting down those random thoughts can help you make connections and bring the finished piece together. If you have other ideas already formed in your mind’s eye but you are intent on completing the start then you may find yourself losing some great content – unless you have perfect recall of course. This also gives a direction for you to aim at when you do get round to writing the hard bit.
- Change mediums. If you do get stuck in a rut, try shifting to a different medium. Staring at a computer screen for long periods of time is not an uneasy thing to do, it hurts your eyes and offers the most distracting thing on the planet! If you find the internet too much of a lure and the offending whiteness of the screen hazardous to your creativity perhaps it is time to resort to the old ages – using pen and paper! You may write in almost illegible scribbles but at least you’re writing… right?
- Experience the digital world. The internet has most of the things you need and all the things you definitely don’t need. You don’t need to be afraid of this massive tool, it is there to distract you but it is also there to help you in ways you didn’t think you needed. Our minds are funny things, a little spark can bring back memories and emotions that can generate a plethora of creativity. If the piece you are working on is trying and you can’t place where you are going wrong or what you are missing, perhaps try doing a bit of research on what has come before on the same subject. That way you can see what was missing – keeping in mind the client’s wishes. You may find yourself learning more than you think about other subjects but no-one can really complain about having a greater knowledge about a subject.
Some last words
So there you have a few of my personal remedies from stress and the ill-fated writer’s block. Some of these may work for you or dare I say – none! It doesn’t matter, if the work is too hard, take a break, don’t get stressed. Best practice is to leave yourself ample time to complete the assignment.